What an experience I had attending the Lillian Robert's Women's Leadership Program with my fellow Local 768 Women! I had the pleasure of meeting women from multiple agencies, some seasoned workers, some newly hired, but sharing the same concerns, challenges, and fears. We all enrolled in the WLA with the same mindset: women’s empowerment! We shared victories and defeats, struggles and fears. What an awesome group of women to meet!
Classes were held virtually every Saturday 9am to 1pm, October 4th - December 18th, 2021. The course instructor was Dr Anika Daniels-Osaze, who created a fun, engaging and comfortable learning environment.
One topic that sparked an engaging conversation was workplace disparities. Statistics showed that women make $0.779 to every $1.00 their male coworkers do, sometimes even in the same title. Data also showed that women have a tendency to not apply for or get looked over for job opportunities, due to their expectation or need to make sure the home and children are cared for. This may make them seen as unable to be as available or flexible as their male counterparts. Despite our ever-changing society, the stigma is still very present.
We discussed women being judged at work by their appearance, such as the way they dress or wear their hair, compared to their male counterparts, who are rarely targeted in the same ways. We also discussed the impact of cultural bias. Working in an environment where you cannot eat your traditional foods because they may smell or look different, or even wear your traditional clothing, in fear of offending others can seriously affect workplace morale.This is a constant reminder that people are not made with cookie cutters. We all come from different walks of life, which should be celebrated.
Now, I feel more empowered and determined to become a better leader.
Then, we shifted gears from external to internal factors and discussed mental and emotional health. Dr Daniels - Osaze taught us to be aware of self-sabotage, and learn to embrace our personal and professional strengths, and to be okay with everyone having their own perspectives. There will always be judgement, but if you stand strong and stay inspired by the work you do and the population you serve, imperfections and challenges can be opportunities to build and grow.
The fight for equity is not a sprint, it's a marathon. We have come a long way from where we were as women just entering the labor force. We will keep fighting for equal pay and equal treatment on the job. We have the right to wear our hair as we see fit. We have the right to dress in professional attire and not be judged by the curves of our bodies. We have the right to show confidence and not be seen as aggressive.
Upon graduation, we felt more confident as women in the workplace. For me, knowing I am not alone, knowing her struggle is my struggle too, brings comfort. In my 24 years with the Office Of School Health, I’ve had my challenges and even more so when I became a Supervisor. This class can be very beneficial to those like myself, single mothers trying to find a balance, and in titles like PHADV and PHASST that have more women than men. Now, I feel more empowered and determined to become a better leader. I highly recommend this class to all the women in Local 768. Thank you to DC37 Education Fund for this opportunity.
To learn more about this program and others, visit the DC 37 Education Fund Classes and Benefits for current offerings.
Keeshone McLaurin is a PHADV Level II & Local 768 Shop Steward