An auditorium full of plush, red velvet seats, were filled by a veritable sea of suited women with only two men in sight, besides the bow-tied cameraman.
Turning weakness into strength and fear into confidence was the message of the Eighth Annual CUNY Women in Leadership Conference hosted at Hunter College on Oct 26.
The event’s agenda, according to President Marcia Keizs of York College, examined career choices and challenges through the female perspective. Female city council and state assembly members, along with women working in the business world, were invited to share their experiences and knowledge.
“There’s going to be naysayers but you have to turn these challenges into opportunities; you must,” said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst).
Taking control was the topic of the key address by Joanna Barsh, author of “How Remarkable Women Lead.” Walking away from the stage and leaving the podium behind, Barsh related her own story of how she came to interview women leaders around the world.
Barsh believes people should wake up and ask themselves, “What do I want for and of myself today.”
Yolanda Jones — a returning Queens College student who attended the school during the 1970s — is now finishing her bachelor’s degree in religious studies after years as a minister. For her the daily want is to be re-energized so that she can use her spirituality to help those with special needs.
It’s important to fulfill wants, Barsh and the dozens of women she interviewed said in a film montage.
“Unless you’re doing what you love, you’re screwed,” said Gail Collins, a columnist for The New York Times.
Panelist and Councilmember Deborah Rose (D-Staten Island) is one of just 18 women who hold a position on the 51-member council. She loves having her voice heard and her ideas taken into consideration rather than being summarily rejected, which is why it was so important to her that she won a city council seat.
According to speakers at the conference, less than a fourth of college presidents nationwide are women. These less than equal proportions led CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein — one of the few men in attendance — to say a lot of work needs to be done toward equalizing the workplace so women are not so far behind.
“Don’t let anybody turn you away from your dreams,” Rose said to the women in the audience. “Don’t let fear derail your progress.”