Successful Women Discuss Struggles in Male-Dominated Fields

Tisch alumna Gina Rodriguez spoke at Skirball with other women who have made it far in their fields and overcame obstacles along the way.

A panel speaks the Breaking the Glass Ceiling event at NYU Skirball (Staff Photo by Mansee Khurana).

Actress and alumna Gina Rodriguez (Tisch ‘06) returned to NYU on Monday to moderate a panel of women who spoke about the different career paths they have taken in male-dominated industries. The event was sponsored by the Ford Motor Company.

Rodriguez asked the women on the panel about a moment in their careers where they failed but were able to continue in order to show the audience how these experiences can inform their mindsets about their careers.

Raquel Willis, the executive editor at Out magazine, spoke about working as an African American transgender woman at a small newspaper in Georgia right after college. Willis was not out at her first job and found it difficult to go back into the closet because she was afraid of persecution.

“Going back into the closet, it gave me so much empathy for people who weren’t able to out for whatever reason,” Willis said. “It’s something that I still carry with me in what I do today.”

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Chief Marketing Officer of Ford Motor Company Joy Falotico spoke about how she faced a crisis of confidence when she first started in her industry.

“I would be sitting at a table, and I would know that I knew more than anyone there, but I didn’t know if I could say anything,” Falotico said.

Rodriguez asked the audience questions about students’ own experiences with the topics that the women were discussing. Many expressed feeling nervous about asking for help by standing up when Rodriquez asked.

Ellene Miles, the Senior Vice President of Intersectional Marketing at Sony Pictures, said one of her biggest fears was seeking advice.

“My mistake early on was not asking for help,” Miles said.

Rodriguez also premiered her new short film “Never Too Late” at the beginning of the event. It features three women who always wanted to be astronauts but never had the chance to. In a collaboration with Ford, the women train to go to space during the film.

“You don’t have to be fearless,” Mary Lou, one of the women featured in the video, said. “There’s always going to be fear. You have to have the courage to do it anyways.”

Rodriguez mentioned that in working with Ford and visiting universities across the United States, she has seen that some people do not know what they want to do in their careers. As someone who always knew her path, Rodriguez believes it is important to create spaces for all women in any field so that they can pursue any career.

Kellee Edwards, the first African American woman to have a show on the Travel Channel, echoed this sentiment when it came to supporting other women who want to have a career like hers.

“I am the first, but I don’t want to be the last,” Edwards said.

Email Mansee Khurana [email protected]

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