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Encouraging women’s leadership: Clemson affiliates receive award

On Wednesday, March 9, the President’s Commission on the Status of Women will be honoring distinct individuals of the Clemson community for their achievements in improving the status of women. 

The annual Outstanding Women Awards and Distinguished Contributor awards will recognize five honorees: one academic faculty member, a staff member, a graduate student, an undergraduate student and a distinguished contributor, all of whom have dedicated their time and talents to bettering the roles of women in their community. Each honoree must be nominated, and President James P. Clements will present the awards. 

“I was very honored to be chosen as the Outstanding Woman of 2015, not just the Outstanding Student of 2015,” said Casey Cresbaugh, the 2015 undergraduate winner. 

“Women empowering other women is a movement that is very strong across all domains at this moment. Finally, women are encouraged to be strong, independent and intelligent. I am honored to be a part of it. If I gave one woman the opportunity to do something they normally wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do, then my efforts at Clemson paid off for something!”

Cresbaugh and her fellow honorees were chosen based on the award’s five criteria: professional achievement within category, service as a role model within the university, service as a role model outside the university, performance in “unique” circumstances of merit and continued efforts to promote the status of women. 

Nominees may be either male or female. The Distinguished Contributor category may include male or female alumni, senior administrators, staff, non-academic faculty, major gift donors and other individuals who have made a noteworthy influence on bettering the status of women.

When asked what makes an outstanding woman “outstanding,” Cresbaugh said, “An outstanding woman is motivated, brave and passionate about bettering the world around them. They have to be willing to stand up for what they believe in whether it is the popular opinion or not.”

Dr. Diane Perpich, director of the Program in Women’s Leadership and associate professor in philosophy and religion, argues that despite the strides that awards like these have attempted to make, the “popular opinion” still appears to be one that is against the improving status of women in the

working world. 

“Women make up more than half of those getting undergraduate degrees, and almost half of all graduate degrees, but we’re still experiencing a gap when it comes to the top levels of leadership in most professions,” Dr. Perpich said.

To understand the leadership gap, Dr. Perpich used the example of women’s current role in law, where nearly half of law degree holders are women. Women also received 51 percent of coveted judicial clerkships after finishing law school. 

“This would lead us to expect to find high numbers of women throughout the legal field in leadership positions, however they represent only 17 percent or so equity partners in law firms. And in those firms, women equity partners earn on average only 78.9 percent of what their male counterparts make.

“This number hasn’t budged much in 10 years; in 2004 female equity partners earned 73.4 percent of what male equity partners earned,” Perpich said.

The President’s Commission on the Status of Women, which gives out the Outstanding Women’s Award, places emphasis on “discover[ing] and pursu[ing] the removal of institutional barriers” at Clemson, according to their mission statement. 

James Angst, a Clemson freshman, agrees with this award’s ability to inflict positivity in the Clemson environment: “Awards like these represent influential women in the community and encourage others to assume leadership roles and actions they potentially would not (take) otherwise.”

To nominate an individual, one must complete a nomination packet found at Packets also should include a vita, a résumé (or a two page maximum summary of activities) and two letters of support. 

All nominations must be summited the Women’s Commission office in 127 Hardin Hall no later than 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 26.

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