The Women Empowering Women panel on April 25 featured professionals with diverse backgrounds and career paths, including Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Elizabeth Stage, director of the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley.
“The women … (who) are here tonight will share their stories and discuss obstacles they see standing in the way of women’s equality and success,” said Karen Montgomery, HNU’s career programming and employer relations coordinator and the primary organizer of the event. “My hope for you, the audience, is that you leave here tonight feeling hopeful, inspired, and empowered to make the world a better place for yourself and those around you.”
Quan is Oakland’s first female mayor and among a small group of female mayors from major U.S. cities. Quan said that she faced many stereotypes after being elected mayor and had to fight the perception that women are not as serious as men.
Although women face obstacles, there are opportunities to create institutional change, she said. “When you get into positions of power, look to see what you can do to change the status quo, and sometimes what you find is by helping women you help everybody,” said Quan, noting the positive effect that increasing the number of women on the police force is having in Oakland.
Susan Rancourt, whose career is focused on business development in the high tech industry, encouraged women to work hard, pay attention to opportunities, ask for help, live a life of integrity, and align themselves with those they wish to model.
She said that much of her success comes from making personal connections with others.
“I succeed because I show up authentically and as a human being,” Rancourt said. “The ability to relate to people, to know something about their lives and cultures, to listen, (to) have empathy and genuine interest in their lives is a gift to me, frankly. These skills come into play from hallway conversations to very intense … business meetings.”
Monica Tell, a public information officer at Pacific Gas and Electric Company who serves on the board of Girls Inc. of Alameda County, spoke on the lack of women and minority women in positions of power in corporate America. This comes with consequences, as some issues are not going to be discussed in the decision-making process, she said. “We need to be involved and we need to be informed and we need to be part of the process.”
Panelists at the Women Empowering Women event on April 25.Additional panelists included Cheryl Cohen-Green, who is a certified sexologist and holds a doctorate in human sexuality; Annie Flores, president of the National Women’s Political Caucus of Alameda North and a family resource specialist at Lincoln Child Center; and Samara Azam-Yu, executive director of ACCESS, a women’s health organization dedicated to removing barriers to sexual and reproductive health.
The Career Center, Education Department, Integrative Studies Across Cultures program, Center for Social Justice and Civic Engagement, and Political Science Department sponsored the event.