Successful women discuss career paths as part of Cal U's celebration of Women's History Month
A judge, a financial adviser, an executive director and a police sergeant described professional positions and achievements that resemble “spaghetti” more than direct career paths on March 23 during a Women’s History Month presentation.
“Women Paving the Way,” organized by graduate student Yesmina Salib, featured Traci McDonald, judge, Washington County Court of Common Pleas; Michel Conklin, executive director, BotsIQ; Melissa Stein, co-founder, Stein Wealth Advisors; and Tiffany Kline-Costa, sergeant of the Community Engagement Office, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.
The women presented their experiences to a virtual audience, encouraging listeners to be bold in their pursuits.
“Don’t eliminate yourself because you don’t feel qualified or ready,” Kline-Costa said. “If it’s your desire or interest of passion or interest, you have to move forward. Don’t let fear dictate your decisions or you’ll eliminate yourself and never be a winner.”
Several panelists described careers that started in a different field or position but ended up providing the experience necessary for them to excel in their current roles.
Conklin was a teacher and athletic trainer before taking a position as program manager for BotsIQ, a combat robotics program that aims to interest children in manufacturing careers.
“I’ve been a caretaker and nurturer, and even though I’m not in a classroom, all the programs we do at BotsIQ are centered around helping youth understand that manufacturing is a good career for them.”
A younger McDonald envisioned a career in corporate law, “anything that doesn’t involve courts as a whole.”
In 2020, she became the first Black woman to take the oath of office as a Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge and the first Black woman to be elected to a countywide office in Washington County.
“I never could have imagined this career path, but t’s been a blessing,” she said. “I was supposed to be in this position, and there are many things I wouldn’t have been able to do without my life experiences.”
Stein explained her experience as a female financial planner, a field that is predominantly male.
“It was hard to earn respect early on, when I was viewed as a young kid,” she said. “How do I navigate this man’s world and create a network in the Washington/Pittsburgh community? Most of my role models were men, but they were helpful in wanting to empower me, they wanted to help me build my career.
“Put your head down, be good at what you do, and treat others the way you want to be treated.”
She founded the POWER of Southpointe in 2008, founded to bring education and leadership development to women in the area.
The panel provided some parting words of advice for Cal U students: Aim high. Allow yourself to excel. Never stop learning — it will help you professionally and personally. Find a mentor.
“Don’t undervalue yourselves,” Conklin said. “You have to be your own North Star.”
Women’s History Month concludes
The March celebration will end with a “Celebration of Women” at 11 a.m. March 30. Recipients of The President’s Commission for the Status of Women Person of the Year award and the Dr. Melanie Blumberg Sunshine Award will be announced.
Blumberg, a political science professor and director of the American Democracy Project at Cal U, was a champion for students and colleagues alike and known for her legacy of positive energy and mentorship. The award recognizes individuals who are outstanding mentors and support the hard work and accomplishments of others at Cal U and who inspire a legacy of bringing “sunshine” to the Cal U campus.