Student’s Symposium Uplifts Women’s Input

The Have Your Say Symposium amplified women’s voices in the workforce with a collection of speakers and a resume refining session on Dec. 5 at Van Munching Hall. 

The symposium, held in the Frank Auditorium inside the business school, was organized by senior marketing major Emily Gorey. She was the 2018 winner of the “WoR on the Glass Ceiling Scholarship,” which is awarded to women interested in pursuing a career in business, communications or marketing. Sponsored by RedPeg Marketing in Alexandria, Virginia, the scholarship allows the recipient to create a “pay it forward” plan of sorts that increases the conversation of more representation for women in different career fields. After winning the scholarship, she worked as a digital strategy intern at RedPeg for six months.

Upon some research on the University of Maryland, Gorey found that there are only three female deans out of 14 total at this school. She also noted that only one of the three female deans is a woman of color. 

“I just wanted [the symposium] to be about women’s voices because if there’s not enough representation of women, then their voices are not being heard or included in the conversation,” said Gorey.

Gorey said the main goal of the event was to inform undergraduate women of the environment that is ahead of them in the workforce. She named it “Have Your Say,” to match her goal of boosting women’s voices.

“If you’re better equipped with what’s gonna happen, you’re gonna have a better idea of how to tackle [gender inequality],” said Gorey.

To kick off the night, two human resources representatives from RedPeg helped look over resumes in an hour and a half long networking session. 

Photo by Camryn DeLuca

Four women with varied career backgrounds spoke at the symposium. First to speak was Swetha Puranam, a junior double majoring in finance and management. Her presentation was titled “Stopping Before You Start.” Puranam is currently serving as president of UMD’s Women in Business Association.

Luanjio Aggie Hu, a graduate student working toward her Ph.D. in international education policy, spoke about the importance of including and advocating for the disabled. She is also a graduate assistant for transfer and off-campus student life at the university.

Next up was Dr. Deborah Goldberg, who spoke about choosing the path that’s best for you, as opposed to letting others heavily influence your decisions. Goldberg told a story about the difficulties of balancing career aspirations in the STEM field and having children with her husband. 

“Learn to live with and even embrace uncertainty… The moment you realize you can’t control everything, the happier you’ll be,” said Goldberg.

She faced this uncertainty when she struggled at the start of her research position in graduate school while also struggling to get pregnant for the first time. She reassured the symposium audience with the advice that it is totally acceptable to do something seen as “different,” as long as it’s right for you.

Fredda Hurwitz, the chief strategy and marketing officer at RedPeg, was the final speaker for the evening. She titled her speech “You’re Not Worth It” to represent that no matter what career path you take, there will always be someone who will attempt to hold you back. 

Separated by chapters, her presentation began with the discussion of women holding other women back. The next chapter flipped to the concept of holding yourself back.

“We either allow people to make decisions for us and make us feel significant, or we say no,” said Hurwitz. 

Photo by Camryn DeLuca

All four speakers came back after each presentation for a round-table question and answer session. One question on the projector asked the speakers about the inequalities they felt were most prevalent for women today.

Hu referenced the improvements in gender-based violence in her Chinese culture. She said that domestic violence was much more commonplace in her parent’s generation, whereas for her age group she doesn’t witness it. She commended the improvements China has made for the education gap between boys and girls. Referring back to one of her main platforms, she said there was still a gap for people with disabilities.

Photo by Camryn DeLuca

At the end of the symposium, Hurwitz expressed her hope for the future in terms of reform. She identified Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old girl from Sweden who is fighting for action to reverse the effects of climate change, as a hopeful sign of mobilization.

Goldberg asked the audience to discuss something they learned or found interesting from the event with a friend when they got home.

“It’s important to talk to people who think like you, but it’s even more important to talk to those who don’t,” said Goldberg.