by Brienne Kenlock
Written on April 10th, 2016
The Women’s History Month Colloquium along with collaboration from the Women’s Center of York College held an event on March 30th. The event took place on the third floor near the atrium, near the end of Women’s History Month which ended the day after.The main idea of the event was centered around a book titled “Nice Girls Still Don’t Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make that Sabotage Their Careers” by Lois P. Frankel.
“I see myself in this book”, said Ebonie Jackson”, the Manager of the York College Women’s Center. “I noticed that there were things I would do that held me back”.
Frankel’s book touches on certain behaviors and actions used by women in the workplace how they not only hurt them, but their career aspirations in the long run. According to the book, there are 133 mistakes women make or unknowingly commit throughout their working careers. From striving for perfection to ‘working hard’ to apologizing unnecessarily, Frankel’s book lists these points and explains why all the flaws prevent women from being successful.
Other prominent speakers at the discussion panels were Patricia Thomas,the executive coach of the Thomas Coaching Company, Rhonda Binda who is the Executive Director of the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District.and Dr. Lindamichelle Baron who is the assistant professor of York College. They also shared their experiences with self-depreciating behaviors and obstacles they faced. Ms. Jackson acknowledged how external factors played a role in limiting women’s careers while keeping focus on the main topic. “Women have been socialized to act in certain ways and as we develop from girls to professional women, we still act like girls. And its counter-intuitive to becoming a professional woman”.
“I used to be an English teacher in high school in New Jersey and I wanted to challenge myself. Over time I was able to transfer my skills from teaching to business-from presenting, talking, and engaging in sales. What I didn’t realize at the time was that teaching prepared me”, Thomas recalled. When Ms. Thomas started working for AT&T, there was a hierarchy in place. Leaders were followed, not questioned. When she first applied for the company, the HR had stereotyped her and her position, questioning if she was qualified to work for the company.
“I thought maybe he wasn’t used to women being so direct, or African-American women being direct. I was floored by this”. Even though she got in, that event was a sign of things to come.
“I remember one time, I heard rumors from other people that the boss would be giving out a promotion for my position, and I thought I would get the promotion. I was surprised when a few days later, someone else got the promotion. So I learned to make no assumptions”.
There was a discussion on how racial bias contributes to women getting left behind. When black women act confident or do things in a professional manner, they are labeled as the dreaded ‘b’ word by their colleagues, according to Jackson.
“As a professional woman, you have to be clear and speak up”, said Baron.
Binda said, “Women are socialized to be sweet, polite, not ask for too much but it does not benefit them in the long run. Plus, there is a lot of competition”.
One of the other topics addressed was ‘working hard’. Jackson noted that when women are too focused on getting work done as opposed to maintaining a balance, they appear frantic to their colleagues. On the other hand, Binda added, if work is being done and not taken credit for, they will also get overlooked.
There was also the issue of interacting with coworkers.
One student, 29-year-old Psychology major Tesha Dedious, recalled the atmosphere in her working environment as unhealthy. “I remember when I used to work for a private company, I noticed that people treated me negatively…it was their tone, how they spoke to me and I noticed that they didn’t do that with the other women”.
“I had concerns about fitting in, especially when it came to getting along with other women”, she added.
Binda, who worked in a law firm in 2004, described facing that similar situation. “I was very hyper-sensitive about relationships. I wanted to be recognized for my work in the office, and when that didn’t happen I was frustrated”.
One aspect that was considered very important was the idea of getting mentors to help oneself to manage time and build relationships in the office. Binda, Thomas, and Baron noted that not only were mentors important, but they are able to provide the necessary tools to help build those skills.