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Women's group celebrates rich legacy at ASU

May 31, 2007

In the mid-1980s, when Jane Little was a Secretary II for the Women and Gender Studies Program, she heard about a new organization on campus formed to help women staff members enhance their careers.

At first, she didn't think it would be appropriate for her since, she didn't view her job as a “career.”

“But I had a history of organizational membership and service, and thought it might be fun, so I took the risk,” she says.

That organization was University Career Women (UCW), which was formed in 1985 by women such as Diana Regner, then assistant director of career services; Susan Malaga, who was an assistant vice provost for human resources; and Betty Asher, the first female vice president of ASU.

Many of the women administrators at that time belonged to the Faculty Women's Association (FWA) but “often felt left off of the agenda, as FWA business focused on tenure and salary equity issues facing faculty women,” noted Sheila Luna and Stefanie Bobar in a history of UCW.

The founding members were neither classified staff nor faculty, says Suzanne Bias, UCW president in 1989-1990.

“This group was disenfranchised,” Bias says. They had no collective voice in university policy or decision-making.”

Malaga said there were few women in professional positions in the mid-1980s.

“When a new woman was hired, an informal ‘welcome wagon' greeted her by taking her to lunch, giving her survival tips and serving as a support group,” Malaga says.

“As more women joined the professional ranks, the welcome-wagon lunch bunch began thinking about setting up a more formal support group.”

Over the years, UCW has offered women staff members a safe place to try on leadership roles.

Becky Reiss, who was UCW secretary from 1994 to 1998, recalled one woman “who took the bull by the horns and decided to chair a UCW committee to get over her fear of public speaking.”

That decision led to her moving up the university administrative ladder – and finding, to her surprise, that she had talent as a speaker.

Little says that the first year she belonged to UCW, she volunteered to work on the Professional Development Conference (which still is UCW's signature event and is scheduled this year for June 7 at the Fiesta Inn, Tempe ).

“The committee met often and involved a group of hard-working women from all over campus,” Little says. “Working with these women opened doors for networking that enhanced my work life by providing friends and contacts across campus.”

Little, an administrative associate for Women and Gender Studies, went on to serve as president for three terms. She still sits on the UCW board.

“Over the years, I have had the pleasure of watching many women grow into leadership roles, apply for and achieve higher level positions, complete their degrees, learn to be mentors, and learn new work skills through their roles within UCW,” she says. “I have been able to hire UCW women into vacant positions and to recommend people for other job openings on campus. I truly believe that UCW fulfills its mission over and over again day after day and year after year.”