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Fighting the “Concrete Ceiling,” Antioch Relaunches Women in Leadership Certificate

Out of 500 Fortune 500 companies, precisely three are led by women of color. Hardly better, only 37 have women CEOs of any race. And these problems are replicated throughout leadership at every level. As women across the globe continue to face challenges and obstacles holding them back from leadership roles, Antioch University is launching a new online Women in Leadership Certificate Program to help women overcome those challenges.

“Women’s experiences in the workplace can be dramatically different, yet with these differences, there are also similarities we all experience as women,” says the program’s director, Dr. Jacqueline Reid. “This program hopes to provide opportunities to understand the barriers women face—but also to share practical, actionable strategies to overcome these barriers.”

The goal for this program is to bring together early- and mid-career women who are clearly aware of the professional challenges that they face—and to provide these women opportunities to enhance their confidence and leadership skills within a social justice framework. This program will bring together women experts working in nonprofits, business, government, higher education, human resources, diversity/equity training, public speaking, and beyond. Over three months, meeting two weekends a month, participants will engage in hands-on experiences and develop practical skills to navigate the workplace and elicit change in the community.

A Program Designed for Mutual Support

Women supporting women is a key theme throughout the program, says Dr. Reid: “How are we, as women leaders, navigating within the diverse world that we find ourselves in, and how can we support each other, but also lead each other, from our own strengths that we bring to the table?” To that end, there will be online large and small group interactive meetings and participants will work with their cohort and in-network pods to understand their strengths and how they can lead with purpose and within the framework of social justice.

These group activities, together with panel presentations, skills and strategies, and mentorship by influential women leaders will form the heart of the residency weekends. Themes will include: Re-envisioning Leadership; Strategic Leadership: Equity, Inclusion and Intersectionality; and Transformational Leadership: Next Steps to Leading Change. These residencies are being led by facilitators and faculty with expertise in all areas of women’s leadership and with a strong understanding of how to successfully navigate the virtual world of online learning. An ongoing theme, through one-on-one and group coaching, will be around transformational leadership within the context of Black Lives Matter, breaking racism barriers, and incorporating inclusive leadership practices.

“Intersectionality is a critical issue to consider, and modern feminism is dealing with this as women try to understand the role that race, class, and gender identity play in having access and being visible in the public arena,” says Dr. Reid. She says that women of color, in particular, face obstacles that might better be called a “concrete ceiling” than a glass one. In working to overcome this, the certificate will include a series of three modules that will focus on creating space for change. This will include racial dialogue so that women have the opportunity to lead/navigate critical and courageous conversations, find their voice, and develop strategies on how to facilitate generative conversations and sustained racial justice efforts in the workplace. This aims to help all women to work together shattering the “glass ceiling,” breaking the “concrete ceiling”—and supporting each other along the way.

Re-Envisioning a Fully-Online Certificate Program

This program is offered in a fully-online version through Antioch University Online Distance and Extended Education. It is the successor to two previous certificate programs offered by Antioch University Santa Barbara, revised to account for the impacts of the global pandemic. The program’s director, Dr. Reid, has taught education and social justice in masters’ programs at Antioch University Santa Barbara (AUSB) and recently directed the education department at AUSB. She is working to develop and launch this new program in a way that remains consistent with Antioch’s mission to empower students to advance social, economic, and environmental justice.

The program’s full title is the Women in Leadership Certificate Program – Level Two. This indicates how the certificate builds on level-one programs offered in partnership with selected community colleges. For example, in January 2021 AU Online is partnering with Santa Barbara City College School of Extended Learning to launch Women in Leadership Certificate Program – Level One. This level is designed for women early in their career who are pursuing skills to enable them to seek leadership roles in the workplace. While participants from this Level One program can matriculate into Level Two, it is not a prerequisite; Level Two is a stand-alone program that can be attended by women who have not participated in a community college program.

At the end of the program, students will have formed an “action plan” for a specific leadership goal. Creating the action plan will include identifying a need in an organization for positive change, coming up with personal and professional goals for the action plan, identifying skills and strengths that the women already have to achieve their vision, and then making it happen. Those action plans might include negotiating more pay and higher positions, launching and leading new initiatives, growing their own businesses, or becoming mentors.

Applications are now being taken for the February 2021 cohort. The program offers a payment plan and scholarships are also available. For more information about the programs, contact Dr. Jacqueline Reid at [email protected].