Being the Program Chair for the Women and Leadership Affinity Group’s 3rd Biennial Conference

Being the Program Chair for the Women and Leadership Affinity Group’s 3rd Biennial Conference

Becoming a scholarly leader is loaded with first time experiences.  I’m writing this as the Call for Proposals is opening for the Women and Leadership Affinity Group’s 3rd Biennial Conference to be held at the Omega Center in Rhinebeck, NY from June 11 – 14, 2017. This is the first time I’ve served as a member of the senior leadership team for a conference and I thought you might enjoy hearing about some of my experiences.

I am the program chair for the conference, so my main responsibility is the Call for Proposals and the Peer Review process for the proposals.  This means I had to recruit stream co-chairs, two for each of the conference’s five research streams.  Fortunately, this isn’t as difficult as it sounds.  First, many of the stream co-chairs from the second biennial conference were willing to serve again.  Then, some stream-co-chairs suggested potential new co-chairs, the conference co-chairs had some suggestions, and I asked two women I’ve worked on papers with to serve as stream co-chairs.  The stream co-chairs and I then reviewed the prior conference’s call and made the changes we thought should be made.  Again, we had lots of help from the conference co-chairs.  Soon, the stream co-chairs will be recruiting for peer-reviewers (you can sign up to be a reviewer on the ILA website.  After the CFP closes on November 7, the stream co-chairs will assign the proposals to specific teams of “blind” reviewers.  Later in the process, the stream co-chairs will also help create the actual sessions for the conference.  This is all rewarding, but might be considered some of the behind the scenes work that makes the conference possible!

Lots of the senior planning team efforts are scarcely work at all!  We had the opportunity to develop the conference theme – taking into account the location for the conference (which we’d also had a voice in selecting – I should note the ILA staff does all the really difficult work related to contracts and setting up the conference).   We kept the first words of the prior Women and Leadership Affinity Group conferences, Advancing Women in Leadership and then made our theme unique by adding Cultivating Our Whole Selves.  This addition seemed appropriate to us as the 2017 conference is being held at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York where the theme is “Awakening the best in the human spirit.”  We also saw a relationship between our theme and some recent women and leadership research that is moving from ideas on the need for women to “balance” their various roles and to instead, look at our roles more holistically.

Another fun aspect was “checking out” the conference location, so we could have a clearer vision as we plan the use of the space and our events.  The grounds are lovely and the meeting rooms quite wonderful. Some photos of the facility are included below.

Coast view near Rhinebeck NY

Omega Center meeting facility

Another fun aspect of serving on the leadership team was meeting with the conference keynote speaker, Sally Hegelsen while we were visiting Omega and discussing our vision for the conference with her.  Sally is sitting here at the head of the table.  You can read more about Sally and her work at:

Sally Hegelsen and Lynne Devnew sitting at table during Omega meeting

Guess that is enough for one post.  I’ll share more adventures as we work our way through the conference. Please be sure to check out the ILA's call for proposals!


Linda Gutsch's picture Linda Gutsch | July 1, 2016 6:47 am MST

How exciting, Lynne!    Thanks for sharing the behind the scenes work that you are doing in helping lead this dynamic conference!   I am planning to submit a proposal and will be reading through the information you have  posted here, as well as the great reference sources that are posted in the Women in Leadership Forum. 

Thank you for sharing the background information on the ILA Conference. It was fun to see the photos!  What a beautiful setting!  I admire the work of Sally Helgeson, and she will be an inspiring keynote speaker!  You are a perfect choice to help  lead the conference as the program chair!  I enjoy reading your blog and the jouorney you have taken!  I appreciate that you are willing to share your knowledge and expertise with us through your skillful leadership here at  the Research Hub, and also to bring such dynamic opportunities as the work and commitment of ILA to us!  The Women and Leadership Affinity Group's Conference sounds exciting and I am looking forward to hopefully attending.  I am also excited to become more involved in the terrific research work opportunities for involvement here in our Women in Leadership Research Hub!  A million THANKS for your leadership and for sharing!

 - Linda Gutsch

Lynne Devnew's picture Lynne Devnew | March 15, 2017 4:41 pm MST

Hi Linda,  Congratulations on having your Six Minute Message accepted for Omega.  I'm so sorry you are unable to attend, but glad Anne Muli will be there sharing the results of her dissertation.  I know, as her chair, you are very proud of the work she's done.

Please be sure to join our new Shared Interest Group!  I added a new picture from the original trip to Omega to use to introduce a forum discussion on all of our presentations there.  No you are very welcome to be an active participant in that discussion.





Lynne Devnew's picture Lynne Devnew | July 1, 2016 1:42 pm MST

Thank you, Linda.  The conference is for both practitioners and academics - Sally Helgesen bridges that gap quite well.

Here in the Women and Leadership Research Group we're working on how we can have a project in the research group to help folks with proposals - as we have with other conferences.  I am too involved in the "real" acceptance process for the conference, however, to have any involvement in this particular project here at UOPX.  Does that sound as if it would be helpful?

I'm also looking forward to hearing how helpful you are finding the reading list. Any big "aha's"?



Lynne Devnew's picture Lynne Devnew | August 9, 2017 9:12 am MST

Thanks, Sue. 

Here's an introduction to new literature stream for you to explore that I think you will find thought-provoking - I'm thinking I should add Bem's foundational writings on androgyny to the foundational readings list!

Androgyny theory recognizes that not all men fit the stereotype for men and only the stereotype for men and not all women fit the stereotype for women and only the stereotype for women.  Using the arguments of androgynous versus andro-centric thinking, great leaders (both men and women) might be strong on the more positive attributes frequently associated with men and those frequently associated with women, so be strong on both assertiveness and relationships.  

How might a focus on not having separate categories for men's and women's behaviors have influenced your article?


Lynne Devnew's picture Lynne Devnew | August 11, 2017 6:06 am MST

Gender identification

I've been thinking about gender identification as I work on my own research.  Yesterday I wrote a first draft on a theme I'd called "being one of the guys - sort of".    I'd reflected on my own efforts while working in a world of men to be included, while clearly remaining a woman, often the only woman, in the group. I thought of following sports, playing poker and winning (while allowed to have a cheat sheet reminding me of the relative ranks of various combinations of cards), and going out with other young women to test whether we'd be okay if we consumed a liter of beer, which was what the guys were all drinking.  I'd also reflected on comments I'd heard from the men relating to my handling of coarse language and inappropriate jokes including," she sometimes won't even get notice the comments or get the jokes",  "she'll just ignore them", and "she's been traveling with a group of guy's for months so heard far worse, she can take it."  And remembered a favorite story of a restroom break - as we emerged I was told, we started a great conversation and then had to stop because one of the men said - wait, we can't have that discussion, Lynne's not here!  

I believe my presence was normally fully accepted, and often welcomed; I also think I was never considered one of the guys.




Lynne Devnew's picture Lynne Devnew | August 11, 2017 2:32 pm MST

Loved your mens room story.


I was never a golfer and don't think it was important on the technical side of IBM (I expect it was more important in marketing).  My husband is also not a golfer, and he says that was a handicap related to attaining the most senior ranks in the Army.  It also game up in a dissertation I chaired on Senior Black officers as a career challenge to those who didn't play.  I bet there have been studies on this.


I wonder whether there have been any studies of restrooms and power.  I know one of my favorite stories was when we realized mid-meeting that all the power was in the ladies room (we collectively were managing perhaps 2,000 technical folks).  

About the Author

Lynne Devnew



Journal of Leadership Studies-Symposium Piece-Relational Leadership: Perspectives of Key Constructs on Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Equity in Higher Education

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