Sullivan brings conversations on gender and leadership to the U.N.

Katie Sullivan is an Associate Professor of Communication at UCCS.

As an organizational communication scholar, Katie Sullivan, Associate Professor of Communication at UCCS, has studied the messages that women receive about gender, work and leadership for nearly two decades. Now, she’s bringing these conversations to the United Nations.

Sullivan began working with the U.N.’s Early Career Initiative Program in September, when she facilitated the first of two sessions for program participants. During the first session, she provided a communication-centered framework for women to reflect on the role of gender in work life and the gendered nature of leadership. The second session, scheduled for December, will focus on the ways current debates among academics and activists are driving change toward gender equality.

Sullivan’s work complements existing initiatives in at the United Nations to strengthen women’s equal participation — an issue that has only become more pressing during the COVID-19 era.

“It’s very meaningful to me to work with early-career women and to listen to their experiences,” Sullivan said. “Falling into gender traps ranks high on many women’s lists of concerns, and the COVID-19 pandemic has added stress and pressure to employees’ lives while also revealing aspects of organizational culture that have always been less hospitable to working women.”

In her first session, Sullivan focused on slowing the conversation down. Her aim was for the participants, who were working across 23 countries, to identify how they perceive women and leadership.

In the next session, Sullivan is excited to dive into solutions-building — without placing all of the burden on women.

“I’m excited to dive into contemporary solutions that that women can take, while advocating that gendered leadership should not be sold as an individual woman’s problem to fix,” Sullivan said. “It’s crucial that organizations evaluate and address the structures, support and stories that employees encounter that shape gender and work.”

Katie Sullivan is an Associate Professor of Communication at UCCS. She studies the role of branding in contemporary professional life; the intersections between professionalization, gender, and embodiment; and diversity in organizations and occupations. Learn more about Sullivan’s work on the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences website.