Women's Leadership Panel Shares Successes, Failures

women's leadership council 2019

Galloway, N.J. _ More women are getting leadership roles in government and business, but it takes a concerted effort by both women and men to achieve equity in the workplace, speakers at the second Stockton Women’s Leadership Council speaker series told more than 100 women, and a few men, at the second Stockton Women’s Leadership Council speaker series at Stockton University Atlantic City Oct. 18.

The five speakers on the “Distinguished Women. Distinctive Voices” panel were:

  • Linda Bazemore: Vice President of Administration and Finance/CFO at Atlantic County Utilities Authority
  • Vicki Clark: President of Cape May County Chamber of Commerce
  • Dr. Brigid Callahan-Harrison: Professor of Political Science and Law at Montclair State University
  • Roxanne L. Passarella, Esq.: President and CEO of FantaSea Resorts
  • Nelida Valentin: Vice President of Grants and Programs at Princeton Area Community Foundation

The panelists talked about decisions they made and obstacles they met in their careers, some of them solely based on being women. But, they said, they also had mentors who encouraged and helped them succeed and they try to pay it forward.

“A powerful motivator for me is just someone telling me that I should or could do something,” said Callahan-Harrison, who talked about often being one of the few women in the room and being encouraged by men to become more vocal. Discussions of how to involve more women in politics inspired her to get involved in writing books, talking to media and taking on a more public and visible role.

Bazemore talked about the challenges of working as a single parent, but never losing sight of her goals.

“I needed to take care of my son, but I also needed a job to do that,” she said of her decision to go to graduate school. “I always had a strong support system.”

Clark said she had worked part-time with the Chamber of Commerce, and was happy in the 1990s staying home to take care of her children when the call came offering her a full-time job. She admits to being torn about having to use day care and after-school care, but her family also needed the income.

Clark said she tries to share with young people the benefits of seeing the big picture and having a balance of work and personal life.

“There are so many interruptions today,” she said. “Being a good role model is one of the most important things we can do.” 

Passarella said she has always tried to have others climb with her, and to enjoy the journey to the top.

“Getting there can be anti-climactic, and once you are there, others are gunning for you,” she said. “But it is never just about you. I have never done anything fully alone. I have others climb with me and stay with me.”

She said her advice would be to not just do things the way others expect. She started out as a lawyer, and realized it was not for her.

“Sometimes we forget to be happy,” she said. “You have to find your own happiness.”

In answer to a question, the speakers said they have faced failures, but they did not let their lives be defined by them, but learned from them and moved on.

“Maybe a failure can be a blessing you cannot see,” said Valentin, who talked about jobs that did not work out for her, but led to something better. “Trust yourself and keep looking.”

She said she often worked harder because she was so worried about failing, but she was inspired by people who were doing what she wanted to do.

Clark said the Chamber’s Women in Business Conference is very successful because it is important to share the role women bring to the workplace and in the workforce. She said men are invited and she has noticed a rise in men interested in taking paternity leave and playing a large role in family life.

“Men also need encouragement,” she said.

The Stockton Women’s Leadership Council is an initiative of the Stockton University Foundation dedicated to the empowerment of women through networking and mentoring. Founding member Johanna Johnson pledged $1,000 to the council’s scholarship fund at the breakfast, as did Passarella. Johnson encouraged those in attendance to assist the fund. The event raised $3,530.

“Every dollar matters to students in need,” she said.

More information about the Women’s Leadership Council is available at stockton.edu/swlc or by contacting Alicia McMackin at 609 652-4861.

                                                                                            #           #            #

Diane D’Amico
Director of News and Media Relations
Stockton University
Galloway, N.J. 08205