Joy Ruzek and Sheryl Van Gruensven have long dreamed of an Institute for Women’s Leadership at UW-Green Bay as a catalyst for change in the University community and the broader region of Northeast Wisconsin.
The idea for the Institute evolved as both grew into their current roles. Ruzek is assistant vice chancellor of the Division of Continuing Education and Community Engagement, partnering with businesses and organizations to develop innovative programming in response to professional and workforce development needs throughout Wisconsin. Sheryl Van Gruenesven is chief business officer and senior vice chancellor for Institutional Strategy, a key leader fulfilling an essential role.
The Institute seeks to address the “broken rung” in the ladder that is holding women back. McKinsey and Company conducts an annual Women in the Workplace Study, and for the sixth year in a row women continue to lose ground in the first step up to manager. Not only does this stall the progress toward gender parity, but also puts companies at risk of the loss of future women leaders. Companies in Northeast Wisconsin in particular identify developing leaders as a critical goal, and it has been repeatedly demonstrated that women at senior levels of management impact profits and share performance in a positive way. They are also more likely to be champions of diversity and inclusion, contributing to a stronger workplace culture.
As Ruzek and Van Gruensven see it, the key to changing this trajectory lies with senior leaders — male and female — to ensure women can advance. “As leaders,” they advocate, “we all need to demonstrate this is a priority by what we say, what we do, what we measure and how we lead.” Over time, they hope, the Institute will enhance the quality of life and economic development in the region in the following ways:
• Fulfilling critical leadership needs in the region and contributing to a robust, more broadly engaged and representative professional workforce, essential to a healthy, fully-engaged society and economy.
• Eliminating barriers that narrow women’s professional opportunities, preparing women for leadership roles early on so they can advance mid-career and beyond.
• Creating a culture of “Conscious Inclusion” that builds on the desire, insight and capacity of people to make decisions and to lead, think and act with the conscious intent of including everyone.
Ruzek and Van Gruensven are looking forward to the kickoff event, which will take place on Friday, March 5, in celebration of International Women’s Day. It seems a fitting day to see their dreams come to fruition with the official launch of the Institute for Women’s Leadership, especially with this year’s theme of “Choose to Challenge.”
Ruzek and Van Gruensven have indeed chosen to challenge, and their plans for the Institute will pave the way for future women leaders of today and tomorrow. With their help, women will rise together.
Ruzek serves as assistant vice chancellor for the Division of Continuing Education and Community Engagement where she provides strategic vision, innovative programming and advanced services to address the developmental needs of all ages throughout Wisconsin. She joined UW-Green Bay in 2009 and has over 35 years of experience in executive business management and progressive professional training and development. She earned her bachelor’s in business management, and holds a master’s degree in counseling with an emphasis in higher education.
Van Gruensven serves as chief business officer and senior vice chancellor for institutional strategy where she provides leadership and oversight for the development and execution of a sustainable financial model and administrative services to the University community. She joined UW-Green Bay in 2004 and has served as director of human resources and affirmative action prior to her current role. She earned her bachelor’s in human resources management from Upper Iowa University, and holds a master’s degree in management.