The release of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 bestselling book Lean In sparked new conversation surrounding issues women face in the workplace. Data indicate women continue to earn less than their male counterparts for the same work, and they report less confidence in their ability to land their ideal job compared with men.
In her work as a career counselor in Colby’s Career Center, Sarah Whitfield ’09 recognized a need to provide awareness and training to address these complex issues. Funding through the Goldfarb Center’s mealtime seminar program allowed Whitfield to develop a flexible, multifaceted program that delved deeply into specific themes and provided hands-on opportunities for Colby women to learn new business skills.
A group of 26 students participated in the semester-long program, tackling topics including negotiation techniques, the confidence gap, stigmas surrounding the feminist movement, and the portrayal of women in the media. Discussions were facilitated by women in leadership roles on campus.
A “mocktail” session provided the students with a chance to polish their networking skills and receive feedback. They spent an afternoon at the Waterville Country Club learning the basics of navigating a game of golf — often the site of formal and informal business — and also where young women are visibly underrepresented.
Briana Guillory ’16 said she signed up for the program because she saw it as a way to gain insight into workplace conditions for women and to enhance her leadership abilities. “I was attracted to the focused, practical approach of this program,” said Guillory, an environmental science major and anthropology minor. “Women are in the minority in most STEM fields, and to get feedback on things like my elevator pitch and to know the basics of golf has been really empowering.”