by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
There are two women in the bid for the White House this year, and with 144 women sworn in to Congress and more than half of all professional and managerial jobs filled by women, it’s safe to say that we’ve come a long way in recent decades. But it’s also clear that we have a ways to go.
The women’s leadership luncheon, held Nov. 17 in the Stern Center, brought students together with top college administrators to discuss the common workplace challenges for women and how they can be addressed. The final event in a fall series of student-leadership luncheons on campus, the luncheon featured a panel discussion, moderated by Professor of American Studies and Women’s & Gender Studies Amy Farrell, with President Nancy A. Roseman; Brontè Burleigh-Jones, vice president for finance and administration; and Stefanie Niles, vice president for enrollment, marketing & communications, on hand to offer advice.
“It was nice to hear of an event that is not only about leadership but about leadership for women, and one that promotes women working together,” said Titi Ogunsola ’19, who was invited to attend the event by her class dean. “That’s something I’ve really been wanting to explore.”
“It also helps us identify what we can do to help organizations on campus, and what needs to be addressed,” added Gloria Hwang ’16, who attended the luncheon along with fellow Wheel and Chain member Xueyin Zha ’16. “So when we heard about this opportunity, we were ecstatic.”
Roseman spoke about her early career as a bench scientist who logged long hours in the lab and stressed the need to support one another both at home and at work; she also called on students to muster the courage to defy societal expectations. Niles advised students to keep industry knowledge current, to learn to self-advocate, to cultivate a strong work ethic and to tap data when making decisions.
Burleigh-Jones advocated for deliberate decision-making and for the need to stand by one’s decisions, once made. When asked to point to an early challenge, she also recalled a moment in her undergraduate career when a mentor discouraged her from pursuing her dream of working in finance, in favor of a more gender-typical career (Burleigh-Jones wavered momentarily but ultimately stayed the course).
“It’s good to hear women in power sharing their experiences of how they remained confident during challenges,” said Ciarra Rieth ’19, who had heard a similar story told by a family member, but with a different result. “It’s inspiring to hear how they turned it around.”
Emily De Wulf ’19, who is working toward a career in chemical engineering, agreed and added that she identified with Burleigh-Jones’ desire to defy convention by entering a male-dominated field. “Only 12 percent [of professionals in] chemical engineering are women, and that’s part of why I chose this field,” she said. “I want to show that we can succeed.”
Published November 24, 2015