Summit meeting inspires women

N-Womens-Leadership Colby Patterson
Senior Sena Belgard shares her experiences of being a woman at the first annual Women’s Leadership Conference. Photo by Brent Uberty.

Senior Sena Belgard shares her experiences of being a woman at the first annual Women’s Leadership Conference. Photo by Brent Uberty.

Natalie Gochnour told women to be authentic to themselves and play to their strengths at the Women’s Leadership Summit on Wednesday.

The Summit, held at the Peterson Heritage Center, was part of the 2014 Women’s Week. The Leadership Summit featured Gochnour, associate dean of the David Eccles School of Business, as the keynote speaker, followed by breakout sessions focusing on specific women’s issues.

In her speech, Gochnour urged women to find their passion, maintain unity through good will, be hardy and let their “feminine values shine.”

“This has nothing to do with gender,” Gochnour said. “Feminine values have to do with values like civility, cooperation and aesthetics. Masculine values are things like efficiency, competition and power.”

She said that if only masculine leadership roles are represented, whether by men or women, the only values represented are centered on strength
and power.

“If they are not checked, they lead to an abuse of power. And then you have these feminine values there, but they’re not heard. You have to have strength and goodness together to do great things in a community,” Gochnour said.

She said such values are underrepresented in the public sphere.

Gochnour used stories from her experiences working in the governor’s office and for the Downtown Rising urban revitalization initiative to illustrate the challenges and joys of leadership. She talked about her passion for public service and instructed those attending to find something that really motivated them.

“We need more women in decision-making roles. We need more women in the boardroom. We need more women CEOs, COOs and the like. We need more women in public office. So we need to be in a situation where we make the path easier for women to be in these roles,” Gochnour said.

She is hopeful that students and leaders who came to the event will feel confident to try something new after their experience at the summit.

Gina Sombatsaphay, a freshman in business, was thrilled to hear from the associate dean of the business school.

“It’s really empowering for me, because I’ve noticed such an inequality, especially in the business school — so many more men than women in there — so it’s nice to see somebody so powerful and strong and committed to helping women succeed in business.”

Following Gochnour’s address, students had the opportunity to attend one of four breakout sessions that taught them about the history of female leadership and gender perceptions as well as how to become more involved on campus.

This section was just as powerful for many students.

“I will most remember [the session] I went to about the cultural perception of women leaders,” said Sally Goodger, an undeclared freshman. “We talked about how to some extent women put the stereotypes on themselves as much as men put them on women.”

The summit attracted students from other colleges as well.

“It has been so amazing for me to be in a room with powerful women, young students, older students all going on the same path of leadership,” said Leah Pepion, a freshman from Salt Lake Community College. “Hearing these women talk about being vulnerable and allowing it and really defining who you are and being authentic just gives me permission to really be who I am as a leader.”

j.peterson@chronicle.utah.edu