Breaking Barriers: Prominent Women Leaders from the New York Community Make Their Voices Heard at Berkeley College During Women's Entrepreneurship Week

 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2018 
Contact: Ilene Greenfield
Director of Media Relations
973-278-5400, ext. 1-5122
igl@BerkeleyCollege.edu
 



BREAKING BARRIERS: 
PROMINENT WOMEN LEADERS FROM THE NEW YORK COMMUNITY
MAKE THEIR VOICES HEARD AT BERKELEY COLLEGE DURING
WOMEN'S ENTREPRENEURSHIP WEEK 

Berkeley College

Photo Caption A: Women leaders from the community share their stories during Day 1 of “Women in Leadership: Breaking Barriers,” an event hosted by Berkeley College at its campus in Midtown Manhattan, NY, on October 17, 2018, in honor of Women’s Entrepreneurship Week. Elizabeth de León Bhargava, Esq., Deputy Secretary, Labor and Workforce, State of New York (4th from left), delivered the keynote address. “Women in Leadership: Breaking Barriers” is part of a global initiative that focuses on strategies for empowering women economically and politically, incubating the future of women entrepreneurs, and other important issues.

More than 450 participants gathered or followed the livestream broadcast at Berkeley College in New York City and Woodbridge, NJ, on October 17 and 18, 2018, to honor the voices of women during “Women in Leadership: Breaking Barriers.” This is the fourth consecutive year that Berkeley College has hosted this globally recognized celebration in recognition of Women’s Entrepreneurship Week.

“We must be sure to have a seat at the table,” said Elizabeth de León Bhargava, Esq., Deputy Secretary, Labor and Workforce, State of New York, keynote speaker at the event held in Midtown Manhattan. “But more important, it is what you do while sitting at the table … We must be equally sure to support each other. Coming together and supporting each other’s voices is the only way we will achieve the equality we deserve for women, the marginalized, for everyone.” 

Michael J. Smith, President of Berkeley College, encouraged the audience to learn from the speakers, panelists and conversations. “Our panelists have all faced challenges and changes in their lives,” President Smith said. “They are here to tell us how they met those challenges. Their experiences provide us with valuable leadership advice.”

Angela Harrington, Berkeley College Vice President, Communications and External Relations, and Mistress of Ceremonies, expressed gratitude to have such powerful women participate as panelists. Ms. Harrington said, “Breaking barriers means being the first, but not the last, and here you will get to meet many ‘firsts.' This includes the first Latina woman to serve as Deputy Secretary of Labor and Workforce in Elizabeth de León Bhargava, our keynote speaker. More women are also running for public office than ever before.  This is a time not only to share our voices, but to activate our voices.”

To view the program in its entirety click here.
To view all photos from “Women in Leadership: Breaking Barriers,” click here.

 

Women Entrepreneurs are Economic Forces

Angie Tang, Berkeley College Board Trustee and Impact Investing Advisor, moderated the first panel, titled Women Leading Global Entrepreneurship. She noted that as of 2010, American employees will have had, on average, 14 jobs between the ages of 18 and 46. “I am mesmerized by the fact that one-third of U.S. workers – 100 million people – change jobs every year,” Ms. Tang said.

Panelist Nancy Ploeger, Executive Director and Secretary, International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge Foundation (IWEC), had worked for a major retailer, then grew the network of New York Sports Clubs from four to 140 locations, before entering the nonprofit world as president of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, where she worked for 21 years. There, among other initiatives, she led the organization to network and partner with associations and businesses in Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. “All successful entrepreneurs demonstrate passion and perseverance,” Ms. Ploeger said. “Every time a door closed I just knocked on another door,” she said. “I recognized I was a builder. I really believed in what I was building.”

Nancy Robles-Guess, Executive Vice President, Operations and Compliance Officer, Eastern Funding, LLC, was eight years of age when she arrived in the United States with her mother and her two siblings from Costa Rica. She spoke of overcoming the hardships associated with being an immigrant and having been in an abusive relationship. “Resilience is what describes me the best,” Ms. Robles-Guess said. “Finance was an industry that seemed to have a lot of opportunity. I did not know being a Latina woman would influence my career.” Currently, she is the only Latina woman on the executive team at the firm and acknowledged the importance of having a lot of support, getting mentorship, and paying it forward.

Elizabeth Velez is President of the Velez Organization, a second-generation construction firm started by her father in 1972. From the outset, her father told her there was no place for women in construction, but Ms. Velez persevered. “Although people acted like there were strikes against me, those strikes were my greatest strengths,” Ms. Velez said. “I was strong and loving and I wanted to work together.”

Today Ms. Velez is an advocate, serving as the voice of people who are not in the room. In addition to her project involvement and corporate responsibilities, Ms. Velez serves as Co-Chair of the New York City Mentorship Advisory Board, and is a member of other diversity advisory boards for New York State and New York City, including the Association of Minority Enterprises of New York. She also serves on the board of the ACE Mentor Program of America.

