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PNW empowers women to be brave, not perfect at Breaking the Glass Ceiling Alumnae Panel Discussion


Paving a path to success in the workplace is no easy task. For women, it can be even more intimidating. It can seem like there is an endless pressure to be perfect, and that pressure can make taking risks, especially in your career, nearly impossible. Purdue University Northwest is helping to break down the barriers that exist for women who hope to thrive in positions of power.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Purdue University Northwest hosted their sixth annual Breaking the Glass Ceiling event. This two-day event invited nine outstanding PNW alumnae to return to campus to share their experiences and wisdom about what it takes to be a successful woman in today’s competitive workplace.

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On Wednesday afternoon, the Westville campus hosted five of these women who have found success in their careers. The alumnae panel discussions empowered women to break through the glass ceiling and to reach their career goals.

The event’s theme, ‘Brave, Not Perfect,’ was inspired by the book of the same name by Reshma Saujnai.

Dr. Marsha M. King, the Dean and an Associate Professor at the Crown Point Campus of the University of St. Francis, was among the five panelists invited to share her story with the public. Alongside the other speakers, King recounted her struggles, her failures, and her triumphs as she navigated the world of being a woman professional.

“I learned a long time ago that there’s always going to be someone younger, prettier, smarter, more technologically advanced, or with better connections than me,” King said. “Embrace your strengths, and work on your weaknesses. If more women would support each other, we would get farther along in the business world.”

“We wanted to bring back the amazing women who’ve graduated from PNW to serve as inspiration to women in the community, both inside PNW and within Northwest Indiana,” Lori Feldman, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at PNW, said. “They’re very inspiring women.”

Feldman and Karen Bishop Morris, Interim Dean of Honors College, collaborated with others at PNW to make the event possible.

“One of the things that makes this [event] so special is not only the alumnae coming back to share their stories of success but also the PNW women in leadership lifting others as they climb,” Bishop Morris said. “It’s all about women helping women.”

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Panelist Colleen N. Hickman, President of Northwest Indiana World Trade Alliance, has found her bravery in business management and global education. Beginning her career in advertising at WJOB in Hammond, Hickman faced challenge after challenge, both in her career and in her personal life. Overcoming these obstacles with great courage, Hickman urged listeners to strive for bravery, not perfection.

“Perfectionism brings the focus on you, yourself,” Hickman said. “Excellence requires collaboration with others in order to get the work done well. To be perfect is a role we found ourselves in since our early days being girls. We need to bring the focus off ourselves being perfect and onto more individuals together getting the work done in an excellent way.”

Andrea Pearman brought with her a history of extensive courage in the workplace. Pearman is the President & CEO of Diversified Marketing Strategies, Inc., Publisher of Building Indiana Media Group, Executive Director of NWIBRT, and Executive Director of NWI Influential Women Association. Pearman shared her wisdom and experience as a successful woman of Northwest Indiana.

“You need to be passionate and really be committed to what you’re doing for whatever length of time that you’re doing it,” Pearman said. “Don’t take no for an answer. If you want something, all you have to do is devise a plan, maybe revamp that plan, surround yourself with people that can help you get there, and you can achieve it.”

Afsheen Mozammel, Senior Process Engineer at DENSO Manufacturing, told her emotional story of leaving her home country of Bangladesh to pursue her dreams in America.

“It was a tough decision to leave home and come to an unknown country with no friends and family and start all over, giving up my comfort zone, my family, stable job and everything where I grew up. When I look back in time, I realize that this decision has changed my life more ways than one and made me only stronger and more self-dependent,” Mozammel said.

Ashley Gerodimos, Executive Directory of PNW Alumni Community and University Strategic Events, made a courageous move when she left her career in hospital, tourism, and management.

“I changed my career path completely,” Gerodimos said. “It was not easy, but I’ve never been more fulfilled to come back and to serve the university and to, in some indirect way, inspire students who are seeking their own education. It was very scary, but it was definitely worth the jump.”

“It’s about relooking, reprioritizing, and having the courage to take a deep dive into what makes you happy,” King said.

Collectively, the women of the 2019 Breaking the Glass Ceiling panel of Purdue University Northwest brought with them inspiring stories. While each journey was unique in its challenges and in its triumphs, each had one strong message. The remarkable women did not seek perfection in the workplace. Rather, they sought bravery, and that bravery has led them to success.

The seventh annual Breaking the Glass Ceiling event will be held in March of 2020. To learn more about the event or to submit a nomination for an outstanding alumna, please visit pnw.edu/Breaking-the-Glass-Ceiling.  

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