Celebrating women in leadership

February 23, 2011

Sheila Simon is the second woman to hold the office of Illinois lieutenant governor, a distinction she is happy to call “no big deal.”

“Once a pioneer has made the way, it’s a little easier for the next woman to come along,” Simon said during a visit to Bradley this week. “The fact that I’m a woman is just not an issue, and that’s really nice.”

Simon spoke with members of the campus community as part of the Celebrating Women in Leadership forum, a regular series honoring the legacy of University founder Lydia Moss Bradley. Simon said the lens through which today’s young people view gender roles and opportunities for women is much more favorable than it was for previous generations, yet women continue to lack the assertiveness of their male counterparts.

“For example, my daughters have only had women doctors their whole lives, so they have a different perspective and a world of great opportunity,” said Simon, “But we need to have more confidence. It’s about asserting that it is appropriate to be the president of a university, to be the lieutenant governor of a state, to be in the legislature, to be president.”

Simon’s visit was co-sponsored by Bradley’s Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service, the Pre-Law Center, and the Women’s Studies program. Simon is both a champion of women in leadership and an advocate for education. As Governor Pat Quinn’s point person on education reform, Simon promotes K to 20 instruction statewide.

“She stands up, and stands up tall for Illinois children and promoting the importance of kindergarten through post-secondary education, a passion we share in common,” said Bradley President Joanne K. Glasser, who introduced the lieutenant governor at Tuesday’s forum.

Senior political science and history major Kate Green is interested in working in state government and felt energized after hearing the lieutenant governor speak.

“You don’t hear much positivity when it comes to politics, so it’s great to get a positive feel about what’s going on,” said Green, who agreed that building confidence is often the greatest challenge for women seeking a voice in politics.

“The confidence thing strikes home with me. We (women) need to put ourselves out there and be willing to take criticism,” Green said, adding that Bradley has supported her leadership ambitions by helping her study in Washington, D.C., last summer.

Through leadership opportunities and exposure to inspiring women like Lt. Governor Sheila Simon, Bradley is doing its part to help Green blaze the trail for future generations of confident, motivated women.