By Mike Wade
NRVCS Community Relations Specialist

The issues connected to gender equality in the workplace are nothing new, yet they are rarely addressed, and often altogether ignored by many employers.

With this in mind, members of the NRVCS Cultural Competence Committee recently organized and hosted a discussion focused on those issues, featuring a panel of gender equality experts from both Virginia Tech and Radford University. Held at NRVCS’ Blacksburg facility on March 30, the discussion also served as a Level II diversity training for agency staff.

Guest panelists included: Dr. Hilary Lips, Radford University; Dr. Bevlee Watford, Virginia Tech; Dr. Sarah Hastings, Radford University; Dr. Suchitra Samanta, Virginia Tech; and Dr. Theresa Burriss, Radford University.

Following a brief introduction from each of the panelists, the discussion was opened up for questions and comments from audience members. The second half of the morning featured small group discussions, with each group tackling a different issue. Facilitated by the panelists, topics included: financial issues (pay, poverty, etc.), the impact of a patriarchal society on women and adolescent girls, cultural awareness of gendered roles and attitudes, women of color, and Appalachian women’s concerns.

Nearly 80% of those who participated in the discussion indicated that their thoughts or beliefs had “grown, expanded or changed” as a result of the training. Seventy-five percent of those participants completing an evaluation noted that the training will “assist me in being more sensitive to issues related to gender equality.”

“The wealth of expertise and experience from the panelists made it worth a listen and their input was a valuable part of the entire training,” noted one participant.