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Speakers: Women must set leading example 

By Pete Spitler - The Southern Illinoisan
Jan. 11, 2014

With plenty of humorous anecdotes, and a few reflections on being a woman in a leadership position, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon highlighted the fifth annual Women in Leadership Banquet on Friday at 17th Street Bar and Grill.

Simon was keynote speaker of the dinner, which wrapped up a two-day leadership workshop hosted by the SIU School of Law. Simon helped inaugurate the law school’s domestic violence clinic in 1998 and is a former SIU faculty member.

“The process of democracy is having our voices heard,” Simon said. “Whether our voices are female, are from Southern Illinois, whatever it might be.

“We all have an obligation to speak up, to be a part of the system because if we don’t who’s going to run it?”

A total of 32 SIU School of Law students, including male students, participated in the workshop that occurred Thursday and Friday at the Lesar Law Building on SIU’s campus. Topics included gender communication, negotiation, interviewing, gender issues in the workplace and running for public office.

“We all have to take that (leadership) role seriously,” Simon said. “Knowing that someone else is watching us. Knowing that there’s a teenage girl somewhere who hasn’t known a woman who was a lawyer before.

The workshop also featured law school faculty, law school alumni, local attorneys and judges participating in lectures, small group discussions and group exercises.

“Women face challenges in the legal profession, higher education and, frankly, every profession,” said SIU Chancellor Rita Cheng. “But there are a lot of reasons for optimism.

“Think of Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook. Think of Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo! And think of the compelling story of Associate Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.”

Cheng also mentioned Mary Barra as an example. Barra broke General Motors’ “steel ceiling” as its first female CEO when she was named in December to succeed Dan Akerson.

“You have to get up and keep doing what you believe in,” Cheng said. “You have to encourage others to follow you.”