The third annual Advancing Women in Leadership Conference, March 5 at Azusa Pacific University, celebrates Women’s History Month. The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) sponsors the one-day national event, “Lead with PURPOSE,” which addresses the need to encourage and increase female leadership in higher education on school boards, in executive positions and in the classroom.
Irene Neller, Westmont vice president of enrollment, marketing and communications, co-founded and co-chairs the planning committee that rotates among participating CCCU institutions. “Fifty-five percent of enrolled students at our colleges and universities are female, yet women lag behind in representing this predominant gender at all levels of leadership on our campuses,” she says. “We’re so overdue in addressing this gap. I’m thrilled to be a part of initiating change on a national level that can influence new learning and mentoring opportunities.”
Conference speakers include Jo Saxton, a Nigerian Londoner who pastors and leads missions, and Shirley Hoogstra, the first woman president to the CCCU, which she has served since 2014. Sessions throughout the day address everything from professional development to building resumes and negotiating for the right job.
According to a 2016 report by the American Council on Education and the Center for Policy Research and Strategy, women are entering institutions of higher education at a higher rate than men, with women also earning more than 50 percent of all bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. “Even with these increasing figures, the faculty and senior administration of many colleges and universities fall short of a healthy gender balance,” Neller says.
Neller, who served at Fuller Theological Seminary and Biola University for 30 years before coming to Westmont in December, cited Westmont founder Ruth Kerr as a source of inspiration. “Serving as a sponsor for this conference furthers her legacy and increases Westmont’s commitment to supporting women in leadership and to educating young women for leadership,” Neller says.
Tickets to the event cost $135 per person or $90 for students, and may be purchased online.