ILR Women’s Network

New group hopes to support alumnae, female students
Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Building on the ILR Women’s Caucus and its annual summit, resources for ILR female undergraduate and graduate students to learn from alumnae about workplace issues and career advancement, Leona Barsky ’80/M.S. ’81, has established the Cornell ILR Women's Network.

Starting in the New York City metropolitan area, with plans to expand to other cities, Barsky’s vision of the alumnae network is to create a forum to host “Women and Work” presentations by ILR professors and alumnae.

The events will focus on relevant research, current developments and professional skills, along with facilitating networking, mentoring and support initiatives among ILR alumnae and ILR female students.

Barsky is collaborating with Dawn Levy-Weinstein '88 in developing the network, as well as a diverse steering committee of ILR alumnae, to build a cohesive and inclusive grassroots organization that fosters closer connections among ILR alumnae, female students and faculty to serve the ILR community.  

"I have been trying to establish the Cornell ILR Women's Network for many years,” Barsky said.

“I am thrilled that this new network is being implemented during the historical presidential candidacy of the first woman nominee and the current developments in the legal, regulatory and policy arenas impacting women in their workplaces, including new state pay equity, paid family leave and expanded discrimination protection legislation.”

According to Barsky, the network has been met with enthusiastic support from ILR alumnae who graduated between the 1970s and 2000s and work in diverse career fields within a wide variety of roles. The network saw over 50 ILR alumnae, female students and faculty participate in its first meeting, held in May.

Over 100 attendees have registered for the July 20 meeting, which features Professor Ileen DeVault, the new academic director for The Worker Institute. She will discuss “Women in the Workforce: Where Have We Been and Where Are We Headed?”

Research project

From initial network discussion, a research and publication project has emerged. It focuses on demonstrating the historical and continuing value of such networks and women’s affinity groups and the importance of documenting and sharing the work experiences and career perspectives of diverse ILR alumnae.

According to Barsky, the “research will focus on the founding and evolution of the ILR Women's Caucus, its goals and accomplishments, its continuing relevance for over 35 years, the evolution of women students at the ILR School and the experiences of ILR alumnae in their workplaces.”  

The research will examine the mission and function of women’s affinity groups  such as the ILR Women’s Caucus, tracing ways that these groups have changed in nature and structure since the 1970s and the evolving roles and perspectives of ILR alumnae in their workplaces in light of their unique education in industrial and labor relations.   

“Plans to interview current officers and members of ILR Women's Caucus, other female ILR students, ILR alumnae and ILR women faculty are being formulated as part of the research,” Barsky said.

“It is my hope to tap the rich reservoir of historical experience and career expertise of our alumnae and leverage it for positive change in diverse workplaces, within the ILR School and in the legislative and regulatory arenas.”

Upcoming meetings

This fall, Visiting Assistant Professor Allison Elias, caucus faculty adviser  , will discuss the promises and perils of using an equality framework to achieve workplace gender equity and her upcoming book “Feminism at Work: Women, Gender and Success in Corporate America.” A date has not yet been set.

The network is seeking hosts for its future meetings and other events from all sectors of the ILR alumni community. The network can be contacted at cornellilrwomensnetwork@gmail.com.

ILR alumnae, female students and faculty are invited to join the new LinkedIn group for Cornell ILR Women’s Network to learn more.