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The Student News Site of University of Louisiana Monroe

The Hawkeye

The Student News Site of University of Louisiana Monroe

The Hawkeye

GERO Institute celebrates Women’s History Month with annual summit

Photo courtesy GERO Institute

Over 40 students and community members gained a new perspective on aging at the sixth Annual Ageless Women’s Summit. ULM’s Gerontology Education, Research and Outlook (GERO) Institute commemorated Women’s History Month by recognizing powerful women making a difference in Louisiana.

GERO Institute Director Anita Sharma kicked off the summit by explaining that this year’s theme was to “enable women to build dreams.” Sharma invited five women who transformed their seemingly unattainable dreams into reality.

West Monroe Mayor Staci Mitchell delivered the keynote address at the annual summit. She made history in Ouachita Parish as the first woman elected as mayor of West Monroe in over 40 years. Mitchell addressed the disparities between men and women in Louisiana politics in her address. According to the West Monroe mayor, out of Louisiana’s 303 mayors, only 27% are women.

Mitchell described how she stepped into a leadership role after winning the election in 2018. However, becoming a leader did not mean she needed to sacrifice her 20-year marriage, motherhood or femininity. Instead, Mitchell found a balance between her personal and professional life, serving as a role model for women who dream of being both a mother and a professional.

“Anyone can be a leader,” Mitchell said. “It is our responsibility to serve as role models with good actions and integrity. Treat everyone with respect and be aware of people in our lives who can be our role models.”

Lisa VanHoose, director of ULM’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program, presented on gender inequality in the workplace. VanHoose mentioned the glass ceiling, which refers to the invisible barrier that prevents women and people of color from advancing in the workplace. While she states that the U.S. progressed since the 1940s, women still experience issues in the workplace.

VanHoose specifically mentions the Broken Rung theory. The Broken Rung theory states that women’s careers often stagnate at an entry-level or supervisory position. Women fall behind men due to the broken rung, which prevents women from advancing to managerial roles or directorships.

According to McKinsey & Company’s “Women in the Workplace 2023” report, for every 100 men promoted from entry-level to manager, 87 women were promoted.” The global consulting firm interviewed over 27 thousand employees while surveying gender inequality in the workplace.

Mandy Crow, a family medicine physician in Shreveport, spoke about her mission to improve medical treatments for dementia and chronic illnesses in Northwest Louisiana. Partnering with her friend Alisha Timon, RN, Crow created the VitolOp Wellness app, which creates a preventative plan for chronic diseases based on the user’s height, weight and vitals. Crow also implemented a Dementia Prevention Plan at her practice, Direct Primary Care Clinic.

Former social worker Alyssa Lear recalled how aging affects one’s mindset and outlook. Lear remembered how, as she aged, her passions and interests changed. Lear ultimately gave up her social worker’s license to care for her husband after he suffered from a debilitating stroke. Now, Lear sees aging as a blessing rather than a burden.    “Is aging a responsibility or a gift?” Lear said. “I think it is both. Aging requires us to share the things that we’ve picked up through the years, the talents that we’ve learned and the mentoring ideas we’ve gathered as we went.”

Kathy Coleman, president of the Greater Baton Rouge Civic Council, finished the summit by speaking about the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Information Center of Louisiana (GRGICL). According to the GRGICL, 10% of Louisiana children live in households headed by grandparents. The nonprofit organization seeks to help grandparents raising grandchildren by providing educational resources and grants.

Coleman became part of the organization after raising her grandchildren in Baton Rouge. GRGICL provided the Coleman family with invaluable resources, such as clothing and childcare. Now, Coleman partners with GRGICL to raise awareness for the issues facing grandparents raising grandchildren.

After a day of meaningful discussions, students and community members walked away feeling inspired and accomplished. Students interested in learning more about the work of the GERO Institute can contact program director Anita Sharma.



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