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SACSW advances women throughout UC

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Regardless of how long you’ve worked at UC, you’ve probably noted that women hold respected leadership positions throughout the university and that there are programs in place to champion their knowledge, insight and advancement. But there is more work to be done in advancing and supporting women throughout UC. Many of these successful initiatives and ongoing efforts can be attributed to UC’s Systemwide Advisory Committee on the Status of Women (SACSW). Established in May of 2008 by UC President Robert C. Dynes, this committee addresses the career advancement of women employees at UC.

Advocating for improvements that touch all employees

SACSW’s membership is composed of one faculty and one staff employee from each UC location. (Review current members.) Current SACSW chair Dr. Elizabeth Ozer of UCSF explains that the joint faculty/staff composition of the committee is one of its assets. “It’s unusual for a systemwide committee to include both groups, and representing many points of view is very effective,” she says. “It helps us really focus on what we can do, systemwide, to really improve the experience of all employees.”

Many of SACSW’s contributions focus on areas related to work-life balance, Elizabeth explains. The committee was very engaged in implementing systemwide backup child care and eldercare programs, as well as an improved lactation policy (which is currently under review for additional improvements). Another current goal is to expand UC benefits to provide financial support for prospective adoptive parents throughout the UC system. The process of adopting a child includes financial hurdles and SACSW is working to mitigate them.

SACSW also supports diversity, equity and inclusion practices throughout UC. A few years ago, the Diversity/Equity subcommittee worked with executive search firms and researched best practices on diversity and equity in hiring throughout UC, which were then shared with senior leadership to inform hiring and retention practices systemwide. 

“One of the best things about our work in SACSW is that it’s really a testament to what we can accomplish together while wearing the lens of working as a system,” says Elizabeth. “We identify model programs and find ways to support systemwide implementation. This really allows us to promote and advance women.”

Building resources for women’s professional development

One of SACSW’s notable accomplishments was establishing the UC Women’s Initiative (UC WI). Conceptualized in 2014 and approved by President Napolitano in 2015, this professional development cohort teaches UC women to “collaborate, communicate and lead effectively to enhance the common good.” The program — which has now served more than 400 mid-career faculty and staff members — cultivates a vibrant, professional network of women throughout UC; gives women access to top UC leaders; and strengthens participants’ skills and confidence through hands-on practice in building strategic relationships, negotiating and more.

The program’s participants are strong proponents of its success. SACSW members received a wealth of glowing testimonials. “CORO and UC WI helped me to integrate tools that I use every day in my efforts to challenge myself and notions of my future self,” said one participant. “I have shared these tools with other women so that they may also be aware of the doors they may not have recognized were open to them. The program has transformed me to be fearless and courageous about actively networking and considering opportunities I thought were previously unattainable.”

Applications for the next UC WI cohort will open in April. Learn more about UC WI.

The best of UC

“It’s been an incredibly positive experience for me to be in this role,” Elizabeth says. “SACSW represents the best of the UC system — both in how we’re striving to make changes and how we learn from one another.”

In addition to having a systemwide impact, Elizabeth explains that SACSW has enabled her to make a difference locally. “I have an opportunity to connect with faculty and staff across all locations and to bring back learning and best practices from other campuses to UCSF. It makes me understand how I can have an impact and make a difference on a local and systemwide level through this committee and our work.”

By sharing best-practice programs and tools — such as tip sheets UCSF designed around advancing women — with colleagues at other campuses, SACSW maximizes the impact members are able to have while minimizing the need for additional resources. 

When asked if she would recommend participating in SACSW to colleagues, Elizabeth’s answer is an unequivocal yes. “Participating in SACSW has been amazing for me,” she says. “It’s probably one of the best experiences I’ve had while being a UC faculty member.”

“You know, sometimes people say that you have to be careful not to get too involved in additional activities because they can take up so much of your energy,” Elizabeth adds. “But it’s important to choose things that give you energy and passion — that make your work seem worthwhile. And this kind of work has really sustained me.”

Learn more about SACSW

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