By Gena Wynkoop
On March 4, the Syre auditorium was filled with pictures of historical and modern figures from around the world that are known as philanthropists, leaders, or in some way have impacted society.
On the projector more pictures of these figures were accompanied with words such as, “courage,” wisdom,” and “determination.” Though the figures had differences in how they impacted our society, they had one thing in common: they were all women.
March 8 marked the day that is celebrated throughout most of the world as International Women’s Day.
Whatcom Community College celebrated this event by having an interactive workshop as well as female speakers that discussed their experiences and what it means to be a woman in our modern world.
“The event has three booths. One is a display of women in history or today that have made a difference in our world such as reformers, comedians, singers, artists, and transgendered women to name a few,” said Na Eun Kim, 19, a student at Whatcom, a member of the Programming and Diversity Board, and an officer in the Global Citizenship Association.
On the display tables there were pictures of women such as Amelia Earhart, Mother Theresa, Ellen DeGeneres and Hillary Clinton.
“Then there is a booth where people can go and design a postcard for the women in their lives that they look up to or appreciate,” Kim said.
As groups of men and women of all ages sat at the postcard table, two speakers and a video message from the President of the college, Kathi Hiyane-Brown about her life and women in power opened the event.
Sue Cole, who is a member of the Board of Trustees, began the speeches and talked about her experiences as a woman in today’s work force.
She talked about how she tells her daughters to stand up for themselves in situations where they are not being awarded for their hard work and dedication.
“Don’t be afraid to assert you worth and stand up for what you know is right,” she said.
She also talked about the imporatance of knowing when to walk away from something when it is not beneficial or is not truly a passion or dream of yours. “If you aren’t passionate about what you are doing then move on.”
Another speaker was Anna Wolff, an English instructor at Whatcom and a self-proclaimed feminist who spoke in length about the great support system she has had in her mother, and how watching her mother was the exact mentorship she needed to grow into the leader she is today.
Wolff said that when her mother was young, she didn’t believe that college was an option until a teacher of hers told her parents that she was very bright and should start thinking about furthering her education.
“The most important thing to take away from my mom’s story is that someone recognized her potential and encouraged her. This is what led her to see the strength in others,” said Wolff.
Because she had such a powerful mentor in her mother, this is what she said she believes to be the catalyst of her leadership ability and skill.
When she was young, Wolff said her teachers would often say that she was too chatty or disruptive in class.
“I was always too talkative, too loud, too bossy. I hated being called bossy so I started to hold myself back a little bit,” she said. “I would wait for others to take the lead,” said Wolff.
She also elaborated on the word “bossy” and how it impacted her behavior as well as her belief on the feminist movement.
“Because of the word bossy, I got derailed,” she said. “I didn’t see forceful boys be called bossy. This was the budding of my feminism.”
Wolff touched on the idea of societal roles and todays women in the work force.
“Strong women in leadership positions are often described as bossy, brash, abrassive, and pushy. Women have to try much harder to be liked,” she said.
As she discussed more about women in today’s society and in the work force, she wanted to leave the audience with an important message about leadership.
“Step in proudly and without reluctance to leadership roles. Leadership begins in mentorship,” she said. “We don’t have to wait to be called to a leadership position to step up and do the job.”
Even though it may still be difficult for women to succeed both in the work force and in today’s social setting, it is important that Whatcom allows a safe environment to raise awareness and to also celebrate the historical and modern woman.
Cole’s closing words were directed at not just females but to young leaders both men and women all over, and more specifically on Whatcom’s campus.
“Most importantly, lead with humility,” said Cole. “Be fair and be willing to do hard work. It will pay off.”