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WCTF: Over Thirty Years of Leadership, Advocacy, and Change
The University of Michigan's Women of Color Task Force hosts its 30th annual career conference in Spring, 2012. Task Force members are planning an especially exciting, event-filled conference to celebrate the milestone and to commemorate WCTF's history.
In 1979, Jennie Partee from the Affirmative Action Office and Beulah Sanders from the School of Education created the first Minority Women's Task Force for U-M staff. The format for many of the Task Force's early ysessions was small groups of women coming together to discuss their employment concerns, including how to navigate gender bias and racial stereotypes in the workplace. With support from several campus units, Partee and Sanders also developed a series of workshops on topics that built professional skills and supported the career advancement of African American omen staff members. Within a few short years those workshops had expanded to the point that the organization held its first annual career conference in 1983, featuring 11 professional development workshops and more than 200 participants. In 2002, WCTF became affiliate with the Center for the Education of Women. In the course of its history, the Task Force has developed many programs to promote and honor the contributions of staff of color at the University, including an employee recognition program and the Woman of the Year Award, and they have hosted such special events as the Diversity Resource Forum and, more recently, a staff mentoring conference.
Over the years, WCTF members have contributed both formally and informally to career development and diversity at U-M. Their efforts have kept the voices of hundreds of women of color staff, faculty and students at the table when major policies have been discussed. When asked why the WCTF makes a difference in their lives, Task Force members say it cultivates a sense of community, with the social benefit of allowing them to touch base with friends and colleagues who work on other campuses or offsite offices. But just as importantly, the group’s monthly meetings provide an open forum for women of color from a variety of disciplines and a wide range of job descriptions to discuss issues of importance to them.
Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, educator, scholar, author and activist, will give the keynote speech at the WCTF 30th annual career conference on March 2, 2012. Dr. Cole, a professor emerita of Emory University, was the first female African American president of Spelman College, and the 14th president of Bennett College for Women in North Carolina. Dr. Cole is currently serving as the director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art.