Women Leading the Way: Celebrating Women’s History Month
Women’s History Month Symposium
Published: May 18, 2023 by Eori Tokunaga
As part of the national celebration of Women’s History Month, the San José State University iSchool hosted a free online symposium on March 22nd, 2023, titled “Women in Information: A Celebration of Women’s History Month.” The symposium opened up with a brief historical overview of Women’s History Month by Dr. Anthony Chow, who introduced the two keynote speakers: Dr. Sandra Hirsh and Dr. Sanda Erdelez. The symposium also featured a panel discussion with speakers Dr. Rong Tang, Deb Seys, Sara Jones and SJSU iSchool Alumni Tiffany Duck.
Rather than presenting individual presentations, co-keynote speakers Dr. Sandra Hirsh and Dr. Sanda Erdelez hosted a Q&A conversation with each other about how they entered the field of Library and Information Science.
“I was trained to pursue a career in the field of law in my home country Croatia. When I received the Fulbright Scholarship for Ph.D. studies in the United States, I actually wanted to study a field related to law and information technology, but at that time which was 1987, there was no law school in the United States that actually had a formal program in that area…Syracuse has a very forward-looking information school and it’s there where I learned about library and information science, got hooked into it, and then followed the step-by-step process of, you know, becoming involved in LIS academia.” - Dr. Sanda Erdelez
Dr. Hirsh and Dr. Erdelez also talked about challenges that they have encountered in their careers as women in the LIS field, their current roles as LIS leaders, their own mentors and role models, as well as how they pay it forward for women to succeed in the field.
“I am always looking for ways to engage and support others. They’re not always just targeted to women, but they may be targeted to students or to other people who are early in their careers. The other thing I wanted to say is that sometimes I find that women are given information that I think is really detrimental to their confidence or to their careers.‘You shouldn’t have kids while you’re working on trying to get tenure.’ ‘There’s no way for you to do X, Y, and Z.’ Almost every single time I’ve done those very things. It doesn’t mean they’re easy or not challenging, but I think we have to not listen to those external voices sometimes. Hearing an example of someone who can do those things, I think, are helpful as well to others.” - -Dr. Sandra Hirsh
Dr. Hirsh continued the symposium with an introduction to the panelists, opening up the conversation to them about how they found their current job, the challenges or barriers they have encountered, who their role models are, and what advice they have for other women entering the profession.
“Take risks in your career. I was told at the very beginning that you really needed to stay in a lane, and I think just by literally making your own path, doing what you want to do going forward, I think that just provides pathways, encouragement, and the fact that you can do what you want to do with your career for those who may be coming after.” - Tiffany Duck: Customer Success Manager for Skilltype and SJSU iSchool Alumni ‘13 MLIS
Below are some best practices as provided by the speakers during the symposium:
- Go into every meeting prepared, especially if you don’t know what the rest of the people at the table will say. Make sure that they know your point of view, and that you’ve done your homework.
- As mentors, find ways to uplift those around you, whether it’s by helping them find membership support in an organization, introducing them to other professionals in the field, or pushing them to submit their work for publication.
- Remember that what you bring is unique to you. The people at the table have plenty of their skills. They don’t have your skills.
- Be supportive in the LIS environment. Find ways to let people be mothers, spouses, partners, and daughters. There are ways for us to step in and support without making people feel guilty about having to be in a caregiver role.
- Take risks and make your own path.
To watch the full symposium, click here.