This fall, our students hosted our local elected officials, State Senator Marisol Alcantara and Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa, at our boathouse in Upper Manhattan for a special “Lights on Afterschool” event. Our young women, in particular, began an exciting dialogue with their local electeds officials, and we were eager to continue the conversation.
After hearing directly from our students about their interest, we identified a distinct need and desire to create a forum for them to ask questions and hear advice directly from female public leaders. This led to the creation of our Women in Public Service Panel–a night dedicated to discussing the experience of being a woman, especially a woman of color, in public service. The panel addressed some tough questions – sexism in the workplace, how to get involved in your community, advice to young students, and what it’s like to work in this heightened political climate.
Our impressive group of panelists featured female leaders who have long been embedded in the Inwood and Washington Heights Community – making their marks in local governmental and nonprofit organizations.
“Everything you can imagine comes to our offices. The most rewarding thing is when you see an impact in someone’s life. “ – Assemblywoman Carmen de La Rosa
Rosita Romero, Executive Director of the Dominican Women’s Development Center
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, the 27th and current Borough President of the borough of Manhattan
Assemblywoman Carmen de La Rosa, New York State Assemblywoman for the 72nd Assembly District
Jennifer Hoppa, Administrator for Northern Manhattan Parks
Yvonne Stennett, Executive Director of Community League of the Heights (CLOTH)
The night focused both on the challenges our panelists faced, as well as how students can learn from our panelists’ experiences. Students were encouraged to volunteer, serve on nonprofit boards, find mentorship, and seize opportunities.
Jennifer Hoppa shared her story of transitioning from working at a private architecture firm to becoming a Parks Administrator. The path to public service is not always linear.
“OK I can make money. Right? That’s one thing. But seeing the reward of creating beauty and having it touch someone’s spirit or having a transformational effect on the community around it… that was something that made me know that this was the kind of the work I want to do. I want to have an impact.”
When discussions transitioned to sexism in the workplace, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer confirmed a sentiment commonly felt among many women: a sense that women have to work 3 times as hard as their male counterparts, in any role in they’re in. She encouraged students to surround themselves with people who lift them up, what she referred to as her “female posse.” She was clear to point out that men play an important role in uplifting women as well: by supporting and ensuring women’s voices are heard.
“We don’t have enough women-in all ranks of government…One of the things we’re working really hard on, on the state level, on the city level as well, is to get more women to run for office, to get more women in positions of leadership – as commissioners, as chief of departments in the NYPD, as head of hospitals, as CEOs of fortune 500 companies. I think that until we don’t see that as something as natural we will continue to have sexism.” – Assemblywoman Carmen de La Rosa
Our students were inspired, not only because these women represent them in government, but also because these women reflect the communities they live in. We have no doubts that Row New Yorker’s will grow to make differences in the world near and far, and we were excited to help them begin this journey here at home in their communities.
Thank you to each speaker for sharing their insights and wisdom with our students. Many thanks to the M&YWHA for graciously sharing their space with our panel.