Panelists discuss motivation, women’s empowerment in the workforce

St. Edward’s hosted a panel, “A Seat at the Table,” to recognize the achievements of female professionals in Austin. The talk was put on to exemplify how these women have navigated their fields.

The event was hosted by women’s empowerment group Electric Lady Coalition and business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi to highlight some exceptional examples of successful women. Director of the Freshman Studies Program Alexandra Barron moderated the panel.

Devanne Peña is one of three black women in Austin working in architecture. She became a registered architect last year, four years younger than the industry average. Peña recently left an Austin firm to work independently while deciding her course forward.

The youngest on the panel, Peña talked about the importance of working for opportunities. She had to work as a high school instructor to pay bills while applying to architecture jobs after she graduated from North Carolina State University.

 Peña discussed the difficulty of teaching classes during the day and then spending more than two hours afterwards to fill out job applications. She only heard back from a single firm, a small company in Texas, but that was all she needed to succeed.  

Another panelist was  Casey Gannon, a St. Edward’s alumna who completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the university in ‘05 and ‘07. Gannon rose through the world of tech to become vice president of marketing at ShopGate Inc.

Denise Davis, another panelist who spoke, was formerly chief of staff and head parliamentarian for the Texas House of Representatives and is now a founding partner at Davis Kaufman PLLC.

The three panelists discussed their individual work experiences within the context of gender and career. Davis spoke on how she maneuvered within the State House in order to gain expertise in policymaking. Davis said that in order to maintain identity while fulfilling your role, one should avoid getting caught on each event so they can see the environment from a wider perspective.

Gannon gave advice on how to be forward in negotiating and translating confidence in her work to fast success. Gannon mentioned that it’s helpful to seek out people that can help you get the knowledge or resources to achieve your goals whether that be professors, professionals or peers.

As stories of sexual harassment in the workplace are gaining nationwide attention, Baron brought the discussion to center on how the panelists dealt with those situations, emphasizing there should be no tolerance for harassing comments or behavior by a coworker.

Both Gannon and Peña talked about the importance of intent in these incidents. Each mentioned times of dealing with inappropriate situations, saying that it was important for the occurrence to not be swept under the rug. They also advised to talk with a third party on addressing the accused person.

As reported in a previous Hilltop Views video on Electric Lady Coalition, this panel was one several that the women’s group has said it will host to inspire women and provide networking resources.