The Powerful Women of Bridgewater College

Stormi Nuckoles, Staff Writer

Maria Paz Esguerra speaking on the panel
The Women in Power Panel members are shown actively listening to Maria Paz Esguerra discuss ways in which women can empower other women. She discusses the differences between mentors and sponsors, and that mentors can give you different perspectives on a situation vs sponsors who help support your decisions. (Lamont Jones)

Bridgewater, Va.- On Tuesday, March 15, a Women in Power panel was hosted at 6 p.m. in the Great Room of the FLC. The panel focused on influential women in leadership roles at BC. The group discussed many struggles that women in leadership positions face throughout their career.

Faculty on the panel were Vimari Colon-Leon, assistant professor of music; Ady Dewey, practitioner in residence of communication studies (who, in disclosure, is advisor to BCVoice); Maria Paz Esguerra, visiting assistant professor of history; and Rippa Sehgal, visiting assistant professor of chemistry.

Also on the panel was Taylor Baugher, learning services librarian; Leslie Frere, vice president of student life and dean of students; and Heather Grant, associate athletic director.

The women discussed the struggles that they went through to work their way into leadership positions and the discrimination they faced based on their gender. A few times during the discussion, intersectionality became another cause of discrimination in the workplace and in the educational field. 

Women of color are more likely to be discriminated against and oppressed than their caucasion counterparts. The panel brought awareness to that fact and stated that it was an issue that needs to be addressed.

The women on the panel explained that often in the workplace and in the educational field, women striving for a career in a male dominated field are repressed. They may struggle to achieve the same level of authority, power and income as a man. This is due to the fact that women are often ignored or revered as too strict

when in a leadership role or when attempting to promote new ideas.

“My ideas deserve to be heard. I have a voice that deserves to be shared with others. I repeat that many, many times until I work up the confidence,” said Colon-Leon.                      

As for the gender pay gap, that has been a concern amongst women for years. Caucasion women earn 83% of men’s full income. The percentages are even lower for women of color.

Despite the vast difficulties women have to face when in a career or striving for further education, the members of the panel wanted to make it clear that women can achieve their full potential and the goals that they have set out for themselves. The journey ahead will be long and it may be difficult, but never stop fighting to be who you want to be. 

The women in power panel
A group photo of the Women in Power panel members. The women are showing support to one another after finishing the panel discussion. (Lamont Jones)

“My resilience comes from believing that I looked at the whole picture and that I am making the best decision that I could make with the information that I have and if things change then I will make adjustments,” said Grant. “Just give yourself that grace of doing the best that you can with what you have, make the hard call, and move forward with that. It has taken me many years to achieve that patience and belief within myself. It exists in all of us to accomplish those tasks.”                                                                                        

It is also important to have people in your life to reach out to, both mentors and sponsors. Having a mentor that can help guide you when you need assistance is crucial. Just as crucial as having people in your life that will fight for you, because they will promote your cause even when you are not around. This goes for both men and women. 

The panelists agreed that they have become who they are today by fighting for what they believe in and who they wanted to be. Many of them had to face familial difficulties along with establishing themselves in their career. They never gave up striving for their future, for their full potential. There were people in their lives, mentors and sponsors that kept them going. These people kept them fighting for who they are.

Now the members of the panel are in the position to empower the fresh minds of the new generations. The members have the ability to teach college students to never give up their dreams, to keep working towards their goals and to rely on them as mentors as they progress towards their careers. 

“Be a supporter of other women. I try to do that so much with my female staff. Give yourself grace, you’re not going to be able to do everything that you want to do in the best way possible,” said Grant.“You should start doing that now with your own peers and your friends. Just be supportive. Don’t call eachother out, but call each other up.”