The challenge areas for women’s equality are well known: education, healthcare, freedom from oppression and violence, employment opportunities, pay equity, access to capital, political representation, and access to leadership positions.
Bloomfield College hosted its second annual Women’s Leadership Forum on December 1 to address these issues. The event provided Bloomfield College students a venue to hear from woman leaders, expand their networks, and have their questions answered.
This year’s forum continued the tradition of excellence, by featuring speakers of distinction in their respective professions, including two Bloomfield College alumnae.
Alisa Norris, who once again acted as moderator, serves as a member of the College’s Board of Trustees as well as the Board of Directors for Standard Motor Products, a NYSE-listed company in the automotive aftermarket industry.
Norris is currently Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for JDRF International, the leading organization working to prevent, treat, and cure T1D and its complications. Norris previously served as Chief Marketing Officer at RR Donnelley, a Fortune 300 company, where she founded RR Donnelley’s first New York-based women’s network, where she served as executive sponsor.
Prior to joining RR Donnelley, Norris was an executive at Opera Solutions. She came to Opera Solutions from Zeborg, a procurement software solutions company. She began her career as a strategy consultant working at A.T. Kearney, and, then Mitchell Madison Group where she became Partner and a member of the Executive Operating Committee. As a consultant, Norris served Fortune 500 companies, developing and implementing strategies to enable her clients to enter new businesses, accelerate growth, and improve financial performance.
Norris presented the panel with a myriad of questions, spanning the topics of professionalism, networking, diversity and equality in the work place, the 2016 election, and work/life balance. The floor was then opened to questions from faculty, staff, and students.
The impressive, diverse panel consisted of Deborah Elaine Collins, Esq., Carolyn Roberson Glynn ’69, and Camille V. Otero, Esq. ‘95.
Collins, an educator-turned-lawyer, who began her law school journey “on a dare,” is Deputy County Administrator, Director of Small Business Development, and the Affirmative Action Officer for the County of Essex, New Jersey. A Labor and Employment lawyer by background and training, Collins worked in private practice, corporate America and on Wall Street for 15 years prior to entering County government in New Jersey.
“Moving outside my comfort zone was something I sought,” Collins told the packed crowd in the Adrian A. Shelby Art Room, who could be seen nodding in agreement and understanding. “Growing up in Brooklyn, I was challenged a lot. Working on Wall Street there were very few people who looked like me. I felt I had to constantly prove I was worthy of that opportunity.”
Earlier in her career, she was a litigator in the General Counsel’s office of the New York City Transit Authority and later served a stint as Deputy Assistant Vice President of Affirmative Action and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Programs. Collins ended her career at the NYC Transit Authority as the first Special Counsel to William Bratton, then Chief of Transit Police, specializing in employment discrimination and affirmative action matters.
Collins received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish from New York University. She received her Master of Arts degree in Spanish and Spanish American Literature from the Instituto de Cultura Hispanica under the auspices of NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Science in Madrid, Spain. She later graduated from Rutgers Law School in Newark where she received the degree of Juris Doctor.
Collins provided tips in professionalism and advice about diversity to current students.
“It’s important to know there is a distinct difference between your culture and the culture of the organization,” she said. “Diversity acknowledges that everyone is different; but organizations will only be appreciative of those differences if you come to the table prepared.”
“Be intentional on what you post on social media, because it never goes away,” Collins added.
Collins, a self-proclaimed introvert, is the recipient of several awards and has taught Human Resources Administration in the Master’s program of the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers University since 2014.
“Starting out at Bloomfield College is the best foundation for your future and your career,” said Carolyn Roberson Glynn ’69, an active member of the Bloomfield College Alumni Association and member of the College Board of Trustees. Glynn also serves on the Board’s Committees on Development and Public Affairs and Student Affairs.
Glynn, who originally aspired to be a Social Worker, graduated magma cum laude from the College with a B.A. degree in Sociology, joined Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. in 1969, and remained with the company until retiring in 2009. “I’ve spent my career in one company,” said Glynn. “But the international health care company kept reinventing itself, so I kept reinventing myself.”
During her 40-year career, she served in such leadership positions as Vice President and Director of Public Policy and Communications, and Vice President of Public Affairs, which included Roche’s Federal Government Affairs Office in Washington, D.C. She retired as Vice President, Public Affairs, and member of the North American Executive Committee.
“The best career advice I can give is to find your passion, trust your values and be the best you can be wherever you are working or whatever you are doing,” emphasized Glynn, “You will face adversity, and the key is to be open to the perspective of others and then decide with confidence what is important to you. Trust your instincts about each situation. This will take time and experience to develop confidence in yourself, but it will come.”
Glynn also advised that “another key to your growth is to be open to new experiences and to volunteer for assignments either in the workplace or your community that take you out of your comfort zone. This provides a great networking opportunity, exposes you to others in the organization and enhances your skills.
As an example, Glynn took on leadership positions outside Roche throughout her career. A former Executive Board member and chair of the New Jersey Health Products Council, Glynn was a founding member and Trustee of the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey. She also led numerous initiatives in her capacity as chair of the Public Affairs Section and Board Member Liaison of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the national trade organization for the pharmaceutical industry. During her career, Glynn was named Healthcare Business Woman of the year by the national Healthcare Businesswoman’s Association (HBA) and was the recipient of numerous other awards.
“Challenges make you stronger. You need to believe in yourself,” expressed Camille Otero ’95, a member of the New Jersey and New York State Bar Associations, and Director of Real Property & Environmental at Gibbons P.C.
The first female, minority equity director at her firm, Otero was named to Profiles in Diversity Journal's "Women Worth Watching" list in 2016. Otero is also listed in Chambers USA Guide to America's Leading Lawyers for Business, and selected to the Super Lawyers Rising Stars list, Environmental Litigation in 2006. Otero recently spoke at the New York State Bar Association Environmental Law Section Update on Hazardous Waste and Site Remediation Issues, "CERCLA Update," in Albany, NY and the Environmental, Health, and Safety Solutions' Sediment & PRP Summit, "Successes, Failures and Lessons Learned," in Philadelphia, PA.
Otero graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business from Bloomfield College and received the degree of Juris Doctor from Rutgers School of Law.
“To me, professionalism means self-respect and a strong work ethic,” said Otero, who worked two jobs while enrolled in Bloomfield College’s evening classes. “Your reputation is everything.”
Otero advised the students in the audience to never give up on their dreams, connecting her own start with that of the future Bloomfield College alumni in the audience. She guaranteed that though they may, at times, become tired, weary, and stressed, all their hard work and late nights would be worth it the day they walked across the stage at commencement.
The College looks forward to the third annual Women’s Leadership Forum in March.