Kayla Jones-White, The Black Bear – Often, women are celebrated for their looks above other traits. This trend can be seen throughout the media.
Though acknowledging one for their appearance can provide an esteem boost, equating one’s worth to their appearance is limiting.
On the evening of September 20, students gathered in the Plaster Student Union to hear a panel of African American women share their experiences as professionals. Sister Circle named the event Working Women Wednesday, a pun to the popular social media phrase “Women Crush Wednesday.”
The service oriented organization aimed to highlight women for their professional achievements and endeavors while providing students with advice.
Dr. Michele Smith of the Office of Student Affairs was the first to address the audience. She opted to stand in front of the students instead of staying confined to her seat.
“What’s the stigma with African-American men and women (in the workplace),” Smith asked.
The answers she received ranged from “lazy” to “perpetually late,” all which Smith agreed. She urged the audience not to perpetuate these negative stereotypes, but to “show up, and show up prepared.”
Executive Director of TRIO Programs, Doctor Rebekah Stewart, spoke next. With professional aspirations of presiding over a Historically Black College or University, Stewart explained the importance of inclusion in the workplace.
She described her experience in making sincere and impactful connections with underrepresented youth as rewarding.
After an inspirational testimony to education and success, she left the audience with “Six P’s” to apply to their collegiate and professional lives:
Prepare, Plan, Position, (Be) Present, Positive, and Pray.
Senior Christina Harper offered a peer’s perspective. As a current student and Cox Medical Center radiologist in training, Harper juggles multiple obligations. However, she said she is able to meet deadlines and maintain a social life by prioritizing.
“It’s okay to miss a party, it’ll be on your Snapchat story anyway,” Harper said.
Harper made a point to acknowledge that she is the first African American in her medical program in several years. A feat she and her family take great pride in.
St. Louis native and Missouri State alumna Intisar Faulkner shared her experience as a graduate assistant and reporter for KTTS News. She explained that being a full-time student while building her career posed many difficulties.
The former Sugar Bear encouraged the students to never give up on their dreams and to push themselves to reach their full potential.
Kathryn Blair, also a MSU alumna, was the last to address the audience. She wore her hair in a perfectly coiffed afro, seemingly in relation to her profession as a hairstylist.
Blair disclosed her apprehension in leaving her job to pursue hair styling as a sole profession. However, she said that since quitting her previous place of employment she has been able to expand her business and brand significantly.
“Being my own boss, making my own hours, more money, and doing what I wanted is what fueled me,” Blair said. “It was going to be up to me to make it happen… and I did.”
All the women on the panel noted their race and gender as factors that have shaped their professional experiences. There was an underlying theme of resilience in their stories. The panel painted a realistic image of what it is like to be a Black woman in the professional world.
They all mentioned adversity as inherent and difficult, but achievement as attainable and rewarding.