Working Women Inspire Others

Ayala Ben-Yehuda
Women who have achieved their dream careers led a panel discussion last Friday on the paths they took to reach their goals, and how other women could do the same.
The discussion took place at the 15th annual World of Working Women Conference, sponsored by the Queens Womens Center, now called the Center for the Women of New York (CWNY).
Five women of diverse backgrounds and professions told their stories to several dozen job-seekers who had come to network, meet potential employers and participate in job-hunting workshops at the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel in Flushing.
The message? Dont let anyone tell you that you cant.
Dolores Hofman, program manager at the Queens Air Services Development Office, started out as a clerk at Pan Am and became the only female forklift operator at Kennedy Airport in the 1970s.
"The things they put me through then, I could write a book," said Hofman, who eventually worked her way up to a job matching aviation industry purchasing managers with vendors based in Queens.
"I knew I had the confidence in myself, and that I could do it," she added.
Two of her co-panelists, Gigi Colon and Gertie S. Brown, also faced challenges in their lives but overcame them with education.
Colon, Hispanic program specialist in the New York metro area for the U.S. Postal Service, came to this country as a child from the Dominican Republic speaking no English. She now does outreach to Spanish-speaking communities for the Postal Service. "It is important to continue your education," said Colon, who went back to school for a psychology degree. "Unless you try, you wont be able to do it."
Brown, director of social work at Queens Hospital Center in Jamaica, grew up poor and worked several jobs to help her single father support their large family. She studied hard and won a scholarship to Smith College, which laid the groundwork for her career in helping children and families, including those affected by domestic violence.
Other guest speakers were Darby Worley, a sales manager at CareerBuilder.com, who led a workshop on finding employment on the Internet; and Margarita Suarez, who helps women find non-traditional employment in fields like construction.
"We need to open up our eyes and see that construction can be a middle-class dream for women too," said Suarez, who added that successful construction workers could earn up to $75,000 a year.
Although they employ only a tiny percentage of women, construction firms are Queens third-largest employer, according to panelist Marie Nahikian, executive director of the Queens County Overall Economic Development Corporation (QCOEDC.)
The boroughs top employer is the retail industry, especially small businesses, which Nahikian said were better able to weather economic downturns because of their flexibility.
"Small businesses are where the jobs are," she said.
Resources abound for working women in Queens, as Nahikian and Ann Jawin, head of CWNY, pointed out. The QCOEDC Womens Business Center can arrange loans and give advice on starting a business, and CWNY hosts a job club on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. at their offices in Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Boulevard, Room 325. The job club is by appointment only; call (718) 793-0672 for information.
Jawin advised the women in attendance to open their minds to non-traditional careers, such as law enforcement, and to remember that even traditional womens fields such as nursing and teaching have changed drastically with advances in technology.
"Dont get stuck thinking small," said Jawin.

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