The Women’s Coordinating Council gathered a panel of six female professionals from UT’s campus to host Beauty and the Business. This discussion was centered on women’s success in a male-dominated, corporate America.
Moderated by Shannandor McClain, WCC member, the discussion began with each panelist’s back ground, schooling, and past and current occupations. McClain asked each woman to highlight their path to success in their male-dominated work environments, including obstacles, accomplishments, downfalls, and advice for upcoming young women in the professional world.
Debbie Mackey, McKamey Scholar, Lecturer/Intern Coordinator, and Faculty Advisor for Society of Human Resource Management, spoke first. She has three degrees, including a Ph.D. in Human Resource Development earned here at the University of Tennessee. Working hard or harder than your male peers, being a business person, and knowing the numbers are amongst the aspects she named integral to being successful.
“Growing is very important, because you never stop growing and learning new things,” said Mackey.
Continue to learn in the field you’re in and you will persevere no matter what. Debbie Mackey, faculty advisor for Society of Human Resource Management
Professor of finance, Tracie Woidtke, followed with her list of necessities for success and how she entered her field with confidence. She didn’t view it as being male-dominated but more as being what she wanted to do.
“Embrace your feminism but remain respectful,” said Woidtke. “You never want unwanted advances to threaten your job, so be smart about situations you put yourself in.”
Woidtke noted that being competent and well-prepared helped greatly in her profession. It was those two simple, yet important, qualities that transformed her from a regular woman to a colleague. Next she advocated how important and effective communication is.
“It’s not always how much you know, it’s how well communicate it,” said Woidtke. “Communication can either make or break a situation.”
Professor Joan Heminway joined the faculty of UT’s College of Law 11 years ago, bringing over a decade of experience along with her. Currently, she serves as the President of UT’s Faculty Senate for the 2010-2011 academic year. Heminway shared some negative accounts of being in mainly male workplaces.
“There is sex and there is gender. My sex is female, but I am somewhat male gendered,” she said explaining her uniqueness and parallelism with men.
“Physically I am woman but I do not always think and act as one because I refused to be taken advantage of," said Heminway.
Her first negative encounter occurred at the age of 18, when she was hired at her first job. Heminway’s boss would approach her by patting her on the head, as opposed to how he greeted male employees.
“I had to pull him to the side one day because I had had enough,” said Heminway. “I felt like I was a dog.”
“Occasionally, someone pulls me into the reality that I am still a woman in a man’s world,” she said, explaining how sometimes her confidence and strength has been overshadowed.
Assistant Professor of the Department of Economics, Celeste Carruthers, spoke highly of her legacy and family background.
“I am very fortunate to stand on the shoulders of a generation of women who had to work really hard through unfortunate circumstances,” said Carruthers.
Carruthers ended with a twist on a prevalent, inspirational quote to fit the context of women in the male-dominated workforce. Instead of the best revenge being a life well-lived, she stated the best revenge as being a job well done.
Last to speak was Kayti Schumann, who spoke about the "boys’ club mentality."
“When I would come around my male colleagues, they would hush and silence their jokes so I wouldn’t be offended,” said Schumann.
Diving into the corporate world in 2003 as an employee of Bank of America, she was the only female in the office. Schumann’s success tips include to work hard to make yourself unique and be cognizant of how you inform and communicate things.
Network inside the field with other women, then you will rise together; and when you rise as one, you will then dominate. Tracie Woidtke, finance professor
“Be careful how you say things, especially displaying frustration,” said Schumann with a wide smile. “Most men are quick to associate discomfort with your emotions, mainly hormones.”
Afterward, McClain opened the floor for all questions, concerns and personal stories from audience members. Panelists gave tips of proper appearance for interviews, resume format, and remaining confident.
“Not all companies are the same so know the company who you will be interviewed by,” said Dr. Mackey.
“Some companies require business casual due to a fun-loving environment while others prefer strictly business attire because they are strong conservatives.”
Woidtke added that women are inevitably diverse in the workplace because women are the minority and the need for women to be unified. “Take advantage of being diverse because diversity adds value,” said Woidtke.