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The Center for Multicultural Student Leadership and Engagement and the Women and Gender Studies Department held a panel discussion on women and the professional environment Saturday. Hannah Watson (senior, sociology), left, at the podium organized the event. Sequoia Stauffer (senior, sociology), right, was one of many students to speak at the event. 

The Center for Multicultural Student Leadership and Engagement and Women and Gender Studies co-hosted the networking and panel discussion event “The Future is Female” on Saturday in Elkin Hall’s Great Room.

Led by Hannah Watson (senior, sociology), this event featured a group of female panelists that are successful in both their personal and professional lives. Primarily women of color, the panelists discussed topics ranging from advocating for yourself in the workplace, to ending the stigma of seeking mental help, to how to make the most of college. Audience members were also encouraged to ask questions.

After the panel discussion, the attendees were able to network with one another and talk one on one with the panelists. There was also an opportunity to have a professional headshot taken. Light refreshments were served throughout the event.

 The panelists were Ashley R. Grice, assistant director of alumni relations, university advancement at Carnegie Mellon University; Chartice Wyatt, a doctoral candidate in administration and leadership studies at IUP; Christina Rook, a second-year school counseling and education graduate student in the department of counseling studies at IUP; Felicia Daniel, an administrative assistant at IUP; and Dr. Malaika Turner, the assistant vice president of student affairs at IUP. 

They were joined by Michelle Puerta, a master’s student in the student affairs and higher education program at IUP; Raven Rose Rowland, an IUP student dual majoring in criminology and philosophy with a pre-law focus; Rochelle Sykes, a clinical psychology doctoral candidate at IUP; and Sarah Avery, a student in IUP’s student affairs and higher education master’s program.

 “What I realized about myself,” Wyatt said, “and about other young black women, we often feel that because someone has so much experience or attained so much success, or has so many degrees, we can’t challenge them. Everybody can be challenged. Everybody can’t know everything.

“We face discomfort every day by being black and being women, so be willing to step out of your comfort zones and meet your next challenge.”

“You may or may not be the only black woman in a space,” Grice said, “but what are you going to do to set a standard for future black women?”

“As black women, we’re told that we’re too much,” Wyatt said. “Whether our hips are too big, or our lips are too big, or our hair is too nappy – and we have good hair just so y’all know – but I often see young black women struggling with who they are. 

“We are enough. I have the best relationship with my mirror because we talk every morning. Learn to love you, inside and out. I love my weave, too, but you don’t need your weave, or you don’t need your makeup or whatever. But if that’s what you want, you don’t need someone else to validate for you. 

“You can validate yourself. You are enough for yourself. If somebody else doesn’t like that, that’s their loss.”

Giving up is not an option, however.

“You cannot give up,” Rowland said, “because there are going to be so many people telling you that you can’t, that you shouldn’t do this, or you’re not good enough, or ‘I don’t think you can be a lawyer’ or whatever you want to be in your life. You can do it.

“We need to start being kinder to each other. It’s very important, and I believe that so many of us view kindness as weakness. Kindness is not weakness, it is so hard to be kind, truly kind, sincerely kind to one another. 

“It is super hard, and it is never a weakness.”

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