Panel Showcases Female Leadership; An Equal Form of Leadership


Cecilia Levine, Managing Editor

There are women who accept the traditional role of a housewife, leaving finances to be managed by their male counterparts. These women may embrace comedian Lynn Koplitz’s ideals of the 1950s in which she discussed the paradigm of a woman, someone who “cooks, cleans and avoids a beating”.

Then there are women like Koplitz who actively pursue careers. Some have been discriminated against simply for their gender, but still they have persisted. In honor of Women’s History Month and Pace’s 50th anniversary, Pace hosted a panel of four women, each of whom shared stories of the challenges they have conquered and addressed stereotypes that colleagues and family members used against them on their journeys to becoming high-level executives in the business and academic worlds.

“I get pretty impatient when I hear people talking about female barriers,” said Marsha Gordon, who graduated from Pace in 2006 with a doctoral in professional studies. “Hearing people say that it’s a man’s world is a turn off.”

Gordon, now current President and CEO of Business Council of Westchester, is one of many remarkable women who have risen to the top despite what has customarily been a male dominated culture.

“There were once limited [career] options for women,” Pace’s Dean of College of Health Professions and Lienhard Nursing School Harriet Feldman said.

Feldman, who recently celebrated 50 years in nursing, has had a vibrant career in higher education as she’s served as Pace’s interim provost, the department chair and dean for other universities, and co-founded and edited national nursing forums.

Pace’s first accounting class had 10 men and three women in 1903 and now, 60 percent of the university’s students are female.  Panelist and Associate Vice Chancellor for Government Relations at The State University of New York Stacey Hengsterman, revealed that one of her biggest regrets was not furthering her education. Still, she landed a leadership position in an institution of higher education and like her co-panelist, Pace’s Dean Lisa Bardill Moscaritolo, attributed her success to a male figure.

“My father always told me to be something, to have a profession,” Hengsterman said.

The motivators for some women often posed as deterrents for others, hindering their growth within their careers and negatively affecting their self-esteem. In honor of Women’s History Month, CNN profiled 10 women who represent female mentors, working to better the world for other women. Laura Bates, “Sexism Slayer”, created an online forum for herself and friends to document their rapidly expanding collection of both covert and explicit, gender based encounters.

“Not all men are cut from the same cloth, most are very supportive [of women],” said associate management professor Dr. Theresa Lant, who successfully petitioned against her elementary school principal for the right for girls to wear pants in the fourth grade. “But still, [females] have these experiences.”

The reality is that women are faced with biological tendencies like menstruation and physical components of child rearing that consume a significant amount of time. Lant recalled one encounter with another female following the birth of her son. Upon preparing for a job interview at the University of Chicago, Lant was advised by the secretary to do her best to make sure that her interviewers would not know of her recent motherhood.

“Within the 10 hour interview process, I had requested one or two 30 minute slots to pump [breastmilk],” said Lant, who explained that the retention of breast milk can be excruciatingly painful for any new mother. “I was told that I could do it in the privacy of the women’s bathroom which implied that having a baby may indicate to my interviewers that I was not interested in my career.”

Lant’s story is only one example of how femininity can impose hindrances on a woman’s career. While being a woman should not automatically mean that there will be barriers, some physical burdens pose as limits unfamiliar to men, but are ones that all females do encounter.

In some underdeveloped countries, menstruating girls skip up to a week of school each month due to lack of finances necessary in providing hygienic essentials as basic as a change of clothes or a sanitary napkin.  “Stigma Stopper” Laurie King of The CNN 10 founded 50 Cents. Period. to raise awareness about the issue through education.  Although the females of the United States are not deterred by the same limits as those in Nicaragua or India, there are implicit biases that have cornered themselves into the minds of all likeminded people.

“Perceptions and attitudes develop and so cognitively some things don’t fit into certain categories, causing discomfort,” Lant said. “It’s very natural and human. It’s not that people are bad, but it’s just how we process things and need to be more aware of it.”

Hundreds of women have made their ways into the higher rankings of corporate America, while their husbands take on the roles of stay-at-home dads. These men care for the children as their wives serve as bread winners, continuing to fortify and expand their careers. Just as women continue to break the gender barriers, men are doing the same and are becoming established constituents in fields like nursing and education.

Modern society has learned to embrace equality, yet is still learning how to optimize the contributions of individual men and women. Although there may be wide gaps in the gender differences, those discrepancies may pose as resources to be recognized by both individuals and corporate organizations.

“We should learn how to tap into those resources,” Lant said, “rather than trying to turn women into men.”

Despite theological beliefs or scientific theories of evolution, it is indisputable that procreation would be impossible without equal contribution from men and women. The same idea transcends into the workplace as both genders can offer certain skillsets.

However, it has become difficult for modern society to ignore those innate physical implications and psychological processes that femininity supports, thus deeming female leadership the weaker form of leadership. Being a female ultimately is life as we know it and ignorance is but a choice.

Corrections (4/9):

Article stated that Dr. Harriet R. Feldman had completed 50 years in nursing. However, she will not have completed this until next year.

Article incorrectly stated Dr. Feldman edited a national nursing forum. Feldman was, however, editor of the journal Nursing Leadership Forum, and prior to that, Co-founder and Co-editor of the journal Scholarly Inquiry for Nursing Practice.