Posts Tagged ‘glass ceiling’

C4W Member Profile: Cheryl Smithem

June 3, 2011

What is your profession? Marketing, public relations, communications consultant to small businesses and entrepreneurs with Charleston PR and Design, LLC.

What do you enjoy doing outside of your career? Bird watching, singing along with my husband Bill when he plays his guitar, reading novels authored by Southern women, cooking for family and friends, drinking good wine and visiting with friends, and the occasional paddle when I can wrangle a canoe.

How long have you been a member of the Center for Women? I’ve been a member for a total of 3 years, with a bit of interruption in there…

What inspired you to become a member? The C4W has been on my radar since it first opened on Mary Street. I’ve observed the growth and celebrated the organization’s maturity and feel it’s important to our community at large to have an organization that assists women in every area of life.

What kind of impact has the Center for Women had on you? The C4W has helped me grow my business. And The Center for Women has provided a place for many of my close friends to demonstrate their leadership; and it has provided me with opportunities to share my knowledge with other women through being a presenter at Brown Bag Lunches.

How has living day-to-day as a woman affected you? I’ve lived through the times when women were not considered capable to be business leaders to today when no one blinks to meet a woman CEO. I’ve experienced sexual harassment in the workplace as a teen, I’ve been asked to make coffee by a man (who was perfectly capable of making his own coffee).  I’ve been mentored, befriended and taught by some of the most talented, brilliant women and feel an honor-bound sense to pay-it-forward. I celebrate being a woman, because despite some lingering glass ceilings, I love being female!

What kind of message would you like to send out to women who are trying to succeed in today’s economy? My personal philosophy is “Show up and do the work.” Success comes to those who are courageous, curious, supportive and determined. If you combine that with these three qualities, you’ll prosper. However, realize that what prosper and success are to you may be different from how others define those states. Share your connections. Be comfortable in your own skin. Be grateful, and show it! Tell people what their assistance, leadership or care means to you everyday.

What I learned at Harvard: Part 1

May 27, 2010

Jennet Robinson Alterman
Executive Director
Center for Women
Charleston, S.C.

Jennet pictured with Dr. Hannah Riley Bowles

Jennet pictured with Dr. Hannah Riley Bowles

Last week I was one of 60 women chosen to participate in a seminar on “Women and Power” at the Kennedy School at Harvard. Nineteen countries were represented. One of the 4 women elected to the Kuwaiti Parliament in 2009, the first year that women were allowed to run for political office, was in attendance along with the biggest real estate developer in Mongolia. We had a diverse makeup in terms of professional affiliations as well with several members of the military, both US and foreign, and the first woman chief of a South African Zulu tribe.

Hannah Riley Bowles was the coordinator and chief lecturer and she blew the top off the impact of gender when negotiating. She shared good solid data on how women needed to approach conflict resolution and how to negotiate for base pay and raises. She roped in some of the best talent on campus to share their research with us such as Iris Bohnet, the Director of the Kennedy School Women and Public Policy Program and a behavioral economist focused on questions of trust and decision-making, often with a gender and cross cultural perspective. Pippa Norris, the McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics had a wealth of knowledge on democratic institutions and cultures, gender politics and political communications in many countries. Andy Zellecke, a Lecturer in Public Policy is an expert on leadership and corporate governance. He helped us unravel the past governance turmoil at both the Red Cross and the Security Exchange Commission. Sara Lightfoot-Lawrence, a Macarthur prize winning sociologist, shared her experiences writing her newest book, The Third Chapter: Risk, Passion and Adventure in the Twenty Five years after 50.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, of Harvard Business School fame joined us for an evening. Her comments centered on the importance of confidence in creating winning organizations. I was truly honored to be in the presence of the person who coined the term ‘token woman’. Our last day, we were in the thrall of Ambassador Swanee Hunt, an expert on women in politics and dedicated advocate for women’s rights worldwide. She reminded us that every time we speak before a group, we are auditioning for leadership and went on to share her recommendations for finding one’s voice.

