Room full of guests watch as six women discuss their journeys to leadership and the barriers that faced them.

Sitka community dismantles barriers to diversified leadership

Imagine life as a captain in the fire department. You must be quick and alert, respond to tragedy, work under stress, and manage the safety and effectiveness of your team. You’ve been on the fire department for years, balancing your service with work as a landscape architect and family life.

One day a crew member tells you that you’re “pretty good at this for a girl.” Sitka Fire Captain Dani Snyder recapped how she challenged that assertion during Sitka Campus’ first Female Leadership Panel Discussion on May 29. 

“I just said, ‘What exactly do you mean by that because that sounds really silly,’” recalled Snyder. She said she challenges sexism with direct questions.

Snyder was one of five women on the panel, each a leader in their respective industries and the Sitka community. Joining her were Trish White, former pharmacist and owner of White’s Inc.; Tracy Sylvester, vessel owner and fishery conservation network coordinator for the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association; KCAW General Manager Becky Meiers; and Alana Peterson, executive director of Spruce Root.

Sarah Stanley, PhD, facilitated the discussion. Stanley is an associate professor of English and an affiliate faculty in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The panelists not only talked about their industries and sexism, but also covered work-life balance, supporting female coworkers, and barriers to diversified leadership.

The discussion was the first such event hosted by the UAS Sitka. On a sunny day in Sitka, it attracted 40 guests and attention from local media outlets including KCAW Sitka and North Star Television. It also earned features from University of Alaska System communications and a shout-out from state Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkin. 

The event is part of the Complete to Compete Grant’s Career Development Series through UAS Sitka. The series aims to boost career skills by offering free, monthly workshops for community members. Check out the full discussion on UAS Sitka’s YouTube page.

For more information, email Angela Hilsman at aehilsman@alaska.edu.