The University Record, February 11, 2002

Women of Color have strong voice for 20 years and counting

By Lesley Harding

Detroit’s former Police Chief Benny Napoleon knows all about the benefits of a strong community and unified voice. That’s why the University’s Women of Color Task Force (WCTF) has asked this one-time law enforcement official to speak at its annual conference, “Women on a Mission: 20 Years of Excellence.”

On March 1, Napoleon will address a crowded house. The task force expects as many as 1,000 people to attend his keynote address and the daylong campus conference. Task force member, Joyce French says despite the group being the women of color, she feels Napoleon is an appropriate choice for keynote speaker because of his leadership excellence and ability to motivate a community to work together to fight crime.

In fact, French, a senior data archive specialist with Institute for Social Research (ISR), says that’s the whole point of the Women of Color Task Force. The group began in 1979 as the Minority Women’s Career Workshops. Faculty and staff members saw this organization as a way to pool their resources to encourage professional and personal growth.

In 1985, the organization changed its name to the Women of Color Task Force to reflect its goals: networking, more efficient flow of information and greater visibility for issues relevant to minorities at the University.

“It’s nice for the women of color at the U-M to know,” says French, “that someone’s out there speaking to and for that particular segment of the population.”

A major goal of the task force is to be that voice for faculty and staff and to help them develop their careers. The task force offers resources, networking opportunities and comradery. “It’s an extremely good networking tool,” says French.

Throughout the year, the WCTF conducts enrichment workshops, collaborates with other groups within the University to offer similar programs, holds an awards ceremony to honor the women of color at the U-M and organizes a daylong conference.

French says the 20th anniversary conference is a proud accomplishment for this group. This year’s event offers financial and enrichment workshops, nutrition and empowerment classes, and presenters from companies, such as TIAA-CREF, Metlife, Pfizer and American Express Financial.

“Seldom do you get a chance to have so much expertise at your fingertips in one day,” says French.

The conference is open to all faculty and staff and French encourages people to pre-register for the event and workshops. To find out more information about the conference, visit the Web at Conference pre-registrants will be able to pick up their packets noon–2 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Modern Languages Building. For more information, visit the Web at