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Empowerment in Action: Stony Brook Career Center SHEroes Event

Sheroes 2024 2

Sheroes 2024 group

The Stony Brook University Career Center hosted its empowering annual event, “Not All SHEroes Wear Capes,” on March 22.

The luncheon, in the Student Activities Center Ballroom A, united students, faculty and staff who wanted to learn more about women’s experiences in their respective fields. The venue buzzed with excitement as all in attendance — including external partners and employers — donned their SHEroes shirts, ready to engage in conversation celebrating the essence of womanhood and women empowerment in the workplace.

The event commenced with a captivating panel discussion as the Career Center’s Director of Employer Relations and Diversity Recruitment, Kimberly Joy Dixon, set the tone by delving into the significance of the term “SHEro.” The acronym stands for “strength, humility, empowerment, resilience and originality.” Dispersed across all tables were informational booklets with the SHEroes symbolic flower on the cover, which represents a diverse array of women.

Dixon paved the way for an insightful dialogue by introducing the four esteemed panelists, seated on stage at the head of the ballroom: Lacey Stein, Software Engineer for North Atlantic Industries; Luz Cuevas-Santos, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor for Canon USA; Jada Lindo, Mechanical Engineer for Zebra Technologies; and Yolanda Robano-Gross, Chief Executive Officer of Options for Community Living. Dixon moderated the panel from a podium in the middle of the stage.

Sheroes 2024 2Robano-Gross kicked off the panel discussion and shed a light on gender dynamics within industries, highlighting the disproportionate representation of women in higher-power positions. “Mostly men are in the higher-level jobs while women take on the ‘entry-level jobs,'” Robano-Gross said.

Lindo shared her own experiences, emphasizing the scarcity of women — particularly black women — in engineering roles. “In college, there were very few women in mechanical engineering,” Lindo explained. “I felt like I needed to work extra hard just to prove to myself that I could do it.”

Cuevas-Santos examined the persistent gender gap across various regions, recounting company structures she has personally witnessed. Speaking on the importance of female representation in leadership roles, she stated, “There are less women in higher-ranking positions.”

Stein echoed Lindo’s earlier comments, reiterating the need for increased female participation in software engineering. “The field needs to have more women to represent software engineering and take on higher roles,” she said, sharing how her company’s ratio of men to women is four to one.

Shifting away from the conversation of disproportionate female representation, Dixon asked Lindo to recall her first lesson as a woman in the workplace. Lindo detailed her encounter with imposter syndrome and the need for women to assert their worth, irrespective of societal expectations. “Let your skills, passion, experience, and strength thrive regardless of your gender,” she encouraged the attendees.

The panel extended to a series of other topics regarding women in the workplace. Discussing the complexities of achieving work-life balance, Cuevas-Santos urged women to prioritize self-care amidst responsibilities. “It is very difficult to balance all the different factors regarding your essence and being a professional,” she said.

Robano-Gross spoke about being a single mother who ascended the corporate ladder, urging the room, “Be creative and you can balance and accomplish a lot.”

A conversation on equal pay sparked an insightful exchange, with Stein advocating for proactive measures such as record-keeping and assertive negotiation. “Use your voice to defend your work and take responsibility for your involvement in projects,” she advised. “Don’t say ‘we’ when you mean ‘I ’— take credit where you deserve.”

Following the panel, the tables about the ballroom pivoted to group discussions led by each table’s attending SHEro, allowing for all students to learn and gain even more valuable insight from the event. Both attending SHEroes and students shared their impactful takeaways following the event. 

“I really enjoyed hearing from the panelists, and it was also inspiring speaking to the students,” said Cindy Galdamez, a configuration engineer at Brookhaven National Laboratory. “There was a freshman sitting at my table and it was so great to see them already taking an initiative to get involved.”

“The panel was very nice, but speaking to the SHEroes at my table answered many questions I had,” said Amber Neria, an attending student. Speaking on the insights she gained, Neria said they “will stick with her for the rest of her life.”

“I was thoroughly impressed with every aspect of this event,” said Jonette Senko, campus recruiting specialist at CohnReznick LLP. “I loved the focus on intersectionality and left feeling energized, empowered, and excited about this next generation of women leaders.”

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