Women’s Week Panelists Offer Leadership and Career Advice for the Next Generation

What do a professor, a technology-whiz and a communications guru have in common? They are all women leaders and they all work at Chapman.

To kick off International Women’s Week this past Monday, the Chapman community gathered to hear from three female panelists reflect on their experience and insights. Representing a diverse range of career fields and experience, the panel included Pamela Ezell, Ph.d., assistant vice president of communications; Angel Miles Nash, Ph.d., assistant professor with the Attallah College of Educational Studies; and Helen Norris, vice president and chief information officer.

Here’s their advice:

  • Pamela Ezell, Ph.d.

    Advocate for yourself. “I learned I have to be my own advocate—no one else is going to do it for me. More opportunities come for me if I am willing to do it myself, even if it’s a little uncomfortable,” Ezell said. Ezell recounted a humorous, if “very sad,” story from her high school days: she was nominated for Best Actress, but because she did not vote for herself, the title went to someone else.

  • Be open to opportunities. Nash reflected on the challenge of applying to different jobs or opportunities and the discouragement that sometimes accompanies a search: “You know the answer if you don’t try—it will be a solid no. Give yourself the opportunity to receive the blessing that could be on the other side of that application or process or interview.” Nash continued, “Apply yourself and take all the No’s off the table. The world is very good at telling us that we are lacking in our abilities in so many arenas. Put yourself out there and take the No’s off the table. That’s what pushed me to get my doctoral degree—that was the last no.”
  • Angel Miles Nash, Ph.d.

    Make your “net work.” Nash asked, “Are the people in your net helping you succeed?” She continued, “Make sure you’re aligning yourself with people who are where you are or trying to get or who are with you and can hold you accountable for getting somewhere higher or better together.” Nash, a former K-12 educator, joked that “the teacher in me would give you homework: that by the end of the month, you’d add at least one person to your network and put yourself out there.”

  • Helen Norris

    Challenge stereotypes. When in junior high, Ezell decided to learn how to use the projector, even though it was considered a “boy’s job.”  Ezell said, “I learned how to be comfortable in spaces where no one was asking for me.” Norris commented on her career in technology, a male-dominated field: “There is a stereotype that women aren’t adept with technology. I felt it was important for me if there was a stereotype that worked against me to gently push against it and highlight my skillset in that area.” Even at her current level, Norris continues to fight this stereotype.  Most recently, she was asked if a presentation was “too technical” for her. Did Norris let them get away with the comment? No way.

  • Don’t take it personally. Norris reflected on a time when she did not receive a promotion and how the situation helped her identify what skills she was missing: “I would encourage women and men to think about opportunities where you’re continuing to learn even if it looks like a lateral move.” Nash recalled getting turned down for a position she felt very well-qualified for: “I took it personally when I didn’t get that non-profit leadership promotion. And I shouldn’t have. If it’s not the right push at the time, try for something else.” Ezell added, “It feels hard to not take it personally when you’re the one who’s being laid off. My best advice is just keep going.”

Last but not least, Nash reminds everyone to “have a mantra or a motto.  That’s the sticky on my laptop, the background on my cell phone. Also have a song.”

What’s hers?  “Won’t He Do It” by Koryn Hawthorne.

Stephanie House