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‘Glass ceiling’ event elicits breakthrough advice

“The Glass Ceiling Effect,” a discussion about shattering any invisible barriers that have stymied women and minorities in their quest for career advancement, was held Tuesday night in the Klump Academic Center Auditorium. Closely following the campus observance of Women’s History Month, panelists recruited by Pennsylvania College of Technology’s One World Club engaged the audience with their perspectives on the challenges, bias, obstacles and other inequities they’ve faced in “male-dominated” environments, and encouraged everyone to overcome them … whether in the workplace, school or daily life.

Santana (at lectern) keeps the dialogue flowing from panelists (from left) Dickey, Harman, Line, Diehl and Ramsey. (Photo provided)
Santana (at lectern) keeps the dialogue flowing from panelists (from left) Dickey, Harman, Line, Diehl and Ramsey. (Photo provided)

As a lead-in to the program, organizer and club officer Dessa D. Valisno – a business administration: marketing concentration student – said the group posed a pair of questions to President Davie Jane Gilmour to get her take on the topic.

During your career, you have surely faced numerous challenges and roadblocks. How did you succeed as a female leader in a male-dominated school or environment (especially earlier in the college’s history)?

“I did my job and did it to the best of my ability, while always learning and embracing new and challenging opportunities. I volunteered for projects, I made it my business to learn as much as I could about the college and departments other than my own. We did not have social media in 1977, requiring the contact to be face-to-face, and that made a difference. I refused to see roadblocks; they were only opportunities for problem-solving.”

What advice do you have for women on how to deal with the challenges of the glass ceiling effect? Be sure you are not creating the ceiling for yourself?

“Be as prepared as you can, absorb all of the experience you can, find a mentor and do not give up. Too often, I meet young women obsessed with ‘the glass ceiling’ that only exists in their minds. Do not let others limit you – if there is not a chair at the table, bring your own!”

On stage at this week’s event, radiography student and club President Angelyvette Santana moderated the discussion among Dawn M. Dickey, director, Disability and Access Resources; Marcie M. Harman, a building science and sustainable design: architectural technology concentration student; April Line, special projects manager at Susquehanna Mills; Alison A. Diehl, director of Penn College’s Clean Energy Center; and Cameron K. Ramsey, applied human services.

Takeaways from that give-and-take, prompted by similar questions to the panelists, follow:

During your career, you have surely faced numerous challenges and roadblocks. How did you succeed as a female leader in a male-dominated school or environment? 

Dickey: “Have an open line of communication always, express your thoughts and bring your voice to the table. Also, create an opportunity to be the voice of others.”

Harman: “The big influence in my life to encourage me in my career is seeing other women make it.”

Line: “Get a sense of humor and go to therapy. It is hard out there; don’t just be mad and let the opportunity get away from you”.

Diehl: “Build rapport to people, break down barriers. Remember that you are a human who is qualified and capable. Take risks.”

What challenges did you face as a student and student leader at Penn College as a member of the LGBT+ community? Ramsey was asked.

His response: “As a representative of the LGBT+ community, it is hard to be a queer or trans woman because it is seen as weak. However, we are making moves on campus to facilitate and broaden the Safe Zone training to make campus a safer environment for all.”

Women's History MonthWhat advice do you have for women on how to deal with the challenges of the glass ceiling effect?

Dickey: “Don’t have too many expectations and don’t strive for perfection. Use the tools and resources you have and push forward.”

Harman: “Know that it is a problem you’ll have to face, but don’t let this hold you back.”

Line: “Set a goal to impact other women, have a posture of curiosity and a wide-open mind.”

Diehl: “Network, put yourself out there and talk to people. Learn different people’s perspective, ask questions on what you know and what you want to do. Ask for it!”

What advice do you have to the LGBT+ community with the challenges of the glass ceiling effect?

Ramsey: “Educate – there are biases because there are people who are ignorant. You have to advocate for yourself and others and fight for yourself.”

The event ended with a Q&A and a positive back-and-forth between the panelists and the audience.

For more about the One World Club (advised by Rob Cooley, associate professor of anthropology/environmental science), send an email.

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