ODI EmpowHer Luncheon Motivates Female Students | News from CoB | SIU

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ODI EmpowHer Luncheon Motivates Female Students

April 14, 2018, Franchesca Alejo


The Office of Diversity and Inclusion hosted an “EmpowHer Luncheon” on April 12 to bring together female students and professionals for a time of networking and sharing. More than 40 female students from all majors attended, asking questions and receiving valuable guidance from over 20 professional women who attended.

In addition, Anthony Barbato, a junior marketing major from Metropolis, was an active participant, attending in support of his fellow students and the women sharing their expertise.

The speaker for the gathering was Casheena Stephens, a UCOL instructor who is proud to be an SIU alumna with a doctorate in Workforce Education and Development. Stephens shared some lessons she has learned along the way in her professional journey and addressed how to negotiate for a higher salary.

When asking for a raise, Stephens recommends that women remember who they are asking for. This will strengthen them to be persistent when engaging their superior in this conversation. She also advised the women to have some understanding of what their employer can provide and to be open to alternative benefits in case funds are not available. Understanding that it is a hard thing to do, she encouraged the audience to be strong enough to walk away if necessary in order to be properly compensated for their true value.

The life lessons Stephens shared led those attending to do some personal reflection and promoted unity amongst the women. A wife and a mother of four, she fully understands the challenge of achieving work-life balance. Even with these responsibilities, she has pursued higher education and continued to seek knowledge in her field. She said it is vital to continuously research your chosen field because new information is constantly becoming available.

Stephens talked about how important it is to stay true to yourself. She said college is all about discovering who you are and once you discover this, great things happen. Insecurities and hesitation about how others perceive you tends to lesson and you can achieve your goals with greater determination.

“Be unapologetically you,” she said.

She briefly touched on professionalism, explaining that to be successful and have one’s work taken seriously, it is important to take those extra steps to be professional. For instance, having information/business cards to share makes others see a confident and prepared woman.

Stephens concluded her presentation by taking a moment to encourage the attendees to seek out other women as role models and guides.

“Give somebody the permission to help and assist you,” she said.

The student attendees, representing a wide array of majors, had various reasons for attending and found the presentation and chance to network with professionals beneficial. Ayanna Robinson, a freshman in accounting, came to the event because she considers herself a little shy and wanted to get some experience networking with others in a comfortable setting.

Tivoonah Green is a freshman zoology major who wants to be a marine biologist. She enjoys talking to people and was interested in coming to an event designed to empower other women. Kelsie Mullen, a junior in marketing and accounting, was encouraged to attend the luncheon by her bosses. Her desire was to meet women from different fields who do inspirational things.

The women business professionals included a cross-section from campus – professors and other faculty as well as administrators. Collectively, they have a most impressive collection of academic degrees.  In addition, a diverse array of local female business representatives, with their own impressive qualifications and skills, participated.

Elexis Williams, a senior accounting major and student worker in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, was integral to the success of the event.  She said some of the advice offered by Stephens stayed with her.  

“She mentioned that some women believe it is easier to be friends with men but that, oftentimes, that actually comes from a place of insecurity within themselves. Dr. Stephens said that it is so important to build better relationships with other women so we can motivate each other. It made me think about my relationships and consider what insecurities I may have that turned me away from relationships with other women,” Williams said.

Cree Harris, a senior in business management who also works for the office and helped plan the event, found the event motivating and inspirational.  

“It was inspiring to see so many women come together and genuinely want to ask and answer questions we’ve always wondered about,” Harris said.

The consensus of those attending is that the mid-day event was a wonderful opportunity to seek and obtain support from one another and grow or enhance their networks while also motivating them to work toward their personal goals.