Check out some of the success tips and inspiring quotes offered from the trailblazing panelists below during the panel questionnaire, and watch the full video recap here.
How do you get your voice heard at the table and not become intimidated, especially in male-dominated industries?
(Question from Adriana Vargas, a Senior at the High School of Hospitality Management)
Congresswoman Grace Meng, said “When I was growing up, I was a very shy kid. I would sit in the back of the classroom because I thought I could disappear and the teacher wouldn’t call on me. My personality is pretty introverted...clearly I chose the wrong profession and got into politics!
Over 75% percent of my colleagues are men...and even today, when I walk into a room, I might be the only woman. Remembering my personality, and that I’m shy, what I try to do is prepare myself beforehand, because women work harder, we multitask, and we prepare better. So I’ll walk in with three items--questions I want to ask, comments, and research on the participants’ backgrounds, so that I can show off my extra knowledge and have confidence.”
As a minority woman, of Taiwanese descent, Rep. Meng still gets intimidated sometimes, despite her research and accomplishments. She says to remember that women are in the room “to change the standard” and that women don’t have to look nor sound like men to be successful. Remember that it’s okay to have a different background, Rep. Meng says, because you represent so many voices of women who aren’t in that room.
"Thank you to the Kings County Democratic County Committee for hosting the Women’s HERstory Celebration," said Congresswoman Meng. "It was an honor to be joined by such exceptional leaders to celebrate the role of women, and discuss how women can shatter more glass ceilings. I thank all who participated."
How do you face challenges on the road to success, especially in male-dominated fields?
(Question from Kladillma Martinez, Senior at TYWLS)
Rhonda Bidna, Queens Deputy Director Borough President, said “As women and young women, we face a lot of challenges, especially in male-dominated fields like politics.” But, Rhonda, says, “we have people that we can reach out to” for help and support, such as the panelists. She advised seeking mentorship and looking up to successful women for inspiration to see that it is possible to overcome adversity and rise to the top.
Women face a slew of roadblocks to success, including average lower pay than men and harassment, says Rhona, but “when we have a chance to use our voices in male-dominated places, we should embrace them to address our challenges.” She reminded young women that “things are changing now” and we “have to be aggressive” about publicly addressing our challenges whenever the chance arises.
Finally, see challenges as lessons, and don’t let failures bring you down, concluded the Deputy Director BP.
“This is a pivotal time to be a woman, as we currently have VP Harris, as the first woman elected to the second highest office in the land 100 years after women winning the right to vote. It is my hope, this shift and new representation in leadership, will to inspire women everywhere to be the phenomenal leaders that we are.” Rhonda Binda, Deputy Queens Borough President.
Were you ever told that you wouldn’t make it in your field as a woman, and how do you overcome the misogynistic backlash?
(Question by Perla Vasquez, a Senior at TYWLS in Brooklyn)
Carmen E. Arroyo, who became the first Hispanic woman elected to the New York State Assembly in 1994, said she faced numerous hurdles when breaking glass ceilings.
When she reached out to a prominent community leader to support her first election, he told her “a Representative position is not for a woman, it’s for a man.” Undeterred, Arroyo hurled back an explicative retort, and recalled her decades of activism and achievements in her community.
By focusing on her own achievements, rather than being deterred by misogynist comments, Arroyo was elected and served in the 84th Assembly District for over 15 years, enacting myriad legislation and reform to help her district.
How do you amplify your voice and ideas through the media?
(Question by Adaly Alvarado, Senior at TYWLS)
Trisha Ocona, Founder and Executive Director of The Real Estate Empowerment Coalition Inc., has written for numerous real estate news columns, and been a guest and featured on multiple radio and news publications.
She started amplifying her voice by attending workshops and becoming a subject matter expert on real estate--spending countless hours at the library. That dedication was the key, she said, to being able to approach newspapers and share valuable information with them.
Once she got into a few local papers, her research and expertise on the real estate industry created a snowball effect. “Everybody started asking me for advice,” Trisha said, which led to her media stardom. To sum it up, if you become an expert in your niche, the media will flock to you, even if it starts off small.
"As a woman, I share the quest for equality," said Trisha Ocona. "As a mother to school aged children, I share the same concern with the future of our educational system."
What’s your advice from young women who want to be leaders?
(Question from Kayla Howard, TYWLS student)
Judge Carolyn Walker-Diallo, Acting Justice of the Supreme Court and Supervising Judge of the New York City Civil Court, Kings County, said, “My advice to all young women is that you are the author of the only dictionary that defines you. You belong in any role where you want to be, and when you are at these roles and sitting at these tables, helping to make decisions, even if you have to bring your own chair, be there and be your authentic self!”
Judge Walker, who is the first Muslim to serve as an administrative/supervising judge in the New York State Court System, added “When you are your authentic self, people might not like you, but they will respect you.” Walker said that dedicating yourself to a life of working hard and smart, and striving for excellence in everything you do. “I always say, people may be smarter than me, but they cannot outwork me.” If you stay resilient and strong, you have the power to overcome any adversity life throws your way, Walker concluded.
“Women have historically struggled against all odds to take our place at the table, and - in my case - on the bench," said Judge Walker-Diallo. "While we fight for equity, we must believe in ourselves and our capabilities, even when some people do not. My career is a testament to that. I hope that every young woman in Brooklyn, from all socioeconomic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds knows that they also have a place on the bench, and a vital role in continuing to write HERstory through hard work, excellence and resilience.”
What are the best tips for getting a new company off the ground, and how do you find entrepreneurial opportunities amidst the pandemic?
(Question by Adaly Alvarado)
Carley Roney, entrepreneur and co-founder of The Knot, who also supports female-founded startups, progressive political organizing, and social entrepreneurs, said to seize on opportunities you're passionate about when you see problems. Roney, who was working as a corporate executive while planning her wedding with her Chinese-American husband, noticed how impossible it was to plan weddings while working full time, and was dismayed that all of the wedding-planning magazines and blogs didn't display any people of color nor minorities.
With the Internet burgeoning, Roney took advantage of the opportunity to create a racially-inclusive, easy-to-use wedding planning site. She reminded the future women leaders that it is a long, tough, journey to entrepreneurship, but to not get dismayed; because your "light bulb" moment can change the world for the better.
In terms of the pandemic, Roney now advises Rent the Runway (a sustainable clothing rental ecommerce site for women), and saw a steep decline in business when the pandemic first hit. Roney emphasized that "with challenges there are always opportunities" especially with major paradigm shifts.
"To have the preservice is key...and as women and mothers and a community, our resilience has definitely been built. The value of our relationships to one another and supporting each other is without a doubt the one upside of this tragic pandemic," says Roney.