Spring 2017 Workshops
Jayhawks Breaking Barriers started as an outreach project in the spring of 2017, at the University of Kansas, organized by graduate and postdoctoral students and funded by the American Association of University Women (AAUW). This project aimed to increase awareness of the gender leadership gap in STEM, empower women through leadership and mentoring opportunities, and foster discussion about the gender leadership gap among university women and the community.
Ten pairs of diverse undergraduate women across STEM fields interacted with local companies and organizations to explore the leadership gap in our community through data collection. Through this data collection, analysis and visualization, participants gained an understanding of the gender composition that exists locally and will generate information useful in advocating for change. Concurrently, the women underwent leadership and professional development training to help them develop a more sophisticated understanding of leadership and to give them the tools and confidence to pursue leadership roles.
The lack of female mentors is a major contributor to the gender leadership gap. Quality interactions with female role models have been shown to improve college women’s self-concepts of their own leadership abilities and career ambitions . Our project incorporated a layered mentorship structure where women from various career stages in STEM were paired with our undergraduate participants. Graduate students and postdoctoral researchers provided mentorship from an advanced trainee perspective while women leaders in the community provided an established professional network for the participants. Additionally, undergraduates themselves were paired by asymmetrical leadership experiences so they could provide peer mentorship for each other.
A final event concluded the project with poster presentations and advocacy by the students. With the guidance of a keynote speaker, the event facilitated discussions between the future workforce, workforce leaders, and educators about how all can work together to minimize the leadership gap. The workshops that were open to the public as part of this programming were very well received, with 205 registrants in total.
 Asgari, et al. 2012. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.