In honor of Women’s Herstory Month a panel discussion was held this Tuesday, hosted by Brothers Making a Difference (BMAD) and the Association of Latinos Moving Ahead (ALMA), for women who hold leadership positions on and off campus. The panel discussion gave these women leaders an opportunity to share their experiences with the students at Ramapo.
The panel was moderated by Akeem Brown, vice president for BMAD and Natalie Quiñones, president for ALMA. The panel featured women leaders, including Rampo professor Sharon Pierson, alumna Maribel Tapia and Brooke Jamison and current students Yovanna Garcia and Kayla Strachan. These women were also joined by Lynda Lloyd, public servant and Brown University alumna.
Garcia, queer peer services coordinator for the Women’s Center, explained that it is very difficult to find a mentor that looks like you and has the same background as you when you are a female, but she was lucky enough to have met her mentor, Stephanie Hernandez Rivera, last year while working in the Women’s Center. Hernandez Rivera was a former graduate assistant for Equity and Diversity Programs and is now the coordinator of the Multicultural Center at the University of Missouri.
Ramapo has many students, especially women, who hold more than one leadership position on campus. These women leaders have acquired much of their success from inspiration by faculty and staff, who help them grow personally and professionally.
Pierson believes that the qualities that make a strong woman leader are equivalent to those “qualities that make a strong male leader,” and many people do not take notice of that.
“Men always gets noticed for their accomplishments, so BMAD decided that women should be given a chance to speak about their accomplishments and what they hope to do in the future,” BMAD member Joshua Guillaum said.
Tapia, the home-based coordinator for Greater Bergen Community Action, spoke about the sacrifice she made 18 years ago in leaving her entire family in Colombia to move to the United States in order for her daughter to have a better education.
A cloud of emotion filled the room when Tapia spoke, because it was an instant reminder of the journeys some of the attendees own parents made for them.
“My mother immigrated here from Jamaica when she was 16 years old and she is my role model and the strongest person that I know,” panelist Strachan said.
Panelists were also given the opportunity to share some of the resources that helped them along in becoming better leaders – reading was generally thought among the panelists to be the most important one. Having the ability to read, especially as women were once not allowed the right to read or write, is a privilege that many do not recognize.
"Reading is important because women are able to educate themselves and articulate conversations in the professional world, allowing them to become better leaders," senior Quiñones said.
During the presentation, Pierson shared her thought that women often encounter a glass window, blocking their success; however, the only way for women to break the window is not to elbow their way in, but rather to lean in, supporting all women and allowing them to rise.