The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Conway visits SMC campus

Ashley Dyer | Friday, September 26, 2003

Consummating her highly anticipated visit, famed author Jill Ker Conway presented a lecture entitled “Seeking Identity in the Western Culture” Thursday in Saint Mary’s O’Laughlin Auditorium.

Conway’s lecture was the primary component in the Michiana Museum Consortium, themed “Examining Identity.” The humanistic studies department, the Center for Women’s InterCulteral Leadership and the Center for Academic Innovation collaborated to bring Conway to campus.

Conway’s presentation discussed how culture has created forms on how women acquire identity, how identity changes by exercising power and authority and how heritage affects the formation of a woman’s identity. Conway first touched on how as a society we must look at masculinity and femininity existing as a relationship in order to deconstruct the formation of women’s identity.

The western construction of male identity as we know it can be identified through Greek heroes, she said. Through this characterization, the western man is able to exercise judgment by allowing actions to shape themselves in the world.

The western woman, however, is constructed to develop emotionally and spiritually, but is never allowed to develop leadership skills or claim space in the world. In order to develop women leaders, Conway believes women need to take a stance through action.

Conway’s advice to young women in leadership development consisted of three components.

“One must first not be afraid to speak up, disagree with people, including your superior and claim victories for yourself,” Conway said.

Emphasis was placed on claiming victories and acknowledging a sense of self through studies and while working. Women, as a collective, need not contribute to the glass ceiling theory ever-present in corporate America, she said. Instead, women need to take a stand.

According to Conway, one of the greatest problems for working women is challenging and overcoming inhibitions of saying what an individual does or contributes. She concluded the presentation by stating that women not only need to lead, but also need to teach and mentor within peer groups.

Overall, Conway said she believes in the importance of guiding peers into the enlightenment of leadership power in addition to practicing that same power.