OWHE and Me: An Introduction to Erica Curry, Chair of the OWHE Board of Directors

My first conference with OWHE in 2015 changed the trajectory of my career and I still feel the ripples of that empowering weekend. I am so honored to be chosen as Chair of the Board for the same organization that has given me so much. As I begin this incredible opportunity, I want to leave you with a clearer understanding of what OWHE means to me and how it has directly impacted my career, as well as my values and my goals for the position of Chair of the Board.

The term, “Tiara Syndrome” was mentioned my first year at OWHE. Tiara Syndrome is the idea that women work hard, wait for someone to recognize their contributions, and expect someone to simply hand them their deserved “tiara”, rather than going out and asking for it. I could see multiple places that had played out in my life – not negotiating my salary, because I needed to prove myself first, being picked over for a promotion that I knew I was more qualified for, etc. So, when I got back from the conference, I began asking for my “tiaras”. I negotiated a raise, I got a desk that was not just a computer in a corner, and I even began talking about career goals. Sometimes it was harder than others. At times, I had to be politely tenacious and sometimes, even that isn’t enough. However, I made more steps forward that next year than I ever would have just waiting for someone else to notice my contributions.

My decision to pursue the role of Chair of the Board was a direct result of that same lesson. No matter the industry or position, I have always found a way to be a leader. Leading, for me, is about supporting and listening to those around you and empowering them to accomplish a shared vision. While I can point to situational leadership, committee leadership, etc. in my career, something has been missing: that formal position that says, “this person is a recognized leader”. For the last few years, I’ve been waiting for someone to recognize this and put the tiara on my head. When OWHE election time came, I realized, if I wanted positional leadership, I needed to go out there and pursue it. So, I, very nervously, applied for Chair of the Board.

I will not pretend I did not have moments where I felt like an imposter, doubting my right to apply. However, I told myself, “be brave!” (a lesson learned from the Wise Women panel this year) and took the next steps, despite my fear. I also had the benefit of some wonderful champions and sponsors who convinced me that applying for a board position was the right choice. In a group of empowering women, I was encouraged to apply from every direction. This unwavering support for each other is one of the reasons I love OWHE so much. This is what makes OWHE such an incredible space for us all to grow.

As you probably can tell, I highly value leadership, authenticity, and empowerment. There are other values, however, that drive me just as strongly: advocacy and inclusion. As a white, cis-gendered woman who is professional faculty in a supportive, well-funded unit, I benefit from a significant amount of privilege. I heard about OWHE from someone who looks just like me, making it easy to imagine fitting in. I’ve never had to bargain with my supervisor to let me go to OWHE. I’ve never had to pay out of pocket. However, many of our attendees have not had the same privileges and I want to work to address that. Over the next three years, I want to address not only the access barriers, but also intentionally infuse even more inclusion into our organizational culture.

This leads into my goals as Chair of the Board:

  • Intentional inclusion of  through increased visibility of OWHE and thoughtful outreach, leveraging Institutional Reps and other organizations on campuses
  • Increased accessibility through communicating the value of OWHE to and generating buy-in from university/college/institutional leaders, as well as other ways to create more affordable opportunities
  • Opportunities for leadership, networking, and mentoring throughout the year
  • Actionable professional development opportunities at the conference and throughout the year
  • Listening to and leveraging the ideas and passion our members bring to OWHE

I am so excited for what the next three years bring. I am humbled by the exceptional women and allies of this organization and want to stress that I will always listen to your input. Should you have suggestions, thoughts, or concerns, please do not hesitate to email me. I can’t wait to see  you all at the coast this winter!



Erica Curry is the Academic Program Manager for Oregon State University's Extended Campus. She is serving as the Chair of the Board for OWHE starting April 2018. You may email her at chair@owhe.org

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