'Women's history is everyone's history,' says UAA Chief Diversity Officer Jennifer Booz

by Austin Osborne  |   

Jennifer Booz, UAA Chief Diversity Officer
UAA Chief Diversity Officer Jennifer Booz (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

UAA Chief Diversity Officer Jennifer Booz answers questions about Women’s History Month and discusses how women’s history interests with ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion work at UAA and beyond.

On diversity, equity and inclusion:

In your words, what is the job of a chief diversity officer?
The job of a chief diversity officer in higher education is to work with administrators, faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community to ensure the university is diverse, equitable and inclusive (DEI). DEI work encompasses recruitment, retention, hiring, policy, procedure and programming. A typical day might include committee work on history and heritage months, troubleshooting an individual inclusion issue, developing training, presenting on a DEI topic to a work group and meeting with an external stakeholder group about scholarships or donations.  

How did you get involved in this work?
I have always been interested in social justice, even as a child. My educational background includes degrees in psychology and sociology. As a socioIogist, my areas of academic interest are race, class and gender, perhaps because these are the areas of so much misunderstanding in our society. I also have 22 years of experience in higher education. I started in academic services and student affairs. While serving as a dean of students, I was able to work on issues around student belonging and cultural competency. This all led me to seek out DEI positions in higher education, positions that have only been readily available in the last seven to 10 years. 

As a campus community, how can we work to create a more equitable space for all?
A concept that I am using in my office is that of Shared Equity Leadership, the idea that equity is everyone's work. In this model, we can all take personal responsibility to be as equity-minded as possible, questioning our assumptions, removing barriers and closing equity gaps. Leadership for equity is shared amongst us all, building on the strengths and interests we already have. This makes the load that much lighter for all of us. The Chancellor's Cabinet is undertaking a deep dive into Shared Equity Leadership this semester. Look for more information for faculty, staff and students in upcoming semesters.

On Women’s History Month:

What gains have women made when it comes to equity and what work is still left to do?
Women have made huge strides in their equity journey. For example, women in the United States have made gains in workforce representation, educational attainment and narrowing the pay gap. However, there is still much work left to do to achieve gender parity in this and other countries. In the United States, women still make less than their male counterparts and are less likely to hold top leadership positions. All across the globe, women still face disproportionate rates of economic hardship and subpar medical care as well as interpersonal violence and human trafficking. There is a lot left to do.

How does women's history intersect with other diversity, equity and inclusion work?
Intersectionality is a very important concept that says none of our identities and experiences of discrimination exist in isolation. All of them overlap in ways that are unique to us. Think of each of our identities as a circle on a Venn diagram. Each of us has a diagram of circles that overlap in a unique way to us, like our own diversity fingerprint. So when we talk about DEI work and women's history, it’s multifaceted. We may be talking about the experiences of BIPOC LGBTQ+ women in one context and the experiences of women with disabilities in another context. Women's history is everyone's history.

Explore the events and programming happening at UAA to celebrate Women's History Month.

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