By Sabrina Corsiga
North Lake is among a number of colleges making gains in terms of the number of female students and female leaders.
According to Interim President Christa Slejko, the percentage of full-time faculty and staff at North Lake is about 55 percent women and 45 percent men. The numbers are starting to match the ratio of male to female enrolled students.
“The education field attracts women and is more open to diversity of all kinds,” said Slejko.
Presently, more than four million women attend two-year public colleges, according to a recent report issued by the American Association of University Women.
Slejko started her career in the IT field and recalls instances in which she was the only woman among her male peers. While she acknowledges that there have been challenges and expectations women in leadership positions have faced that their male counterparts have not, she said much has changed for the better.
Slejko said when she was younger she felt she “had to be extra credible and professional so people would take me seriously.” As the face of North Lake College, Slejko holds much of the responsibilities for its day-to-day operations and works along with Irving community leaders.
Lynda Edwards, dean of Educational Partnerships, who has been at North Lake for 29 years, started out as an adviser.
“[As women], I think we bring a commitment to education and a determined spirit,” said Edwards. She also thinks that women’s problem solving skills are one of many reasons why higher education is a natural fit for women.
Of the 19 leadership positions at North Lake, 11 are women, including the interim president. Yet only 23 percent of college presidents across the country are women according to the 2011 report for the White House Council on Women and Girls.
Women leaders at North Lake remain optimistic about the future for women in higher education.
She believes that the concept of teamwork is important in leadership.
“A key to being a good leader is to select strong people to work with you,” said Hughes, whose career started with the Dallas County Community College District some 40 years ago. As a leader, Hughes helps oversee the academic transfers and projects that support instruction. “To lead is to enable other people to be the best and do the best they can,” said Hughes.
For Edwards, leadership is about being a team member and providing direction. Her role at North Lake allows her department to deal with school and community relations, such as scholarship programs and campus visitations.
“I don’t think of [leadership] so much as being the person at the top, but [rather] as colleagues working together,” Edwards said. “I am the one who is just trying to make sure that everyone’s skills and talents are being allowed.”
For women who aspire to be leaders in the future, Slejko says they should not have to overcompensate to please their peers.
“You just have to try and be your best self,” she said. “Don’t rush to generalizations and don’t worry too much about stereotypes.”