Leading women discuss challenges they face today
Workplace inequality, sexism topics of panel
Recently, the nation watched as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told Urban Radio Networks White House correspondent April Ryan to stop “shaking her head” during a televised press briefing, and suddenly a reality check about how women are treated in the workforce went global. In retrospect, it exposed an age-old issue in society that leading women experience.
On March 30, Bill Buffington, founder and president of V Connections Inc., and the Institutional Equity and Diversity Office of the College of Southern Maryland held a panel discussion with eight women who are considered leaders in the Southern Maryland community. The panel discussion raised awareness about the societal and economic challenges that women face on a daily basis.
“After the Women’s
March on Washington I thought it was important to bring something similar to CSM for our student body and faculty,” Buffington said. “We have a focus on bringing awareness to women’s issues. We found that throughout Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s counties we’re not hearing their voices. We need to open our ears and hear what our women have to say. All women, even women veterans serve and sacrifice for the nation.”
The moderator, Genevra Williams, president of the CSM La Plata Campus Student Association, had each woman share her perspective on topics such as better jobs, equal pay and fair wages, leadership roles and improved workplace practices.
“I can’t tell you how much it upsets me as an American to see the power we have to lead but yet in this country women make $.70 to the $1 for doing the same job as a man,” said Laura Orndorff, a La Plata native and U.S. Army veteran. “I wore my uniform to correct that. I stand for us to do better as a nation when it comes to equalizing pay so that everyone gets it across the globe, male or female.”
“I was always taught by my family to do what you love and you’ll make enough money. But I think it’s important that more opportunities open for women, especially in STEM,” said Daphne Morris, CSM division chair for distance learning and faculty development.
Robin Cavallaro, a U.S. Navy veteran and associate broker with Re/Max, said women need to know their own value and worth in the workforce.
“If someone is trying to short change you then don’t accept it, but do it in a polite, professional and respectful way,” Cavallaro said. “My first 16 years as a defense contractor did not start off well. I was 22 years old and the men at my job made inappropriate comments and whistled at me, but I stood up for myself and they never messed with me again. I also accepted a salary that was lower than what I wanted and I got passed over for a bonus. Instead of whining about it, every challenge that was handed to me I accepted and I excelled. I got that bonus the following year.”
Jehnell Linkins, academic advisor at CSM, said in regards to jobs, it’s all a matter of teaching young women how to play the game.
“Several years ago my daughter was the only female in her physics class during undergrad. She called home crying saying that her professor would not speak to her so I went to the college the next day and found out it was true. Her professor had a male student interpreting to her because the professor didn’t believe women should be in a physics class. I had to have a strong conversation with my daughter about knowing how to play the game. We need to teach them, help them find their niche and how to move ahead despite obstacles,” Linkins said.
Glennis Daniels-Bacchus, originally from Guyana, South America, and an ADA coordinator at CSM La Plata and Leonardtown campuses, said unfortunately women are not taught how to negotiate their wages. “It’s something that we need to learn as we grow and as more of us get up the corporate ladder we need to be able to sit at the table and say this is my worth and this is what I’m asking for,” Daniels-Bacchus said.
The panel agreed that it is also a struggle for women to “shatter the glass ceiling” in leadership roles of all levels in the workforce.
“I believe women should be in combat,” said Barbara Ives, director of Strategic Partnerships for CSM and a U.S. Navy veteran. “Women should get an opportunity to fight for our country and to also do the noble thing — fulfill their duties and obligations promoted in combat situations.”
Laurie Cangelosi, a U.S. Navy veteran and Expeditionary Medical Facility Bethesda command master chief, said it is extremely rare to see a woman ranked as master chief — so rare and high ranking that her colleagues referred to her as a “unicorn.”
Athena Miklos, a business professor at CSM, specializes in areas such as business administration, economic development and community revitalization. She said she was “working in a man’s world.”
Miklos said her efforts to help break down barriers for women in the field of business administration included being the one pitching creative and innovative ideas during meetings rather than being the person designated to take notes just because she was the only woman in the room.
“It’s up to us to carve out the inequality and to create the equality, to make our voice heard at the table,” Orndorff said.
Toni Kruszka, a CSM staff member, said one obstacle that women of color face is overcoming society’s stereotypes and biases to become successful leaders. She asked, “How do we mentor young women of color about how they can rid society of that?”
Linkins said “it’s very difficult because I can’t change the color of my skin, but I can portray myself as having worth and value ... we are not all angry black women.”
Daniels-Bacchus said she remembers having to tell her daughter at a young age that “she would be perceived in the workforce and in college as not being academically able and perceived as not being capable of success.”
But Miklos says there is hope.
“In the future you have hope and I see that every day in my classroom. When I go into my classes my students do not seem to be separating themselves. They are much more integrated as a group and don’t seem to look at distinctions as much as older generations have done so I think there is some hope,” Miklos said.
Above, on March 30, the Institutional Equity and Diversity Office of the College of Southern Maryland and VConnections Inc. invited a panel of women from the Southern Maryland community to its La Plata Campus to discuss societal and economic challenges that exist on a daily basis for women. Below, Laura Orndorff, a La Plata native and U.S. Army veteran, Daphne Morris, CSM division chair for distance learning and faculty development, Robin Cavallaro, a U.S. Navy veteran and associate broker with Re/Max, and Athena Miklos, business professor at CSM, discuss fair pay and equal wages during the panel discussion at CSM La Plata campus.
During the panel discussion on March 30, Laura Orndorff, a La Plata native and U.S. Army veteran, said not having equal pay for equal work really angers her.
Glennis Daniels-Bacchus, originally from Guyana, South America, and an ADA coordinator at CSM’s La Plata and Leonardtown campuses, discussed hardships women face when obtaining leadership roles.
Daphne Morris, CSM division chairwoman for distance learning and faculty development, discussed a need for women to be able to have better job options in STEM and trade industries.