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Breaking the Mold

John Golden
Public Information Manager

SEPTA's Women in Transit Speakers' Series offers advice on how the
women of SEPTA can break barriers in life and career

Be Inspired. Be Determined. Be Hopeful. Be Focused...and Don't Be Afraid!

These were just some of the empowering messages from three powerful and dynamic women shared in front of an audience of more than a hundred people at SEPTA's Women in Transit Speakers' Series in January. The second in a newly-launched program introduced SEPTA team members to an FBI Special Agent; a major-market news anchor; and a successful film executive??all offering other women supportive advice and antidotes on how to succeed in life and career with the timely theme of "Breaking the Mold: Women Succeeding in Traditionally Male-Oriented Careers."

"There is a sea change happening right now and it's very exciting," said Sharon Pinkenson, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office-a position she had held since the office's inception in 1992. "There's lots of possibility when it comes to relationships with other co-workers. It's a great opportunity to set tremendous standards for everyone involved whether they be men or women or our families. It's an extraordinary time right now and I don't think there's ever been a time in history like now when women have been able to speak their mind and require respect."

Both a former FBI agent and former director of media relations for SEPTA, Jerri Williams, who is now a crime novelist, was quick to clarify the progress that women have made in recent years. "We're not going to really know if we are making any progress until we know that someone who speaks up is not hurt by it. If that is still going on, then we are just going to revert back," she explained. "We need to have the backing of the front office, otherwise, everything will just get swept under the rug."

"It's really about job equality and if we worry about whether or not we can speak up then it's really about power, and then advantages are taken and that's why we need job equality and pay equality," added Pinkenson.

When asked about getting the proverbial seat at the table, the venerable Lisa Thomas-Laury, a former 6abc news anchor-turned-author stated emphatically "Do whatever it takes to get your foot in the door!" She told the story of when she was still in college and noticed a disparity in assignments while at a small station in West Virginia. "I was a part-time weather girl, as they called us back then, so I volunteered to go out on stories, so I could report." She quickly noticed that her male colleague, with less experience, was getting better assignments. Her advice: "Always make sure you're professional??act professional, dress professional, and don't give anyone an excuse or reason to call you out."

As a young FBI agent, Williams always felt that she had to work harder than anyone else and describes her first few years as being pretty rough. "There were very few women working at the Bureau when I started and even fewer black women," says Williams. She remembers a time when she was working with a training partner and he would say very inappropriate things, of both a sexual and racial nature. However after a few years, things got better. Once I became confident in my skills, all of that stopped. "I did not have one single issue in the last 22 years of my career of people questioning my abilities." She stressed the importance of confidence and how it has a lot to do with a person's level of success.

Attendees left the event inspired and with the mantra: To do well and be recognized, women should think and act as role models to each other and make sure they make themselves a part of the conversation.

(The above article was submitted in March in honor of Women's History Month.)

SEPTA employees attend Women In Transit Speaker Series on January 31, 2018.

(L to R) Greater Philadelphia Film Office executive director, Sharon Pinkenson; Former 6abc news anchor Lisa Thomas-Laury; and former SEPTA media relations director, Jerri Williams spoke in front of an invitation-only audience of more than 100 last month at SEPTA's Women in Transit Speaker Series. The trio offered supportive advice and antidotes on how to succeed in life and career with the timely theme of "Breaking the Mold: Women Succeeding in Traditionally Male-Oriented Careers.

Lisa Thomas-Laury, Sharon Pinkenson , and Jerri Williams

Organizers of the January Women in Transit Speaker Series pose after the event.