In quarter four of the 2016-2017 school year, government teacher Stacy Filocco challenged her senior students to pick a world problem, research it, and use the resources at their disposal to affect change. Three seniors:Keri Kelly, Bruni Neufeld, and Lindsay Calka, chose to focus on the discrimination women often face in the workplace including issues like the wage gap, factors that prevent women from advancing to management positions, gendered networking circles, and others. These seniors wanted to put faces to the statistics and ask real working women about challenges they have faced in their career, and how they think their gender has affected their ability to succeed.
The seniors also chose to create blind application posters where the viewer reads resumes of two job applicants, both named J. Doe. One J. Doe is John (a man), and one is Jane (a woman), but neither the full names nor genders are listed on the resume. The viewer decides who they would hire, then lifts up the resume to find out who was actually hired and why, as well as which resume belongs to which Doe.
Dr. Brunilda Nazario
Dr. Nazario, 51, is a family practitioner who has been working for the same practice for 21 years.
Neufeld: Did you ever feel like your career was delayed or hurt because you had kids?
Nazario: “I made a big choice and sacrifice not to even have boyfriends until I knew my career was completed. I wanted to put everything on hold until I was financially stable, and my career was under role, so I didn’t have kids until I was 33 years old.”
Neufeld: Have you ever felt discouraged from advancing in your career because you’re a woman? Or have you had any roadblocks because you are a woman?
Nazario: “Throughout the years, there have been times that I’ve felt that because I am a woman, I’m being looked at differently. Patients still today think I’m the nurse.”
Neufeld: Was there ever a standout moment where something happened where you felt discriminated against and you sought to rectify the situation via standing up for yourself or going to an employer?
Nazario: “In a previous job, most definitely. Because I was the woman I needed to keep up and carry the load. As a single woman, I had to work extra shifts on the weekends because I was a single woman in the practice.”
Neufeld: Do you think that women still face problems excelling in their career?
Nazario: “Absolutely. We have to be better and work harder to be looked at specially in my career as physician. Women physicians, when we are strong and passionate, many times they feel that we are too strong, and when men do the same thing, it is acceptable for them.”
Neufeld: Is there any advice you want to give to young females that will be entering your career or any other career in a few years?
Nazario: “If you want it, go and get it. There should be no walls, there should be no reason whatsoever – not because you are pregnant, not because you’re a mother – that you should be treated unequally. We need to fight for that.”
Carmen Montes, 75, was a career accountant before she retired twenty years ago, and worked as head accountant for a hospital called Centro Médico de Puerto Rico.
Neufeld: When you were in school or when you first started working, did women have to dress a certain way or look a certain way in order to get jobs?
Montes: “Of course, of course. You had to wear stockings. Not only to get the job, always. You had to wear a dress, have some lipstick, some blush, but no mascara; nothing like that. You had to look natural. The first time we could wear pants was 1969.”
Neufeld: Did you ever feel like you were not given equal opportunity in the workplace?
Montes: “After three years at my company, my boss transferred to another department, and there was an opening. I was expecting that my finance director was going to offer it to me, but he didn’t. He brought in a boy from another agency. But you know what, I knew everything in that division.”
Neufeld: Is there any advice you would give to young females who are starting out in their careers?
Montes: “Never think that you are female first. Just think ‘I am a human being dedicated to the thing I want to be.’ It doesn’t have to do anything with gender, not with beauty, not with tall or small or anything like that. It’s just me and the world, and the world has to be equal for you and me. We all have the same skin, and if I’m gifted, I can go for the top of the top.”