University of Wisconsin–Madison

Working in conjunction with women leaders at UW–Madison, the Women’s Philanthropy Council, and the Committee on Women, the Women and Leadership series is made up of a symposium, Coffee and Conversation talks, and book discussions.

Goals of the Women and Leadership Series

  • Promote healthy, inclusive, and engaging workplaces and provide a safe atmosphere for current and emerging female faculty, staff, and student leaders to come together and discuss issues of interest to them.
  • Provide learning, engagement, and professional development opportunities that increases visibility and talents of women on campus.
  • Continue to explore ways the Women and Leadership Series can meet the current and emerging leadership development needs of all UW–Madison faculty and staff.

History of the Women and Leadership Series

The idea for the Women and Leadership series began with the Women and Leadership Symposium back in 1999. The conversation began with the Committee on Women in the University as a proposal to fund participation in external leadership opportunities for a small group of women. Professor Patti Brennan and Professor Jo Handelsman suggested the possibility of creating “home grown” leadership program that could involve more women and happen on campus instead of sending a few people to national conferences each year.

It took nearly ten years for the perfect timing of planning and acquiring monetary support, but Learning and Talent Development in the Office of Human Resources launched the first Women and Leadership Symposium in 2009 with the support of the Committee on Women in the University and the Women’s Philanthropy Council. The goal of the symposium was to highlight women in leadership roles and their contributions to the workplace at UW–Madison.

The response to the first Women and Leadership Symposium was so overwhelmingly positive that Learning and Talent Development was approached by the Interim Provost/Dean Julie Underwood who shared her vision of expanding the Women and Leadership Symposium programming to a yearlong program with follow up sessions.

In 2009 the first symposium had 280 attendees, fast forward to 2018 the Women and Leadership Symposium included over 500 participants. Since the launch of the Women and Leadership series the tradition of presenting “follow up” sessions, now called “Coffee and Conversations” are conducted six times throughout the academic year. The Women and Leadership Series today is rounded out with a book discussion. Each event is hosted by a female leader on campus.