When Ms. Tang asked about how panelists would level the playing field, Ms. Velez said, “I became a sponge. I gathered all of the information I could about my industry. I found my voice and asked myself, how can I advocate for change? Talent transcends gender.”

Ms. Robles-Guess added, “Put your best into everything you do.”

Berkeley College

Photo Caption B: Women leaders from the community share their stories during the first panel of “Women in Leadership: Breaking Barriers,” an event hosted by Berkeley College at its campus in Midtown Manhattan, NY, on October 17, 2018, in honor of Women’s Entrepreneurship Week. Pictured (L to R) are Nancy Ploeger, Executive Director and Secretary, International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge Foundation (IWEC); Nancy Robles-Guess, Executive Vice President, Operations and Compliance Officer, Eastern Funding, LLC; and Elizabeth Velez, President, Velez Organization. The event elevates the voices of women in business. “Women in Leadership: Breaking Barriers” is part of a global initiative that focuses on strategies for empowering women economically and politically, incubating the future of women entrepreneurs, and other important issues.

 

How Do You Lead in a Digital Age?

The second panel, moderated by Ms. Harrington, began with each panelist relating how she started her business.

Syleecia Thompson, DBA, Entertainment Manager and Brand Strategist, DYG Management Group, and Professor, Management, Berkeley College Larry L. Luing School of Business® said that her parents were entrepreneurial, but she did not have mentors. Her interest brought her on tour in the entertainment industry for 16 years. “Everything I learned I learned myself,” Ms. Thompson said.

Cristyne Nicholas, CEO, Nicholas & Lence Communications, recalls at age 10 going into her father’s office on days off from school, watching him at work. She co-founded her firm in 2007, building a start-up boutique into a top public relations agency. “You have to be flexible,” Ms. Nicholas said. “My philosophy of success is being able to adapt.”

Shelly Jones Jennings, Vice President and Director of Digital, Earl G. Graves, Ltd./BLACK ENTERPRISE, said that her mother, who was a beautician with her own shop, wanted her to go to college. When Ms. Jones Jennings had to leave her employment at Essence, she and three friends began planning to build a nonprofit and bridge the gap of technology to minority students. “My mom was a strong black woman. Every so often, I needed a person to advocate for me. Now I need to be a voice for the youngest so we can be a voice for each other. My generation was more guarded.”

When asked about the influence of the digital age, Ms. Nicholas said, “It has given women a voice; it will make us stronger. I am very proud of the younger women who are going to forge ahead … It gives me hope for the future … I am so happy the ‘Me Too’ movement came about because we are holding men accountable. I applaud the women who have stood up now and are going to in the future. We have to teach our men, our societies, to do better.”

The panelists also offered insights about how to turn a situation around as it relates to using social media. “I weigh in,” Ms. Thompson said. “Post with purpose. You do not have to attend to every argument.”

Berkeley College

Photo Caption C: Women leaders from the community share their stories during the first panel of “Women in Leadership: Breaking Barriers,” an event hosted by Berkeley College at its campus in Midtown Manhattan, NY, on October 17, 2018,  in honor of Women’s Entrepreneurship Week. Pictured (L to R) are Angela Harrington, Berkeley College Vice President, Communications and External Relations, and moderator; Cristyne Nicholas, CEO, Nicholas & Lence Communications; Shelly Jones Jennings, Vice President and Director of Digital, Earl G. Graves, Ltd./BLACK ENTERPRISE; and Syleecia Thompson, DBA, Entertainment Manager and Brand Strategist, DYG Management Group, and Professor, Management, Berkeley College Larry L. Luing School of Business®. The event elevates the voices of women in business. “Women in Leadership: Breaking Barriers” is part of a global initiative that focuses on strategies for empowering women economically and politically, incubating the future of women entrepreneurs, and other important issues.

A leader in providing career-focused education since 1931, Berkeley College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and enrolls more than 7,000 students – including more than 350 international students – in its Master’s, Bachelor’s, and Associate’s degree and Certificate programs. Students can study in more than 20 career fields. Berkeley College is comprised of the Larry L. Luing School of Business®, the School of Professional Studies, the School of Health Studies and the School of Liberal Arts. The School of Graduate Studies offers an MBA in Management online and in Woodland Park, NJ.

 

Berkeley College has three New York campuses – Midtown Manhattan, Brooklyn and White Plains. In New Jersey there are four campuses – Newark, Paramus, Woodbridge and Woodland Park. Berkeley College Online® serves a global population. For five consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has named Berkeley College among the Best Colleges for Online Bachelor’s Programs and among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans. The website address is www.BerkeleyCollege.edu.

 

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To view high-resolution versions of the above photos, go to:

Photo A: https://berkeleycollege.edu/press_release_images/FullGroup_101718cr.jpg
Photo B: https://berkeleycollege.edu/press_release_images/Panel1_Candid3.jpg
Photo C: https://berkeleycollege.edu/press_release_images/Panel2_Candid2_with_Aud.jpg

 

 

 

 

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