Campus & community, People, Work life

‘On equal terms:’ Megan Amaral, manager

Megan Amaral, manager of the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley, is one of 18 women being honored as an "unsung heroine."

Megan Amaral smiles at the camera

Megan Amaral, manager of the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley, is one of 18 women being honored as an “unsung heroine.” (Image courtesy Megan Amaral)

In honor of the “150 Years of Women at Berkeley” project, each day until Aug. 18  Berkeley News is hosting a series of Q&As featuring 18 unsung heroines on staff from all corners of the campus. The series will culminate on Aug. 18 with a special edition of Berkeley Campus Conversations, featuring four remarkable female staffers:

  • Cruz Grimaldo, assistant vice chancellor and director of the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office
  • Sunny Lee, assistant vice chancellor and dean of students
  • Mia Settles-Tidwell, assistant vice chancellor in the Division of Equity and Inclusion
  • Charmin Smith, head coach of Cal women’s basketball

The thirteenth woman honored as part of this series is Megan Amaral, manager of the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley’s Rausser College of Natural Resources, is one of 18 women being honored as an “unsung heroine.”

You were nominated for being a staff leader in Women in Management and inspiring others by volunteering to develop a robust recognition of staff women for the celebration of 150 years of women on campus. Colleagues share, “Megan is a first-generation college graduate who grew up poor on farms in Iowa and Minnesota. She is half Mexican and half Norwegian and proudly identifies as queer. Megan’s career has focused on the broad themes of community development, sustainability, arts and education, so she was a natural to become ERG’s staff lead.”

You’ve also served as Chair of the Berkeley Administrative Management Professionals (AMP) group and Co-Chair of the Manager Toolkit working group for the Common Solutions team. The Manager Toolkit team has been leading the creation of an extensive Manager Toolkit to benefit aspiring, new, and experienced managers. AMP will be the steward of this new wiki-style resource BY and FOR managers. You’re known for being diplomatic, creative, focused and effective. How have you successfully led so many endeavors in addition to your full time role?

The projects that I take on outside my unit occur to me as critical work that contributes to all of the university. I motivate myself and collaborators by staying organized and focused on the impacts of our work. Putting myself in service to others is satisfying to me and I love getting to know my coworkers across campus and UC. Taking on a variety of needed projects is also a way to keep from being frustrated or feeling like a victim of my circumstances. A motto I try to live by is “Complain once, then you have to do something about it.”

What advice would you give to other staff members looking to move individuals, teams, units, or improvements forward at UC Berkeley?

Keep your mission and the people impacted front of mind; write it down where you will be reminded. Inspire others with your mission, goals and actions so you can share the load. Make it easy for yourself and for others to complete work or have meetings by staying organized (i.e. shared google docs, timelines, delegated tasks of manageable size, action items are clear in emails and meetings). Acknowledge peoples’ contributions. Approach your work with a beginner’s mind and be open to learning in unexpected places and from unexpected people. Have fun and bring humor to meetings and emails.

Who is a female staff member that you admire on campus and why?

There are so many! Within my college (Rausser College of Natural Resources), I’ve been blown away by the energy, focus, and heart of Rosalie Fanshel. She is the Program Manager for the Berkeley Food Institute and a driving force behind the UC Berkeley Basic Needs Center and other initiatives that provide access to food and other essential resources. She’s also brought RCNR LGBTQ staff and faculty together to form our own community over the past year. She’s a powerhouse!

What obstacles have you faced based on your identities and how did you overcome them?

I haven’t faced obstacles based on my appearance the past many years, other than those related to looking female. The obstacles are primarily internal conversations limiting what I think I’m capable of because I am a woman or because I’m an outsider (“imposter”) in this straight, middle-class or upper middle-class campus environment. I would say that the “overcoming” of these obstacles is a life-long task in reprogramming myself. Learning about the experiences of others who feel like outsiders here is heartening and emboldens me.

What advice would you give colleagues to ensure that they aren’t creating obstacles or inequities for their peers?

Listen deeply. Educate yourself about the experiences of others unlike yourself and how you can create an equitable and inclusive environment. Be courageous and explore spaces and actions that make you uncomfortable. Take a risk. This is advice I must remind myself of as well. I’m always learning.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with other female staff on campus?

Take care of yourself. Set boundaries. Support other women and marginalized staff.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with all genders on campus when it comes to appreciating women’s work contributions at UC Berkeley?

All of the women staff I’ve gotten to know on campus have experienced sexist or classist behaviors, often frequently. This has taken the form of: being cut off or ignored in meetings; being excluded from “privileged” information to faculty; disregard for our workloads and contributions; being seem as replaceable; being seen as “feisty,” “uppity,” or “annoying” when we are strong; and not being included in the vision of having diversity, equity, and inclusion, typically focused on faculty and students. I encourage us all to examine our biases and behaviors around women staff in all roles on campus. Progress toward our goals of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging requires this.