On March 8th, the Women’s Leadership Council of Touro College held its second annual celebration of International Women’s Day. Like last year, we scheduled a panel discussion with influential and successful women leaders. This year’s discussion was titled, “Personal and Professional Perspectives on Leadership”. The panel members included Patricia Salkin, Provost of the Graduate and Professional Divisions of Touro College; Shelley Berkley, CEO and Senior Provost of Touro’s Western Division; and Janice Weinman, Executive Director and CEO of Hadassah. Associate Dean of Faculty Donne Kampel, the founder and chair of the Touro Women’s Leadership Council, moderated the program. Asked whether they identified leadership skills as young girls/women or had acquired such skills later, all three panelists said that deep inside they had planned early on to be beneficial to their communities and help others. The panelists described coming from hard working families who, in some way, had encouraged and supported their daughters’ eagerness to make positive changes in other people’s lives. Senior Provost Berkeley said that her wish to run for public office arose from her desire to give something back to the country that had taken her family in. She also wanted to make sure she had power enough to save her family from any harm. Volunteering, in Dr. Weinman’s own words, was a great way of acquiring those skills she did not learn through her job. An example of this were “people skills,” something that is critical for all leaders.
Recognizing an opportunity, being flexible, and taking risks were considered among the essential components of success in a leadership career. Provost Salkin added that it is important to know where one wants to go and what we want in life, and then follow that path passionately and fearlessly. The panelists agreed that the idea of leaving the comfort of their home and family is very challenging, but they all decided at various stages of their lives to take risks and move forward with their jobs. Despite sometimes feeling guilty when it came to their children and husbands, in the end, none of the panelists regretted their career moves.
When asked about mentors and role models, mothers came up as some of the greatest mentors of their daughters. When Senior Provost Berkley believed she had to choose between running for public office or having a child, her mother encouraged and supported her to do both. Provost Salkin saw her mother’s nursing school at a small synagogue growing successfully from 30 pupils to 300. Throughout the discussion of mentorship, male mentors were generally considered more generous in giving advice and support than female mentors. It was articulated that the fact that there is still a relative scarcity of women in higher positions, and those women are still focused on their own careers, might explain this. Our panelists stated that they were all mentors to other women and were positive that many other women are also mentoring.
Provost Salkin said that the word “mentor” had many connotations and that she preferred to call mentors “people who open doors for others.” She added that by attending professional associations and conferences, women can develop strong relations and remain in contact with other professionals, and get to meet “door openers” who might be willing to help and guide younger people in their careers.
When it came to barriers to success, the panelists agreed that bad supervisors and other obstacles will most likely be part of everybody’s career journey. They also advised the group to not allow these temporary obstructions to slow us down or stop us from progressing. Senior Provost Berkeley added that it is never too late to change gears and to walk through a new door. It was after she had retired from her job as a congress woman, which in turn followed a law career, that she was recruited for the CEO position at Touro’s Western Division.
In response to what advice the panelists would give as to how other women can advance their leadership, Dr. Weinman said not to back down under the pressure of negativities. And that persistence and perseverance are some of the most important contributors to success. “One gains strength from every situation that might feel threatening. So stick it out.” Provost Salkin emphasized that we should know ourselves and not be afraid of asking when we think it is the right thing to do. Senior Provost Berkeley wanted the attendees to remind themselves that the “fairer sex” is remarkable. And more importantly, “If you don’t sit at the table, chances are that you will be on the menu.”
After an engaging and inspiring panel discussion, a light lunch was served while many attendees were networking and connecting with each other. Thank you to everybody who helped with planning and to all our attendees for a wonderful Women’s History Day Event.
Contributed by: Sara Tabaei & Donne Kampel