Kat Weaver, associate dean of learning, innovation and teaching and associate professor of biology, shared her personal and professional story with students and other faculty for the third session of the “A Seat at the Table” series Wednesday in the Hanawalt House.
The series of talks with prominent women on campus was created as part of the Women’s History Month events to give young women an idea of the world they will soon dive into.
Melissa Moss, executive assistant to the vice provost and chief diversity officer, brought back the concept of “A Seat at the Table” from a women’s forum she attended in the fall. The many women of prestige and higher education built networks and community without structure. Moss said she created the title to take the workshop a step further and have intentional conversations about being vulnerable and the journey through personal and professional growth and success, because they always work together.
Moss led Weaver through several questions about her career and life.
“You see these women doing so many great things, but how did they get there?” Moss asked.
Weaver first experienced self-doubt when her female counselor at UC Berkeley told her she would never get into graduate school or amount to anything. After her undergraduate education, Weaver still held the discouraging statement in the back of her mind and decided to take time off before going to graduate school.
What she thought would be a step back was actually a jump forward. Weaver began working at a high school that had a 25 percent graduation rate and 30 percent faculty turnover rate, and built its academic achievement program. She felt guilty for leaving the students when resigning from the position, but left a meaningful legacy and still returns to check in with students.
Because of her rare interest in biology, Weaver landed a teacher’s assistant job as an undergraduate student. She had a position waiting for her at UC Berkeley after her doctoral work at the University of Colorado, Boulder, but her husband Pablo Weaver, who is a biology instructor at the University, suggested that a different position at La Verne would suit her perfectly.
“You never know where opportunities are going to lead,” Weaver said. “I took every opportunity I was given and didn’t look back.”
After seeing new, smiling faces greeting her and Jay Jones picking trash off the ground, Weaver loved La Verne from her first interview before employment.
“I knew I could make a difference at a place like this because they care about people and the community,” Weaver said.
Weaver said that this year at La Verne has been the biggest jump because it is the first time she has reported to a woman – Beatriz Gonzalez, vice provost and chief diversity officer.
“It’s interesting because for the first time I wasn’t offered opportunities to take, but was asked what opportunities I want to make,” Weaver said.
At the end of the session, Moss asked Weaver to share a pearl of wisdom, or how she overcame a challenge as a woman in the work field.
“There are a lot of reasons to not sit at the table and not a lot of reasons to sit at the table,” Weaver said.
When she first started working, she said she would always make herself heard. After asserting herself, she received comments like “you need to learn when to not talk,” “your voice is too low and intimidating.” She spoke in a higher octave for a whole semester, then decided to speak less instead. She was then told, “one thing you do well is not talking right away.” However, she realized then that her passion built up and she sounded angry when she spoke.
“I chastise myself a lot for losing my voice and having to regain it,” Weaver said.
She said she has lost credit for things because it became someone else’s idea, but that’s ok because her concern is that the plan still executed the goal.
Gonzalez continued to note the importance of collaboration and using your voice at the table.
“If you’re constantly contributing, that’s seen,” Gonzalez said. “The more you advance, the less concerned you should be about credit.”
Weaver highlighted other struggles like having to swallow discrimination as a pregnant woman in the work force.
“Learning about women’s inequality is somewhat new to me because I was raised by an authoritative single mother, so I never saw women in a different role,” Billy Lopez, freshman TV broadcasting and political science double major said.
He was also intrigued to see a powerful woman in a male driven field.
The “A Seat at the Table” series will recommence in the fall.
Tyler Evains can be reached at email@example.com.