Summit encourages women to reach high
Published: Friday, May 15, 2009 11:02 p.m. MDT
By Lana Groves
As one of the few female lawyers and judges 30 years ago, Christine Durham felt hostility and resentment from many corners but said she persevered and overcame statistics proclaiming the anomaly of her decision to go to graduate school.
And Durham, now chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court, encouraged young women in the community on Thursday to also persevere and assume leadership positions instead of hiding behind the skirts of their mothers.
"I grew up in the generation where you get married, have kids and live happily ever after," said Durham at a Young Women's Leadership Summit at Westminster College. "And now I have male colleagues who say things from time to time that make it clear they think all the good jobs go to minority women, and I pull out the statistics and say 'Give me a break. You guys are still running the country.' "
YWCA Salt Lake City organized the leadership summit to give female college students and young career-orientated women goals and encouragement to assume leadership positions and accomplish their dreams.
The group's membership committee also hopes the summit will show women the benefits of joining the YWCA, which would include invitations to annual meetings and lectures with other women.
"Women are really moving into fields traditionally held by men, into areas such as law, medical fields and engineering, which is great," said Beth Ehrhardt, chief development officer for YWCA Salt Lake City. "I think there are certain programs the schools organize every year to encourage women in those fields, but we definitely need more."
Kayleen Simmons, executive director of People Helping People Inc., said that in social work fields, women can do a lot. She said if she had been asked in high school to volunteer for a nonprofit employment program like the one she created for low-income single mothers, she would have said no.
"We have all kinds of choices. If I fail I can be victimized by that, or I can learn," Simmons said. "If you buy the game of Monopoly, you can learn the game and play OK for a while, but at some point you'll play against someone with the skill level of Donald Trump, and you get to choose to learn the game or keep on as you are. Every game has an instruction manual."
Michelle Jensen, a recent University of Utah graduate who attended the event, said she wanted to go home and start making a list of people she knows to begin networking.
"I ask myself daily what I want to do with my degree," Jensen said. "But it's like they said, 'think about what you already have and start with that.' "
YWCA is organizing a leadership meeting on Sept. 18 and honoring outstanding women in the community. To nominate a leading woman in the community, visit ywca .com or contact Ehrhardt at 801-537-8614.