Advice for Women, from Women in Leadership

Tiffanie Murcia, a officer of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, can be seen in front of the Memorial Union on campus. In a socially-aware society diversity in leadership positions is vital throughout all aspects of life.

In mid-April, Becky Johnson, vice president of Oregon State University Cascades, officially replaced former President F. King Alexander to act as the university’s interim president, becoming OSU’s first female president

In light of this, other female leaders at OSU shared their experiences with leadership and offered guidance for other women aspiring to grow as leaders. 

Tiffanie Murcia, a third-year bioengineering student, said her current position as webmaster at the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers has taught her the importance of teamwork and time management. 

“The hardest part about being an officer this year is trying to find a way to keep students engaged in the club while everything is remote and finding motivation yourself to stay engaged,” Murcia said in an email. 

As a peer mentor for the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, Murcia said this leadership position taught her the importance of communication and how much she could help other students by being a peer mentor.

“I was able to help first-year students find their place on campus and transition smoothly to college,” Murcia said. “Any leadership position that I have held in the past has taught me how to help people and develop social skills that make people not only respect you but come to you with any problems they have faced or [are] currently facing.”

Cherri Pancake, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, said volunteering for activities related to her profession like contest-judging, helping out at conferences, talking at K-12 classes, club meetings and participating on regional committees helped grow her personal and professional network, and led her to new opportunities.

“It let me observe first-hand how effective leaders influence people,” Pancake said in an email. “And it provided a ‘multiplier effect’ – working with people beyond my institution meant projects that not only [had an] impact on much larger audiences, but also [enriched] my own understanding.”

Pancake noted most women have good context-switching skills, and she advised them to exploit that skill whenever they’re in a meeting. 

Essentially, this means in addition to paying attention to what is said, make a point of paying attention to how it’s said and what listeners’ reactions are. 

“How do people react to ideas from one person versus another?” Pancake said. “What makes the difference: Eloquence? Rationale? Self-confidence? Something else? If you can figure out when and why people change their opinions, you’ll know how to make your own words more persuasive.

In addition, Murcia said she would advise women who want to be leaders to strive for where they want to be because the work they put in is what they get out of any situation. Anybody who wants to be a leader should be able to communicate and work well with groups of people. 

“I also think it’s important for you to believe in yourself and have confidence in yourself,” Murcia said. “At the end of the day, just be open-minded and be sure of your abilities, because anybody can be a leader!”

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