“Make it happen.” Those are some inspiring words to all the female students at CW and all those women looking for an opportunity to advance in their careers. Dr. Stacy Larson is the Dean of Faculty and Curriculum & Professor, General Education at The College of Westchester. As a woman in leadership, she knows the importance of education, networking, and creating your own opportunities. During Women’s History Month, she remembers her path to success, her inspirational figures, and shares some motivational words for those women dreaming to be in leadership.
What does Women's History Month mean for you?
Women's History Month is a designation and a proclamation to celebrate the contributions women have made within the U.S. as well as globally. This Month was made possible through U.S. Congressional action in 1987, not so long ago. To me, it is also a reminder that women still need to continue the journey forward to achieve pay equity and workplace advancement that is on par with men. By the way, Equal Pay Day is March 24, 2021. That's a bit better than last year, but it'll still never be equal until there is no need for an "Equal Pay Day".
How challenging has it been for you to be a woman in leadership?
Being in higher education, it has not been too challenging to lead within this industry as compared to other industries. The challenges come not with the position--that's actually easy to do. The challenges come from the naysayers (who may be men or women) who may question the authority, display disrespect, and oppose implemented policies. Though there is often push back, it is important to stand one's ground and develop allies who believe in you and your leadership style. When you know how to lead and have the support of others, that leadership has an easier time shining through any negativity.
Did you always know you wanted to work for a college?
When I was an undergraduate, I knew I wanted to work for a college. I had an amazing professor who I desired to emulate. He actually got me my first adjunct teaching position at Mercy College. Once I came to The College of Westchester, a male VP mentored me and taught me about college administration. So, thank you to the men too.
What changes are you hoping to bring to our society by being in the higher education industry?
I hope to give students an idea about how they can change their lives. Education helps people develop--whether socially, emotionally, professionally, or financially. But it's about exposure--exposure to new thought processes or a new way of doing things. It's about showing students where the opportunities are and how they can go after them. It's about planting seeds.
Who are your favorite top 3 women in leadership and why?
Jane Addams ranks number 1 for me. She was a pioneer for social change. She did not marry or have children - certainly unexpected in the late 1800s. Jane Addams established Hull House, a place for immigrants of diverse communities to gather. She and her residents sponsored legislation to end child labor, create juvenile courts, limit working hours for women, recognize labor unions and advocate for safer working conditions.
The late, great Ruth Bader Ginsburg ranks number 2 for me. As an attorney, she was a role model for me. She began her career as an attorney and became as associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. During her legal career, she advocated for gender equality and women's rights. Between Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement in 2006 and Sonia Sotamayor's appointment in 2009, she was the only female justice on the High Court. She said the following about women on the Court: "When I'm sometimes asked 'When will there be enough (women on the Supreme Court)?' and may answer is: 'When there are nine.' People are shocked. But there'd been nine men, and nobody's ever raised a question about that."
Finally, my third favorite female leader is Katharine Graham. She was the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company, The Washington Post Company. She became the CEO in her mid-40s, during the 1970s, after her husband passed. She is best known for allowing the publication of the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate scandal.
Your advice to a female CW student whose dream is to run a company or become a C-level executive is?
While in college, do some research - a lot of research. Identify the industry and then the actual company you would want to work for. Then, get an internship there or a paid entry-level position there. Finish college. Move up the ranks. Network with colleagues at the company. Take advantage of opportunities available there. Utilize the tuition reimbursement plan to go to graduate school. Take advantage of professional development offered, and make sure your supervisor knows what your career trajectory is. Make it happen.
Your recommendation for a book written by a female author is?
Voices of Powerful Women: Words of Wisdom from 40 of the World's Most Inspiring Women by Zoe Sallis - this is a collection of interviews with 40 remarkable and influential women. The women represent various industries and perspectives.