To delve into the importance of women in business, Colorado College President Jill Tiefenthaler sat down in a Palmer Hall classroom last week for an intimate discussion. The conversation encompassed such topics as women in academia, women in leadership roles, and what it means to have a CC education.
Tiefenthaler began the talk by describing how she got started in academia. She explained how she has been “immersed in a man’s world [her] entire career.” As an economist, she works in one of the most male-dominated fields of all. One-third of female economists have reported harassment; however, documented numbers like these usually represent only a portion of the incidents that occur. In the realm of college presidents, as few as 20–25% are female, and this percentage is mainly concentrated in community colleges. Even with her incredible resume and qualifications, according to Tiefenthaler, she is still occasionally mistaken for an administrative assistant, and not as the president of a top-tier institution.
Part of Tiefenthaler’s intense drive comes from her upbringing. Growing up on a farm in rural Iowa, the gender roles present in many parts of society did not apply in the pastures. There, she learned the “value of work, hard work.”
On top of this, she emphasized the rare value of a liberal arts education that teaches students “to learn how to learn.” Despite students’ common worries about securing a post-graduate career, Tiefenthaler explained how, although we are not “perfectly prepared,” the education we have received makes us “nimble and adaptable.” According to a Gallup poll, our current generation will be changing careers more than any previous generation; therefore, adaptability is the most crucial skill to have.
As the liberal arts education model dwindles across the U.S., its use is on the rise internationally. With the progression of technology, the value of humanity increases. The ability to truly think, beyond what a machine can process, is incredibly valuable. Tiefenthaler explained this phenomenon and the need for liberally educated individuals when she explained our entry into the “human economy.” As college education becomes more homogenous and only a minority of college students attend liberal arts institutions, such modes of thought become more valuable
Another aspect that Tiefenthaler emphasized to the room was the importance of mentorship. However, she pointed out that this involves more than finding someone smart to praise you and tell you what to do: “you have to be a good mentee.” It’s more than networking, it’s forming real relationships with those around you. Having this support system makes you an effective follower as well as a successful leader.
Finally, she expressed the importance of intent throughout the discussion. She explained how, in her decision-making process for the well-being of Colorado College and its community, even if she makes a mistake, her intent will not be doubted. Tiefenthaler instilled in the students of the Palmer classroom just how important it is to have female leaders, specifically on our campus, and emphasized the incredible opportunity we have as students of the liberal arts.
This event with President Tiefenthaler was hosted by the Colorado College Women In Business Club.