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SJSU Her Campus Chapter Hosts First-Ever Panel

On Monday, March 9th, the SJSU chapter of Her Campus hosted a panel of four amazing women in Student Union room 2A. The speakers included Jenny Higgins, San Jose Councilwoman Sylvia Arenas, Ruth Silver Taube, and Rebecca Armendariz.

The speakers spoke about how they got to where they are today; the struggles they’ve faced in their rise to power; and they concluded with words of wisdom to all those in attendance. 

“I had to make my own path,” said Arenas. Born from traditional Mexican, Catholic parents, she felt that she was expected to settle down, begin a family, and do all the traditional duties a mother would do. 

While she does have a family and still considers herself “traditional”, she knew she wanted to be different from her mother. “I don’t want to be…dependent on a man,” Arenas said. She also noted that some of the key values her family instilled in her helped with her career journey. “Values of not compromising who you are was very important to me,” said Arenas. This key aspect of her character would help her eventually become the District 8 Councilwoman, and it also makes her the strong councilwoman she is. “We don’t need to have male traits…to be effective,” said Arenas.

Armendariz started in her journey to become a labor activist from a young age, which she said aided in the projection of her career. 

When she began her work with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters at the age of 21, the panel of interviewers were all men. The sexism in their questions would foreshadow what she would experience working with the Teamsters. 

It was a “daily fight against sexism from them,” Armendariz said. This sexism would prepare her for the work she would later do. “I had to learn to be very assertive,” Armendariz noted. She would go on and fight for women in the janitorial industry, urging for stronger protections and networks that would help them in cases of sexual harassment and assault. 

Higgins, who was a recent candidate for San Jose City Council, had many obstacles in her rise to her current position. She claimed that when she was in college, she changed her major and many of her aspirations for a guy, which would muddle and change her path.

 “I had to fight through workplace and family,” Higgins said. 

Silver Taube also faced problems as she continued to establish herself in a “male-dominated world.” She began as a machinist, creating components of machines such as defibrillators. In her time as a machinist, she explained how she was the “token woman” of the machine shop.  “People treated me like I was childlike,” said Silver Taube.

While the four women shared many of their trials and issues in the establishment of their careers, they offered their SJSU audience many useful pieces of advice. 

A recurring theme in their suggestions was the idea of networking and making connections. 

“Find allies, build networks… for favors, for support,” said Armendariz. 

Silver Taube and Higgins also said that it was important to not only connect with other women, but to find an organization with a mission you were passionate about.

“There are groups and causes… you can figure out [how] to be involved,” Higgins said.

Higgins and Arenas also said that it is important for women to come together and fight with each other, not against one another. 

“[The] competition isn’t against ourselves, it’s against the world,” said Arenas. 

Silver Taube also noted that it’s important to know who is and who isn’t fighting on your side and for you.

“People who are allies are not threatened,” Silver Taube said.  

Hey! I'm Christina. I'm a third-year journalism major who loves crystals, vinyl records, houseplants, and the Sims 4.
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