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Power Club’s Panel ‘Women in Leadership’

The+women+of+the+Power+Panel%3A+Dr.+Heidi+Hammel%2C+Joan+Rohlfing%2C+Fiona+Flaherty%2C+Laurie+Vena%2C+and+Suzanne+Rexing
The women of the Power Panel: Dr. Heidi Hammel, Joan Rohlfing, Fiona Flaherty, Laurie Vena, and Suzanne Rexing

The women of the Power Panel: Dr. Heidi Hammel, Joan Rohlfing, Fiona Flaherty, Laurie Vena, and Suzanne Rexing

The women of the Power Panel: Dr. Heidi Hammel, Joan Rohlfing, Fiona Flaherty, Laurie Vena, and Suzanne Rexing

Lizzie Koumans, Sentry Staff Reporter

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Last week, YHS’s Power Club held an inspirational ‘Women In Leadership’ panel featuring three accomplished women leaders. The guest speakers included Suzanne Rexing, the Chief Global Engagement Officer of Pathfinder International, Joan Rohlfing, the president of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and Dr. Heidi Hammel, a renowned planetary scientist. The panel was moderated by Power Club’s president, senior Fiona Flaherty. The panel went into depth on current issues affecting women in leadership positions as well as the guest speakers’ extensive and ever-changing paths in their careers.

The panel kicked off with a comprehensive summary of the speakers’ pasts and continued on with a conversation on the often inferior and disrespectful treatment of women in male-dominated fields. Rohlfing introduced the topic of the conduct towards women in group settings where women often have to fight for the right to speak.

“I will still find myself in meetings where the men are talking over the women. The women have to support each other to be heard. The challenge is changing the system to one that is truly ethical and balanced,” Rohlfing said.

Generational challenges were echoed by all of the speakers, but they also expressed the differences in problems faced by women in their jobs decades ago compared to the obstacles faced today.

“A lot of the things have moved from being very overt gender discrimination that ‘Hey honey can you get me the coffee?’ or ‘Are you here to take notes?’ that kind of stuff, that’s mostly gone now, people don’t generally make those assumptions…but this very subtle bias is rife in all of these male dominated fields right now,” Hammel said.

Another major mistreatment of working women is the sexual abuse that has been discussed everywhere recently with the MeToo Movement. The MeToo Movement is a viral movement in recent years to stop sexual harassment and sexual assault especially in the workplace. Along with the movement, there has been backlash from people who say the complaints have strayed their companies’ focuses away from their original center of attention. To this Hammel responded:

“There are people who are saying, ‘All we’re talking about is harassment, harassment, we are not talking about the science.’ And those of us who work in the higher levels are saying, ‘You know why we are talking about this? Because this harassment has prevented a whole cohort of young women from being able to do the science,’” Hammel said.

Now that many of the obstacles women face in the workplace are out on display, the panelists offered their own advice to face these problems. One idea Hammel suggested was to do what you think is right, no matter what others may say.

“There is a certain level of not caring what other people think. If you think you are doing the right thing you just go ahead and do it. If they say ‘Oh, girls don’t do that,’ that’s a dead giveaway they don’t know what they are talking about because there is nothing in this day in age that you can’t do if that’s what you choose,” Hammel said.

Coming from a different angle, Rexing shared another piece of guidance.

“The best advice is to know yourself and to know what jazzes you up in the morning. When you look up and it’s 6 o’clock in the night and you have been doing something and time has just gone like that, that’s a really important piece of yourself that will make you a really incredible leader,” Rexing said.

After the panel, listeners were given a break from the inspirational conversation to enjoy a cookie table provided by Power Club. During their break, listeners expressed their reactions to the speakers words. Many audience members, including senior Ribka Tewelde, enjoyed hearing the diversity between the speakers.

“I loved every single speaker. Each of them spoke on different experiences which I found very enlightening. Since they were on different paths there were different obstacles they had to go through, but they had similar themes,” Tewelde said.

Beyond enjoying what they had to say, the speakers’ powerful words certainly stuck with the listeners and empowered them, especially junior Alisha Foster.

“This came up a lot, the idea of being brave and applying for something or taking an opportunity even when you know it is not going to go perfectly. I think a lot of young girls are socialized to think that they have to be perfect at something before they try it. I think is such a destructive mindset. You’ll never try anything new and you will never be perfect at anything so it just limits you, but, I think having the courage to just try something that you are not ready for and be ready for it afterwards because you did it is such an important skill. It’s what sets these women apart,” Foster said.

It is hard to believe that these phenomenal leaders were once in high school. Since their childhood, women’s rights in the workplace have changed completely, but many issues still do exist. It is up to the youth of today to take action, take chances and work to make sure women’s rights will always be a priority of the future.

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Power Club’s Panel ‘Women in Leadership’