NEW ORLEANS - Last week, emerging businesswomen were given the opportunity to meet ladies in leadership roles, learn about their career experiences, and ask questions about what it’s like being a female in either the business world or political arena.
Nunez Community College, in conjunction with St. Bernard Professional Women's Network, hosted the third installment of its quarterly “She Means Business” workshop on Thursday, Oct. 18, in the Fine Arts Center on the college’s campus.
The professional workforce development series helps women network, negotiate and navigate today's professional workplace. It’s designed to bring women together to listen and learn about ways to promote diversity and equality at work.
Each series revolves around a topic that's related to women in the workforce.
“This month we focused on females in government, and how they navigate that work-life balance, all while being in the public eye and facing that intense scrutiny that public officials face,” said Katherine Lemoine, the director of development at Nunez Community College, who also plans and coordinates the “She Means Business” series.
The first panelist was Wanda Alcon - a lifelong resident of St. Bernard Parish. She decided to run for the St. Bernard Parish Council seat after her retirement as a judicial assistant, and she now represents the residents of District D.
Lemoine said that running for office was never on Alcon’s radar.
“Interestingly enough, she had three opponents in the race that were all males, and she won,” she said.
During the “She Means Business” event, Alcon recalled feeling belittled by co-workers who referred to her as “just a legal secretary,” with the emphasis on “just,” said Lemoine.
The second panelist was Judge Kim Jones, who worked as a full-time practicing attorney in St. Bernard Parish for more than twenty years, before being elected District Judge of Division C of the 34th Judicial District Court for the Parish of St. Bernard, in 2015.
She's one of only two females judges in St. Bernard Parish, Lemoine explained.
“In the last decade, we've only seen two female judges,” she added. “(Jones) talked about her work-life balance. She has a son with autism, and she started the St. Bernard Autism Foundation to raise funds.”
Jones discussed “growing up and being very shy, and how she had to get out of her comfort zone to knock on someone's door and humbly ask for a vote,” said Lemoine.
State Representative Julie Stokes was the third panelist. She’s a certified public accountant, small business owner and state representative from Jefferson Parish. She is currently running to become Louisiana’s next Secretary of State with, the goal of making elections safer, and helping entrepreneurs turn their dreams into profit and jobs.
“Julie's very active in our area. We actually connected at some St. Bernard Parish events earlier in the year,” said Lemoine. “She talked very candidly about, again, that work-life balance and prioritizing things with her family – especially at a time where she most recently battled breast cancer.”
In addition to presentations from the panelists, women in the audience asked questions, such as: As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career? Would you share a failure in your professional career and how you moved forward? What advice can you give to women who are interested in running for office?
“I think what I appreciated the most is how the panelists were so open, so honest, and really willing to share not just their successes, but their failures,” said Lemoine.
The next “She Means Business” event takes place in late January, and it will be followed by a “hallmark event” in April – a larger session featuring notable politicians and businesswomen from around Louisiana. Anyone interested in attending can find more information by visiting the Nunez website, or emailing Lemoine: firstname.lastname@example.org
The free events are open to the public.
“We are really trying as a community college to put an emphasis on “community,” said Lemoine. “With this event, we can achieve that goal. It’s great to look across the room and see our students networking with our community members and community leaders, and everyone interacting and learning from the panelists.”