Female staff launch ‘Dare to Empower’

New affinity group aims to support women in District 128

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Female staff launch ‘Dare to Empower’

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This year, D128 staff and administrators have launched a new initiative aimed to empower female-identifying students and staff. The group, which is split into three subcommittees, aims to amplify the voices of these individuals — both inside and outside the classroom.

Collectively, the three subcommittees are considered to be an affinity group. Meaning, all those involved share a common experience; in this case, that experience is being a female-identifying staff member in D128.

While the initiative is still in its initial phases, members are beginning to plan initiatives and develop long-term goals. In February, the committee focusing on female students outside the classroom will host a lunch-and-learn for for female-identifying students, led by female-identifying staff.

English Teacher Ms. Macias explained that the lunch will be open to female-identifying students and staff in the district and will serve as a discussion focused on empowering female-identifying to use their voice in the classroom. The event will be staff-led and predominantly focus on student voices.

The group emerged from a teacher institute day in February 2018. During the institute, D128 teachers and staff participated in staff-led educational workshops, referred to as “edX”. One of the workshops, organized by VHHS teachers Ms. Moeller, Ms. Christian and Ms. Macias, served at a catalyst for conversation surrounding gender equality in D128.

“There really wasn’t much of an agenda [when the edX was first planned],” Macias said. “But it was a really fruitful conversation … and out of that came these three focus groups.”

Macias stated that the subcommittees’ objectives are relatively simple and aimed at curbing some everyday issues of gender inequities. She cited common examples of this as female students’ tendencies to preface statements with, “I’m really sorry if this has been asked,” or “I know this is probably wrong”.

The subcommittee for female-identifying students inside the classroom has developed an objective to combat these habits and empower students to voice their opinions with confidence.

“A lot of the issue is saying to people, ‘Hey, watch out for these things,’” Macias stated. “We want our female-identifying students to feel empowered when they speak and feel confident about what they have to say.”

D128 Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Rita Fischer has supported the group by allocating resources to initiatives and aiding in scheduling for meetings. She explained that the committees do not meet regularly, but rather when all involved have availability, which is often on institute days.

Fischer is involved in the subcommittee that works to empower female staff. Currently, her subcommittee is focusing on overall school culture and opportunities for women to support one another. In order to further empower female staff, the committee has arranged for a few female D128 staff members to attend the Women in Education Leading and Learning (WELL) Summit later this year.

“The goals are varied and not solidified yet,” Fischer said. “But, [the subcommittees] are taking several approaches in to how to support female leaders in the district and how to provide opportunities related to common interests, pursuits and areas of experiences.”

While there was no one catalyst for this group’s formation, Fischer shared that similar groups have been successful in surrounding educational institutions and can serve as a powerful support to all women in the district.

The group’s current slogan is “Dare to Empower,” connecting it back to D128’s DARING mission statement. While male-identifying staff or students are not currently participants in the group and its subcommittees, they will be included in future discussion and initiatives.

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