Established women leaders inspire future ones.

A panel of ten women who hold leadership positions in a variety of sectors shed light on the kinds of questions pondered by women early in their careers: “How can I balance work with other commitments such as marriage and families?” “When is the right time for me to get my education?” “What can I expect in terms of salary equity?”

Joyce J. Elam, executive dean of the college, was one of the speakers, along with Margie Arce, Miccosukee Indian School, teacher; Erin Ashby, area manager, Enterprise Rent-A-Car; Margaret Brisbane, division director and member of the college’s Alumni Circle; Miami-Dade County enterprise technology services division; Grisel Fernandez, chief financial officer, Unisa; Dr. Phyllis Kotey, clinical associate professor of law in the university’s College of Law; Jada Phillabaum, Caterpillar, CRM process manager; Sherry L. Ulsh, executive director, Burger King McLamore Foundation; Mairanella Valera, president, American Therapeutic; and Claudia Vasquez, regional recruiting supervisor, Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

“The discussion gave me an opportunity to get to know women who already are making it in a different industries,” said Vanessa Coronado, a junior accounting major and president-elect of the FIU Accounting Association (FIU-AA), which co-sponsored the event along with Career Services, the Women’s Studies Center, and the Women’s Center. “It gave me hope; knowing that they’re succeeding made me feel I can, too.”

Another attendee, Mariana Runha (BA ’04) works with teenage girls through Ayuda, an organization that helps under-served and/or at-risk families in Miami-Dade County achieve self-sufficiency. She wishes she could have worked out the logistics so that the girls could have come along with her, but she looks forward to passing on to them what she learned.

“It was a great asset to hear what successful women say,” said Runha, who has her degree in public relations. “I got valuable information about what goals you need to achieve as you try to reach your big goal.”

José Toscano (BA ‘97), assistant director of Career Services, moderated the three-hour discussion, which fifty people—most of them women—attended on the evening of January 17, 2006.

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