Alumnae told students about how they faced and overcame different challenges as female leaders in the USC community Tuesday.
About 40 students and staff attended “Become empowered with Michele Dedeaux Engemann, Carol Fox & Lorna Reed” as part of the Student Affairs’ Campus Conversations series in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. The three women have all served as Alumni Association president and on the USC Board of Trustees, among other university leadership positions.
When Reed joined USC’s Board of Trustees in 1982, she said male colleagues “treated [her] like a little girl” and didn’t appreciate her ideas.
“It was a very deflating experience because I had never been discounted before,” Reed said.
Reed said this frustrated her, so she talked to her husband, who told her to “take the bulls by the horn.” Afterwards she became more assertive to ensure her ideas were heard.
“I became an advocate for myself and stood up for my ideas,” she said. “[Women’s] advantage today is that doesn’t exist anymore.”
She said after she became more assertive, her peers started listening to her.
Engemann said she didn’t face particular challenges as a woman at USC because she felt supported by her school, family and friends.
“I don’t think it’s because you’re a woman that you’re challenged,” Engemann said. “We’re all challenged.”
Fox said her biggest challenge was balancing family and work.
“There were times I had to back off because family was the most important thing,” Fox said.
She said she solved this problem by doing work from home so she could continue her work with USC and be with her family at the same time.
Students said they were surprised by how inclusive the USC campus was in the past.
“I learned that even a lot of male colleagues back then were really supportive at USC,” said Ruth Barber, a junior majoring in Spanish and biology. “They were asked to step up to leadership positions [by men]. I didn’t know that about USC.”
Reed emphasized the importance of being focused on a path.
“You not only have to have passion, but you also have to choose your path,” Reed said. “Choose your path and go for it.”
Kosiso Ugwueze, a junior majoring in English and international relations, said she found the panelists’ achievements and stories inspiring and motivating.
“It was very inspirational to see my fellow women [and] to see their achievements and their Trojan Pride,” Ugwueze said. “I really enjoyed seeing the female Trojan spirit.”
Jeremy Slap, a sophomore majoring in philosophy and neuroscience, said the panelists’ gender didn’t affect his perception of the event.
“I interpreted the talk as transferring wisdom from an older generation to a younger generation,” Slap said. “A lot of what was said corroborated with my own values. I had my beliefs strengthened.”