The Glass Ceiling in Youngstown

On Monday, March 11th, after we left the Akron Press Club luncheon with U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan, we drove to Youngstown where we attended a Mahoning Valley City Club  “Views & Brews” program titled “Unbroken: What’s Left of the Glass Ceiling?” at Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts on North Phelps Street.

The program was advertised, in part, as follows:

“International Women’s Day, celebrated annually on March 8, is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women-while also making a call for action to accelerate gender balance. The “2018 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report” found the largest gender disparities persist in the areas of political empowerment and economic participation and opportunities. It’s not too surprising-despite an increased focus on women’s rights globally, most political leaders, heads of state, corporate CEOs, and entrepreneurs remain overwhelming male. Why? How can women break into these fields long dominated by men? What challenges do they face? And while complete gender balance is an aspirational goal, is it realistic in today’s climate?”

Thus, that night at Suzie’s, Ms. Susan DeLeo, Account Executive with Advance Ohio, conducted a panel discussion in which the participants were: Ms. Jessica A. Borza, Executive Director of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition; Ms. Jeanna Hondel, PE, Owner, Ascension Construction Solutions; and Ms. Carol Rimedio-Righetti, Commissioner, Mahoning Valley.

Of course, the speakers acknowledged that there most definitely remain private, societal, and/or institutional barriers, such as pay equity, that put women at a distinct disadvantage. However, this discussion wisely centered on instances of the laudable ability of women to empower themselves by overcoming discriminatory obstacles in order to succeed in professions mostly dealing with manufacturing/construction that are still dominated by men.

Along these lines, the participants offered excellent suggestions as to how women can excel. For example, knowledge in STEM studies (i.e. math and science) is exceedingly important because many occupations in the building trades are increasingly in need of workers who are so skilled.

In terms of balancing family and career, the speakers noted that maternity/paternity leave is equally important for both women and men and that people pursuing jobs in manufacturing are challenged by the fact that they cannot work from their homes via a computer. However, job-sharing techniques where the workers create their own schedules (just as long as the work gets done) have proven to yield excellent results.

Other possible assets that were discussed included the importance of mentoring, a strong support system, getting the word out about job availability, and educational options.  On the latter point, they pointed out that YSU Center for Non-Traditional Students is an excellent resource.

Above all, it the panel emphasized that a woman entering a field mostly occupied by men must believe in herself and be very comfortable with who she is. Certainly, the rewards of diversity and inclusivity are immense because women can offer a different perspective that can be invaluable to the success of an organization.

Along these lines, the panelists also discussed what it would be like for the United States to have a woman as its President. They thought that it would be a good thing because, in a cabinet meeting, she would be inclined to listen to all perspectives and carefully make the best decision for all concerned instead of rushing to judgement.

At the end of the night, we came away with the impression that we have made great strides as a society to “break the glass ceiling;” but, we are not there yet.

Therefore, adding our own take on the matter, we must all continue in our efforts to make sure that this ultimately does occur and those not afraid to step out of traditional comfort zones deserve our full support.