This post was written by Stacy Hanas, Marketing Assistant at Seven Degrees Communications.
If you can be anything in a world where stereotypes were non-existent, what would you be? An astronaut? A firefighter? A hairdresser? Unfortunately we live in a society that naturally associates a career with a specific gender, social class, and ethnicity. Former Secret Service Agent, Evy Poumpouras believes that stereotypes and expectations served as fuel to help achieve her dream while Formula 1 Race Car Driver, Simona de Silvestro felt opinions were obstacles, not roadblocks.
On June 5th and 6th many empowering women filled the room at the 92nd Street Y Center at the Claudia Chan SHE Summit. Although time has past since the event, I still replay moments of inspiration from the conference. A panel entitled “Where Are The Women?” captivated my attention. The panel consisted of Maureen Sullivan (President, AOL.com) as the host, and Evy Poumpouras (Former Secret Service Agent), Simona de Silvestro (Race Car Driver, Sauber Formula 1 Team), and Justine Aitel (Head of Cyber Risk, Dow Jones). All four women had one thing in common; they each excelled in fields that were perceived as male dominant. The panelists addressed struggles regarding bias in the workplace and how they overcame them.
Evy Poumpouras stated, “As women, we seek approval. If I waited for the okay from anyone while pursuing my career, I would not be where I am today,” she continued, “my mother always asked me to be like all the other girls.” Simona de Silvestro laughed in harmony as she recalled her similar challenges as a female racecar driver. As women and as men, we naturally seek answers from those around us but how unique would that make us if we always listened? How would we excel in our personal goals if we often listened to others? How unique would Simona de Silvestro be if she did not become a Formula 1 Racecar Driver because others expressed their concern about her taking risks on the racetrack?
Also, how unique would Evy Poumpouras be if she gave into the low expectations of others that questioned her ability as a female secret agent? While preparing for her physical exam, Evy discovered a lower requirement for women than for men. Rather than accepting the lower bar, she trained even harder to fulfill the male prerequisites. Her courage signified strength and a strength that I yearn to have.
Overall, I left the SHE Summit empowered with a newfound urge to make a difference and excel beyond my comfort zone. I felt compelled to develop my character by following my own personal goals. I challenge you to do the same; I challenge you to listen to your intuition more and the negative opinions of others less.