Women in Leadership initiative prepares students to overcome workplace challenges

While new on Baylor's campus, the Women in Leadership Initiative has served to instill the skills of leadership into women while approaching it from a Christian worldview. Photo Courtesy of Women in Business

By Rory Dulock | Staff Writer

Baylor’s Women in Leadership initiative is hoping to build off current resources in order to develop female leaders and advocate for their success in the workplace.

Dr. Kaylee Hackney is an assistant professor in the management department and is stepping into the role of director for Women in Leadership. She said she studies the work-family interface and how employees navigate the challenges that come with balancing the two.

Hackney said the Women in Leadership initiative is newer, and they have been working to get it off the ground over the last couple of years. She said there are many reasons why the initiative kickstarted at Baylor.

“What makes the Women in Leadership initiative so special at Baylor is that we could actually approach that from a Christian point of view or perspective,” Hackney said. “We want to make sure we’re preparing [students] well to go into the workplace and be good leaders, but also make sure that they’re living their life in a way at home and at work that glorifies God. We want to make sure we’re helping develop them into the women that God created them to be.”

Hackney said a second motivation to start the initiative was that there were already a lot of faculty, specifically in the management department, who were researching women in the workplace.

“I’m not the only one that looks at work-family things or challenges that women might experience or stress and well-being in the workplace — things that really kind of fall under this umbrella of women in leadership,” Hackney said. “This is kind of an effort to bring everyone under the same umbrella and really maximize the attention that our research is getting outside of Baylor, outside of academic circles.

Dr. Emily Hunter, department chair and professor of management, said she is passionate about supporting Baylor’s female students as future leaders. She has been involved as an adviser of the Women in Business student organization for three years now.

“The Women in Leadership initiative is going to work under Christian Leadership and Ethics, which is already an established program that has many branches of what it does,” Hunter said.So under that umbrella, Women in Leadership is going to come in and support really the Christian leadership and ethics focused on women in the business.”

The Women in Leadership initiative has a foundation of three pillars, one of which is research.

“We’re conducting this research on women in the workplace from a Christian perspective, so the research part of it is faculty that are already doing that,” Hackney said.This is just a place for us to bring people together to offer collaboration. Possibly, even depending on how fundraising and things go, maybe in the future we’ll be able to financially support research in this area.”

The second pillar is the local community, which Hackney said means building bridges between Baylor and the local Central Texas community.

“It might be hosting events that connect local female business leaders or maybe trainings,” Hackney said. “What that has looked like is the Women in Business student organization hosts a professional development summit every spring, and we invite table mentors. … They’re women from the local community or alumni who come in and are able to kind of have a mentoring relationship with some of the students during the one-day conference. … But I’m hoping that we’ll find even more areas or opportunities to kind of engage the local community.”

The third pillar is the one students can get involved in: the Women in Business student organization.

Hunter said she thinks Baylor is trying to improve at connecting resources, because sometimes organizations don’t communicate. The initiative can build bridges to benefit members, whether they’re young women in Waco or female students at Baylor.

“I think women face unique issues in the workplace that need attention and a special focus,” Hunter said. “Women often desire and really thrive when they’re a part of organizations focused on women’s issues specifically. … I do think that women really thrive when they build this community to support one another and advocate for each other. We’re trying to strengthen that at Baylor.”