Reflections from CUWFA Conference 2024

Date: 4/29/2024

Written by: Alaina Charette, Operations Coordinator, WorkLife Office

I was thrilled to return to the College and University Work-Life-Family Association (CUWFA) National Conference, hosted this year by the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. Having attended the previous year, I was still in the early stages of understanding workplace well-being and the common challenges in higher education across the nation. Attending this year with a deeper understanding, I was able to participate more in conversations with my work-life peers. Strengthened by my involvement in a CUWFA committee and mentor group, I found myself connecting more deeply with fellow members. Our discussions ranged from the urgent need for accessible childcare solutions to the transformative effects of remote work on the modern workplace.

During the conference, I had the privilege of co-presenting “Building Bridges: Enhancing Social Capital Among International Employees in Higher Education” alongside my Director, Jaimie Hutchison. It marked my first experience presenting at a national conference, and I am very grateful for this opportunity. Our presentation delved into the role of social capital in the integration and well-being of international employees, offering practical strategies to foster stronger social connections and outlining some best practices for initiating and nurturing employee resource groups. We elaborated on the journey of our International Employee Resource Group, detailing its evolution through the programming efforts of the WorkLife Office over the past several years. We also emphasized the invaluable input received from our international employees, underscoring how their feedback is critical in identifying opportunities to enhance support for Spartans at MSU.

The Importance of Employee Resource Groups

  • They help to foster a safe and inclusive environment for employees
  • They offer opportunities for meaningful engagement and connections
  • They often engage in volunteer opportunities that contribute to community growth
  • Employees can leverage ERGs for professional development opportunities, expanding their skill sets and advance their careers within the organization
  • Diverse ERGs reflect an organization’s commitment to DEI, and this helps enhance recruitment and corporate culture, while contributing to employee retention and helping to attract top talent.
  • Exposure to diverse perspectives within ERGs foster business innovation by inspiring fresh ideas and alternative viewpoints, driving growth and competitiveness

I was inspired by many of the dynamic presentations at the CUWFA Conference. Here are a few key takeaways:

  • “Work-Life Balance” is a term that is not being used as frequently because it is not always attainable. “Work-Life Integration” or “Work-Life Fit” are good alternatives because they give more flexibility and actionable steps toward attaining what that means to you. “Work-Life Fluidity” is another option as it recognizes how the relationship between work and personal/family life is dynamic and ever-evolving.
  • “Workplace Culture” is defined as the behaviors of an organization, and “Workplace Climate” is the impact felt by its employees.
  • The “Double-Bind” refers to a situation where female leaders face conflicting societal expectations and stereotypes that can hinder their effectiveness and success in leadership roles. The “Think Leader, Think Male” mindset creates an invisible barrier for women and gender stereotypes create a no-win situation for women leaders.
  • Dependent care assistance is increasingly a key factor for recruitment and retention