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March 8, 2018

Women Faculty Panelists Say Collaboration, Mentorship Valued Aspects in Leadership Roles

Diane Denis, Shelome Gooden and Marnie Oakley

Diane Denis, Shelome Gooden and Marnie Oakley serve as panelists at A Celebration of Newly Promoted Women Faculty. They each shared a sentence of advice at the end of the discussion. Denis: “On an ongoing basis, figure out what it is you really want to do, figure out how to get there and keep reflecting on that.” Gooden: “Strategic planning.” Oakley: “Reflection is growth.”


Shelome Gooden, chair of Pitt’s linguistics department, gave what may seem to be an unexpected response to a question about what drew her to her current leadership position.

“First, I was not drawn, unless by ‘drawn’ you mean ‘pulled,’” she said, drawing laughter from those present at a panel discussion targeted at newly promoted women faculty. Gooden shared that her departmental colleagues recruited her to serve as chair — while she was on leave.

The discussion was part of A Celebration of Newly Promoted Women Faculty. The second annual event was held on March 1 in Wesley W. Posvar Hall. Female faculty members who had been promoted during the 2017 calendar year were invited to attend the event, which included a panel discussion and reception. The event was hosted by Laurie Kirsch, vice provost for faculty affairs, development, and diversity, and the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Women’s Concerns.

Gooden said a highlight of her role as leader has been collaborating with department members.

“The kind of relationship that we’ve developed over the past years is one of community so that we together address challenges and together we address and attack problems and together we solve them,” Gooden said.

Moderated by Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ political science faculty member Kristin Kanthak and Swanson School of Engineering faculty member Anne Robertson, the panel discussion also featured faculty members Diane Denis of the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and Marnie Oakley of the School of Dental Medicine.

Oakley, associate dean for clinical affairs, expressed an affinity for recruiting colleagues to help in solving problems.

“We wouldn’t be there without our staff, so I love for them to come in and do their jobs and realize that ‘if I don’t do this job, even if it seems like it’s the small piece, that the whole thing falls apart,’” she said.

The three panelists expressed the value they found in the interactions with colleagues that take place in a mentoring relationship. Mentoring does not have to be tied to a leadership role, said Denis, the Katz Alumni Chair in Finance and area director for finance.

“The amount (of mentoring) that you should be willing to do, the priority you should give it, that should sort of continually increase over your career. … We should all be mentoring,” she said.

Oakley pointed out that mentors can give honest feedback where others are not willing to do so. Gooden added that mentors are able to help their mentees to comprehend the overarching value of their work.

Robertson raised a question about balancing commitments to leadership, research, teaching and service. Denis, Gooden and Oakley agreed on the importance of prioritizing.

“They are all very important roles in the University, and we all have to do all of them on an ongoing basis,” said Denis. “My own view, though, is that we can’t do more than a couple of them at a high level at a given point in time.”


Katie Fike,, 412-624-1085


Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Patricia E. Beeson

Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Patricia E. Beeson opens A Celebration of Newly Promoted Women Faculty. “There’s really been a lot of progress made both in representation of women on the faculty and their economic status, the pay differentials that really (have) been reduced,” she said.


From left: Anne Robertson, Kristin Kanthak, Diane Denis, Shelome Gooden and Marnie Oakley

From left: Anne Robertson, Kristin Kanthak, Diane Denis, Shelome Gooden and Marnie Oakley


Jeannette South-Paul

Jeannette South-Paul, a faculty member in the Department of Family Medicine, speaks to the role service should play in an academic career. “One of the things that we as women and minority women bring to academic institutions is a different perspective, and when we hunker down in a little corner and refuse to get involved, we actually have deprived those in our environment of seeing the unique perspective that we bring, that for a long time has not been in academics,” she said.



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