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Advisory Committee Hit Hard by COVID-19 Rebuilding to Continue Supporting Women

April 3, 2023
An image depicts a tree and the Beginnings sculpture at UC Merced.
The Chancellor's Advisory Committee on the Status of Women (CACSW) was formed in fall 2008.

The Chancellor's Advisory Committee on the Status of Women (CACSW) has brought awareness to issues related to the campus climate for women since its founding at UC Merced in 2008. But after being greatly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, the group is working to move forward promoting gender equity on campus.

CACSW, which is part of the Division of Equity, Justice, and Inclusive Excellence, is charged with:

  • Identifying and analyzing issues related to the status of women at UC Merced, including faculty, staff and students;
  • Informing and educating campus community members about conditions that impact women within the university;
  • Advising and making recommendations to the chancellor regarding policies and procedures that will improve conditions for women.

Faculty, staff and students make up the committee. Members have worked on a variety of initiatives, including informing the campus community about the need for more lactation rooms and menstrual products.

"It's more than equity. These things are basic life needs. They are part of life and not any type of special treatment," CACSW staff chair Jennifer Heinrich said.

Events have been an integral part of CACSW's mission. With the goal of highlighting women professionals in the community, the committee hosted "Womxn in the Spotlight" in early March. Priya Lakireddy, a contract administrator in the Division of Finance and Administration and past president of the UC Merced Staff Assembly, was this semester's featured speaker.

The event series, originally known as "Women We Admire," invites speakers to campus to discuss their careers, workplace challenges, work-life balance and other topics of interest to women and individuals who identify as women. Former Chancellor Dorothy Leland was selected as the speaker for the first event in 2017.

Following virtual events in 2022, this year's "Womxn in the Spotlight" was the first in-person event CACSW organized since the pandemic, which made it that much more significant for committee members and attendees.

"COVID-19 was particularly hard on women because we were at home with the children, so our committee was hit pretty hard," Heinrich said. "We lost a lot of women who were on our committee. Many have left the university altogether, so it's been a hard transition back because there's a lot that's happened."

Heinrich said CACSW is trying to rebuild the committee and get back to the prior momentum, including enacting changes to how it operates and making it more people- and life-friendly so more people will want to get involved.

CACSW is hosting its first campus open meeting Tuesday, April 4, at 3 p.m. in KL 360. Everyone is invited to learn more about the committee and the initiatives and projects its members are working on. Anyone wishing to attend is asked to RSVP online.

"In these open meetings, if there are people who have concerns or things they want to put on our radar, that would be a good time to chat with somebody," Heinrich said. "Let us know if anything is happening on campus that we can help or get involved with."

An annual recruitment event is scheduled for Thursday, May 4, in the solar breezeway of Science and Engineering Building 2. It will consist of a dessert social, but additional details surrounding the event, including start time, are still being determined. All are invited as well.

Another way people can get involved is by applying to the UC Women's Initiative for Professional Development (UC WI). The program is designed to help support the success and advancement of mid-career, woman-identified professionals. It's open to all employees who support and are committed to the mission, and brings together faculty and staff from every UC location.

"We are given 12 spaces for UC WI, and we hope to fill each and every one of them," Heinrich said. "The program is a commitment, so participants must be ready to take advantage of the interactive sessions."

Once completed, program participants will be able to advocate for their own needs in the workplace, coach others, demonstrate an increased awareness of diverse UC career paths and more.

UC WI is sponsored by the UC Office of the President and the Systemwide Advisory Committee on the Status of Women (SACSW) and offered by Systemwide Human Resources in partnership with Coro Northern California and SACSW.

More information about CACSW and its ongoing initiatives is available on the committee's webpage.