Women from across the area gathered to discuss what it takes to be a woman in leadership and how to get there at Saturday’s annual AAUW District I Fall Conference.
The event, held at Jamestown Community College, had a theme of “Growing a Leadership Pipeline for Girls and Women.” Journey Gunderson, National Comedy Center executive director, was the featured keynote speaker and spoke on how comedy can be used to combat sexism.
“(Sexism is fought) through the voices and action of female voices in comedy from Lucille Ball to Sarah Silverman to Amy Schumer to Joan Rivers and incorporating the voices of strong women highlighted on places like Twitter by places like Huffington Post, and ‘The Funniest Tweets by Women This Week’ (feature),” Gunderson said. “Too often, women’s voices are missing from the conversation and so, the theme that I focused on today, was that humor is a powerful tool to cope with and navigate sexism.”
A panel discussion regarding women in leadership was a focal point of the AAUW Annual District I Fall Conference on Saturday. Pictured from left are Ruth Lundin, Audubon Community Nature Center president; Julie Rockcaslte, Green Heron Growers co-owner and Blue Heron Festival founder; Tamu Reinhardt, Jamestown Public Schools curriculum coordinator; Sylvia Swan, Cassadaga Job Corps Academy social development director; Uma Ramasubramanian, Praxair, Inc development specialist; and Lori Jafajian, Cummins Jamestown Engine Plan Human Resources manager.
P-J photos by Katrina Fuller
Gunderson said the worst thing anyone can do is remain silent in the face of sexism. She said the conference is very important to the area for a variety of reasons.
“An event like this is exactly the thing we need to combat silence, to reassure one another that we aren’t alone and to empower each other by either uplifting each other’s voices, being that voice or applauding that voice,” she said.
Gunderson said she has experienced sexism, and feels that it is “institutionalized and internalized.” Acknowledging sexism is present in a work environment is not “male-bashing,” she added.
“It is recognizing a phenomenon that is deeply ingrained, has historic origins and is very real,” she said. “The worst thing we can do is remain silent and ignore that.”
A panel discussion was also held featuring Ruth Lundin, Audubon Community Nature Center president; Julie Rockcaslte, Green Heron Growers co-owner and Blue Heron Festival founder; Tamu Reinhardt, Jamestown Public Schools curriculum coordinator; Sylvia Swan, Cassadaga Job Corps Academy social development director; Uma Ramasubramanian, Praxair Inc development specialist; and Lori Jafajian, Cummins Jamestown Engine Plan Human Resources manager.
Each woman discussed their experiences as women in leadership roles, what they found to be helpful in their success and truths that have stuck with them.
Swan got the audience involved during her presentation and had them share their “power word” that they used as a self-encouragement.
“Mine is fabulous,” she said.
The conference continued throughout the day with a break for lunch which was catered by Elegant Edibles. A round table facilitated discussion about leadership journeys followed after, along with an action step commitment section and updates from Jamestown and Buffalo AAUW branches.
The AAUW advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research.