Speakers gather for Women on Wednesday

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The SCSU Women’s Center continued its tradition of hosting speakers Wednesdays at noon in Atwood; something the center has done for 25 years. Encouraging attendance for everyone by holding seminars and speakers related to women’s issues in today’s society. On November 12, the topic of the week was “Women in the Vanguard: Overcoming Gender Barriers in the Workplace”, which featured two panelists Talisha Barlow (a St. Cloud police officer) and Tarryl Clark (a local/state political figure) who discussed their experiences as women in male dominated fields.
The event started with introductions of both speakers, their backgrounds, why they chose to enter their fields, how their connections to SCSU and Minnesota helped them. Barlow admitted that being considered a panelist made her “excited and incredibly humbled.” Clark expressed similar feelings to be considered “a woman who broke barriers.” Barlow explained her time as an athlete (on the women’s basketball team) at SCSU gave her a sense of the community; she was a role model to young people. Barlow described parents coming up to her saying “My daughter… looks up to you.” She initially was hoping to get into marriage counseling. However, she ended up earning her master’s in the Criminal Justice program. She gave credit to Professor John Campbell at SCSU to her decision. Campbell went out of his way to help Barlow make her decision.
Clarke had a different path. She was not from Minnesota originally. She spent time in Chicago and Phoenix. She majored in International Relations in college. As a freshman, she cited the difficult of having an 8 a.m. class. She connected with the students in the audience describing her changing majors, and difficult attending early morning class. She graduated from Arizona State. Her husband is a legal aide attorney, their positions as youth ministers in the community opened her eyes to others’ experiences. She became an advocate for women in domestic violence cases. All of this fueled her desire to suddenly run for office, winning her seat in the Senate (made up of 40 percent women at the time).
Barlow explained her role as the first black woman on the police force in St. Cloud. Barlow recalled an instance where she responded to a domestic disturbance call, a member of the Sovereign Nation, a woman would not open her door. She refused to speak to any other officer. Eventually she said she would only speak to Barlow, because “I look like her”. She said being a woman, and a woman of color on the police force, an equal representation gives her a sense of trust within the community.
Clark described her time in social work, having grown up in a make dominated with family. Being a mother of sons, she revealed she knew there were five minutes for her to establish her credibility. Because she was a young, white woman (who was pregnant at the time) not many father figures took her seriously. She spoke of her time in the MN state Senate and the reunion the group has. According to Clark, “If you were elected before 2007 you didn’t exist” referring to a slideshow of past Senate members. There were very few women in the slideshow. She then asked the audience to guess the three main reasons for so few women were featured.
1) Restrooms, 2) Women wearing pantsuits, as opposed to skirts and dresses, 3) Domestic violence as a prominent issue.
The two were then asked about barriers they face do to their race. Barlow mentioned her biggest hurdle as “Tokenism”. She said “I’m sure I’ve heard women colleagues of mine were hired, evaluated on, given merit because of gender. Female officers are of course compared to men.” Both speakers said that as women they are judged on their appearances as opposed to male colleagues. Clark referenced her “Hair Fan Club”. She has been criticized for changing her hair, wearing too much make-up or not wearing enough make-up. Her suits were “Too stiff”, or “Too shaggy.” She also shared two instances of being in public asked “What’s your campaign going to do about you being a woman?”, and told she was, “Not the right face for the particular district.”
The Q&A session was closed out with Barlow and Clark offering advice for young women. Barlow encouraged the audience to “embrace who you are and were you come from.” She referenced her own background saying, “It made me who I am. Your background can help you.” Clark added, “Step outside your comfort zone. Gender issues exist everywhere. That should not stop you.” Clark also encouraged everyone in the audience to run for office. An audience member asked “What strong women should we look up to?” Barlow referenced people in her own life. “My grandmother, my mother, and my basketball coach who is like a mother to me.” Clark referenced political figures “Eleanor Roosevelt, Madeline Albright, Sandra Day O’Connor.”