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Destler Dodge

Four years ago, the RIT Leadership Institute and Community Service Center created the Women’s Leadership Certificate. Recently, the Center has expanded upon this to create an overarching Emerging Professionals Leadership Certificate that has tracks for both men and women in the workplace.

This new certificate has been in the works for approximately a year now, according to Molly McGowan, director of the RIT Leadership Institute and Community Service Center. She explained that the idea began when a male student approached her and asked why there wasn’t a Men’s Leadership Certificate in addition to a Women’s Leadership Certificate. “I had one student that I really respect, a male student on campus, who really challenged me one day and said ‘I don’t understand why there’s a need for separate gender issues around leadership and development programs based on gender. This is the 21st century; men and women are equal now,’” said McGowan.

“We had to really sit down and have a conversation about if men and women are really equal now,” McGowan recalls. “While there’s been some great strides in equality with men and women there are still some challenges.”

Many students interviewed on campus seemed to be unaware of the new Emerging Leadership Professionals Certificate but agreed that it was an important step to take in terms of equal leadership opportunities at RIT. “It’s always good to encourage equality in leadership  between men and women,” said Dustin Deal, a first year Industrial Design major. “We should all be equal.”

Statements like these are just one of the many reasons that McGowan and the Leadership Institute began to consider whether or not men should have a leadership certificate as well. McGowan also stated that there was a report from the institution that showed that women were outperforming men in academics, GPA and involvement on campus.

“Obviously our student government leaders are two males but when you look at the whole university and you look at different leadership positions, especially for the percentage of men that are here, we aren’t seeing as many men getting involved in leadership development or leadership roles,” said the director. “So part of it is to encourage men to step up and lead.”

Within this program, students can choose either a men or women’s track with three general workshops they must attend, but in order to complete the certificate they must attend two workshops with both genders. McGowan explained that these workshops are usually lunches where the male and female Emerging Leadership Professionals Certificate participants meet and discuss with the gender issues in today’s workplace.

“Men have to be part of the conversation,” said McGowan. “Men and women together need to understand gender diversity and leading across genders and what each needs to be successful. The goal of the certificate is not only to help students be successful in their career, but to also help them understand their differences in their career and in terms of leadership development.”

Some of the general workshops available involve topics such as different leadership roles and styles and how to make decisions. Women’s workshops include topics like how to be assertive and creative, according to McGowan. The men’s workshops talk about what it means to be an inclusive male leader and understanding. Finally, topics that involve both the female and males of the program will talk about gender issues in the work place in general. McGowan also said there will be workshops involving how to be an ally to the GLBTQ community.

McGowan explained that, as gender roles shift, men and women are beginning to face many of the same problems. “We’re seeing men needing to leave work to be at the kid’s soccer game and to pick up their kids from practice or take their kids to school or even to split the household work from laundry to shopping to cooking. It’s more of an equal balance, not across the board but I think it’s a trend we’re starting to see; men as more equal partners. I don’t know that companies, all companies, embrace that with open arms.”

McGowan stated that this certificate will be open to 50 applicants chosen by the RIT Leadership Institute and Community Service Center  and the first Emerging Professionals Leadership Certificate program will begin this February. Although this is only a matter of months away, McGowan provides a reminder that the program is still in its pilot stage and it will continue to be shaped and changed as more  student feedback is received.