It was a whirlwind and the days passed quickly, but the themes became evident early on. Understanding the differences between power and leadership, learning how groups come to decisions, effective conflict resolution, good governance, and the importance of negotiation and presentation skills. All of these add up to the formula for becoming a powerful leader. As women, we need more nuanced approaches in order to succeed. We all have these skills on some level, but for one week I was able to operate above that baseline and learn what it takes to soar. I am bringing that home now and will look forward to continuing the discussions here at the Center for Women. I am interested in providing a forum for such discussions and ask anyone who is interested in participating to speak up now.

I also anticipate expanding our programming to include more learning opportunities on the subjects addressed at this seminar. We have the talent in this community to offer programs on how gender affects so many management skills. We also have the role models who can share their expertise in navigating the shoals of their careers. What holds us back from seeking power and leadership positions? Help me answer that question by sending me your thoughts on how we can position Lowcountry women to take their rightful place at the decision and policy making tables.

Center for Women Executive Director’s College of Charleston Commencement Address

January 7, 2009

By Jennet Robinson Alterman
December 20, 2008

Dr. Jennet Robinson Alterman delivers CofC Commencement Address

Dr. Jennet Robinson Alterman delivers CofC Commencement Address

Madame Chairman, President Benson, members of the Board of Trustees, faculty and staff…my thanks to you.  To my esteemed fellow Doctors of Humane Letters…Mary Ramsay and Lucille Whipper…we have certainly come a long way and folks don’t even think of calling any of us baby.  I am humbled to be in your esteemed company.  

To you the class of twenty oh eight…Congratulations…you have made it!!!  Now before I start I need to know a few things…Will all of the women who are receiving degrees today please raise your hand…You and Mary and Lucille and I would not be receiving degrees today were it not for a woman named Carrie Pollitzer.

Today we are celebrating 90 years of coeducation at the College of Charleston…but for an educational institution founded in the 1700’s it is interesting to look at what prompted the longstanding male student body and faculty to change their minds and admit women… You all need to know the story of Carrie Pollitzer…Carrie was one of the three Pollitzer sisters of Charleston…Carrie, Mabel and Anita. All 3 of them went to Columbia University in New York because there was no higher education institution for them to attend in Charleston in the early 1900s. In April of 1917 the United States entered World War One. Thousands and thousands of men began to be shipped overseas. Carrie Pollitzer was running the first kindergarten program in Charleston in a carriage house behind her family home on Pitt. St. She had been concerned for a long time that the College of Charleston did not admit female students. So in light of the impact the war would have on student enrollment she though it an appropriate time to press her case with the College Administration. She took it upon herself to call on Dr. Randolph, the President of the College at that time. She implored him to allow women to be admitted. Dr. Randolph, who adamantly opposed coeducation refused to consider her plea. But Carrie pressed on asking for a concrete reason for continuing to not allow women. He finally said to her that the College couldn’t afford to admit women as they didn’t have the money to add a separate ladies room. Carrie took that as her call to arms. When asked how much building a rest room would cost he told her it would cost $3000…which was a fortune in 1917. He obviously thought that a sum that size would intimidate  Carrie into dropping the subject of coeducation. Au contra ire…instead Carrie said…let me see what I can do. She spent that summer (before AC!) and fall going door to door asking for donations from friends and neighbors and by the end of the year she had raised $3000.

And in fall of 1918 ten women were enrolled at the College of Charleston…and now today all of us follow in their footsteps.  

Read the rest here.

Broken, cracked or shattered

September 2, 2008


Are we really seeing the glass ceiling in US national politics shatter during this presidential election? I think we are. Hillary Clinton’s run for the Democratic presidential nomination was as serious, as well-funded and managed as any bid. In the end, Hillary did not get her party’s nomination, but it was due to complex reasons, not a single issue – her gender. And, it certainly wasn’t due to cigar smoke filled, back room politics of yesteryear.

I’m sure that there are Americans that think McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate is strictly to attract women voters to the Republican Party. While this certainly must be a Republican objective, the issue is more complex. McCain has to believe that Sarah Palin’s upside will more than outweigh any downside of having a woman on the ticket. I think we are witnessing a sea change in this presidential election. Both parties are looking to strong, intelligent women to fill our highest elected offices. Neither Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin feel like “tokens” to me. They are both the real deal and both are shattering glass ceilings.


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