Women in Information
Women leaders discuss experiences and expectations
Published: March 31, 2022 by Eori Tokunaga
SJSU iSchool Director Anthony Chow and Dr. Tonia San Nicolas-Rocca hosted an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) symposium for Women’s History Month on March 22, 2022. Shirley Lew, the dean for the School of Arts and Science at Vancouver Community College and editor of “Feminist Among Us: Resistance and Advocacy in Library Leadership,” began the symposium with a presentation on Women in Information.
Lew began by acknowledging “the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish Peoples, Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, in what we now call British Columbia.” Throughout her presentation, Lew encouraged the audience to reflect on the relationships that women have to information and how those relationships exist in the historical context of libraries and labor. She talked about her personal anecdotes of being a woman of color in academia, and how they have played out in her 20 years as a librarian.
“While I have the ability to navigate and be successful in the library world, I am not given the authority to claim my place in it. At the same time, I deeply believe in what libraries represent and what we tried to do and can do and what we still yet can become.” – Shirley Lew
Following Lew’s presentation was the keynote address by Fobazi Ettarh, a PhD candidate at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, who talked about vocational awe, a term she coined in 2018, and the discourse that has followed in regards to women and librarianship. She explained the differences between an occupation and a vocation, and the expectations that women are subjected to as librarians. Ettarh talked about the historical ways that librarianship has purposely feminized its workers and segregated its patrons through her presentation. A quick Q&A session followed the presentation.
Panelist Shana Higgins, a doctoral candidate at the University of Redlands, reiterated many of the points that Ettarh covered in her presentation and how it related to her own practice as a librarian. Dr. Janine Spears, an associate professor in information systems at Cleveland State University, explained the challenges that exist for women in the cybersecurity and informatics field. Dr. Spears talked about the various efforts and support groups that exist to provide more support for women in a heavily male-dominated field.
The closing keynote address was by Dr. Sue Feldman, the director of graduate programs in health informatics in the School of Health Professions at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. After doing a quick overview of the main points covered in the symposium, Dr. Feldman talked about her experiences as a registered nurse and teacher, and how that relates to mentorship in the field of library and information science.
“I believe that the unmeasurable intangibles that come from mentorship can be life changing, build trust, and instill courage and competence. When we think about how do we break this cycle, how do we elevate women, how do we band together, some of the things that came about in some of the previous discussions – I think if we can mentor those around us, it would be a great start…And as we lift individuals up, we lift everyone up, including our profession.” — Dr. Sue Feldman
The symposium ended with concluding remarks by Dr. Anthony Chow, Dr. Deborah Hicks, and Dr. Tonia San Nicolas-Rocca.