"We are not here as women examining racism in a political and social vacuum. We operate in the teeth of a system for which racism and sexism are primary, established, and necessary props of profit." - Audre Lorde, 1981, “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism

 

The OWHE Board of Directors has spent the last year learning about, reflecting on, and committing to dismantling systems of oppression, while exploring the organizations complicity in white supremacy and those systems of oppression. You can learn more about this journey on our blog. To honor our mission of advancing systemic change, our organization must grow from passively inclusive to actively anti-oppression. In other words, we can and must do better to create an inclusive space that invites and centers all marginalized and intersectional identities in higher education. 

Who we aim to be. Our organization is currently pivoting to a safer space that centers the voices and experiences of historically marginalized/underrepresented communities within higher education - including people of marginalized races/ethnicities, genders, sexualities, abilities, religions, nationalities, socioeconomic statuses, neurodiversity, bodies, and ages. We will remain an organization for marginalized genders and we will intentionally center anti-oppression at the heart of our programming and opportunities.

What does this look like? The centering of anti-oppression at the heart of our organization includes offering learning communities that explore topics related to justice, equity, inclusion, and diversity (JEDI); conference sessions, webinars, and blog posts from diverse perspectives that discuss ways that JEDI show up in our everyday lives; sharing JEDI resources in our OWHE Facebook community; supporting affinity spaces; creating and empowering a committee focused on ensuring OWHE addresses ways in which we are complicit in perpetuating systems of oppression and centers the voices of intersecting identities; and more. We acknowledge there will ALWAYS be more that we can be doing and learning. At the heart of it, the OWHE Board of Directors commits to remaining humble and curious, and to put in the work to learn and act upon what it means to actively be an ally or accomplice at an individual and systemic level. We commit to holding JEDI and anti-oppression considerations at the center of the opportunities we provide.

Wait! What about the usual programming? You may be wondering if this means OWHE will stop focusing on personal growth or professional advancement for women. Fear not - we will continue to provide topics that are meaningful to those working to grow and advance in higher education. However, our personal growth and professional advancement learning opportunities will not shy away from addressing inequities. For example, we will still provide opportunities to learn about salary negotiation and patriarchal conditioning that impacts salary negotiations for women and non-binary people while also acknowledging the role that systemic racism plays in salary/socioeconomic class.

How do I support the OWHE Pivot if I’m white and cisgender? We do not want folks feeling guilty for being white or any other attributes they were born with. We don’t decide how we’re born, but we do decide how we act. OWHE has been a mostly-white organization in a culture where whiteness is seen as the default, and because of that, we have been complicit in exclusion and harm to our colleagues and friends of color (often unintentionally). While acknowledging whiteness can feel uncomfortable, it is also an essential step in educating ourselves to overcome the conditioning we have been subject to. OWHE wants to collaborate with white members while we learn, challenge, hold ourselves accountable, and ask, “how can I use this white privilege?” to be a more equitable organization for all of our members and make positive changes in our institutions.

So… how is this going to work?  Through the next two years, we will be collaborating with our membership to recraft our name, mission, vision, and values to reflect this shift in focus. Currently, our name erases the myriad of gender identities that are part of our community. This process will take time, as we refuse to use expediency as a reason to leave voices out of this conversation. 

Our current strategy and plan for this pivot looks like the following:

  • Strategic visioning: an iterative and collaborative process including the Board of Directors, Inclusion Advisory Committee and members.

  • Renaming: Building off of the new mission, vision, and values, the Board will brainstorm and select new name options with input from the Inclusion Advisory Committee and membership at large.

  • Rebranding: Once the new name is decided, the Board will begin the rebranding process (e.g. new logo updating documentation), including an awareness campaign about the changes.

 

How can you get involved? There are quite a few ways to get involved in steering this OWHE pivot, depending on your capacity. 

  • Run for the Board of Directors (BOD)! If you’re passionate about the direction of this organization, join the BOD. Learn more at https://owhe.org/elections

  • Join the Inclusion Advisory Committee (IAC)! If you don’t have the capacity to be on the BOD but want to support this pivot and be a key player in ensuring OWHE actively centers anti-oppression work, consider joining the IAC https://owhe.org/inclusion-advisory-committee

  • Vote in the annual elections! Make your voice heard on the ballot; we’ll be asking questions around this pivot then! 

  • Engage with the OWHE Facebook Community, Learning Communities, webinars, blog posts, and more. 

  • Engage in OWHE by becoming an Institutional Representative for your campus by emailing chair@owhe.org

  • Attend the annual conference in Ashland next year! 

  • Email the BOD -- we’re always more than happy to set up coffee chats or just engage via email if you have questions, considerations, or anything further. 

  • Engage with the list of resources  on understanding and dismantling systems of oppression that OWHE has compiled. 

Connect with Leaders

Networking with women, non-binary, and trans leaders in the state of Oregon will enhance your professional experience. We look forward to creating opportunities to meet, connect and develop together.

Engage in Professional Development

Participate in opportunities for professional growth through educational programs that are provided by our campus contact network right on your campus, in your region or at a state wide gathering. The focus is on providing you with the leadership skills and mentoring necessary to lead.

Lead Change in Higher Education

Higher education in the state of Oregon provides a dynamic environment where women, non-binary, and trans people can impact change. Whether in the community college, 4-year institution, public, or private, we want you to be a part of shaping the future of higher education by empowering and affirming your leadership abilities.