Women leaders gather to share career insights and humorby Jan Janes on Apr 14, 2017
Convening the first women's leadership panel at Gavilan College to celebrate Women's History Month, Superintendent/President Dr. Kathleen Rose asked three local leaders to share their paths and career obstacles with the college audience. The panel was presented by Student Equity and the Gavilan College Library.
Laura Perry, alumna and current President of the Gavilan College Board of Trustees, is a family law attorney in Morgan Hill. Krystal Lomanto, also an alumna, was elected Superintendent of the San Benito County Office of Education managing 11 diverse local school districts. Mickie Luna is a Hollister City Council member and longtime grassroots leader working to empower people.
Mickie Luna, Krystal Lomanto, Laura Perry and Kathleen Rose shared career questions
and answers during the first Women in Leadership panel at Gavilan College.
Dr. Rose asked the panelists to describe their academic and career decisions that got them where they are today. They had a lot to say.
Laura Perry: I'm from back East, got married and had a child by age 18. Going to college was not in the plan for me, that was back in the days when guys shipped off to Vietnam. The father of my kids was in the Air Force, and I wanted to know why we were living in a trailer on base instead of the nice housing. When I discovered that was reserved for officers, which meant you have to go to college: Bing! I told him he was going to college. While he went to school I worked at the nearby university. As an employee I took classes for free, I'm a jock, so that was archery, ice skating, swimming. After moving to California, we ended up divorced and I married a man working in Silicon Valley. Electronics were booming, he launched a start up company on the side but got fired from his job because of the conflict.
I found my road to Gavilan by getting fired from my job.
Fired on Friday, they came to take the company car back on Saturday, and I sat there crying. My husband, formerly military (not much got to him), asked why. He said it was an opportunity, that a winner would do something about it and a loser would just sit and cry. I was so furious I drove to Gavilan the next Monday. I always wanted to go to college and here was my chance. The counselor asked me if I wanted a degree or a divorce, and I told him probably both. I signed up for 21 units, had great instruction and guidance here, steering me to SJSU on a scholarship and then to Santa Clara Law School. After graduating from law school, I ran for election to the board, I just love it. That's how I found my way.
Krystal Lomanto: I was born and raised in San Benito County, in Hollister. I attended Spring Grove School and San Benito High School. School counselors and my mom pushed me to go to college. I came to Gavilan, met an influential counselor who pushed me to attend a four-year college. Going to Gavilan is much cheaper to get your general education out of the way. I discovered a real passion for science and had wonderful science teachers. I transferred to Fresno State to pursue a career in physical therapy, and FSU was one of the few schools that offered that degree. At the same time I was mentoring and tutoring Hmong students in Fresno, loved it and knew I really wanted to be a teacher.
Oh my gosh, I've worked all these hours…now I'm going to change my major?
My parents were very supportive, and I easily transferred over my science credits. Then I got my teaching credential, working an extra year for free. I started teaching in a town so small, fell in love with it. But I also fell in love with my current husband, a walnut farmer. His trees didn't move, but my job did. I returned to SBHS for 27 years, first as a teacher and then later as principal. I got a call from the superintendent on a Friday night. He decided to retire, telling me he was not running for reelection and told me I'd be great at it. And I thought: what…are you crazy? I was encouraged by others as well. I only had three days to decide, get signatures, make the leap. I decided I wanted to do this to give back to the entire community. A lot of the grounding I have, as the first one in my family to go to college, was due to the counseling I received while at Gavilan.
Mickie Luna: My life is grassroots. I am the youngest of 12 children. Growing up we moved to every labor camp in the Central Valley. We moved back to Hollister where my dad used to grow tomatoes. When I was in high school I got good grades. I did everything in order to graduate. But I had a counselor who told me, your hair is always so nice. You should go to beauty school. And although I got As and was a good typist, I ended up at beauty school. I should have had someone encouraging me to go a different route.
Every school should have a career center and counselors to encourage you.
I was living so close to the city college I decided to sign up for classes. I liked college a lot better than beauty college, and eventually went to Fresno City College. I was always interest in finance and worked for the City of Hollister for 30 years in the finance department. It seemed like every time I turned around, someone needed help, so I would connect them with someone who could help them. The grassroots community is so important. There is always a need for someone to encourage people to do the right thing. I am so glad I was planted into the grassroots of the San Benito County community. I learned so much about how to help and motivate others. I decided to be a representative of the people and ran for city council in 2014. There are no women on the San Benito County Board of Supervisors. I'm the only woman on the Hollister City Council. I have a responsibility to my community, especially to women, to empower them and help them get into the political arena.
Dr. Rose asked the panelists about the obstacles they faced during their careers, and how they made achieving their goals more difficult.
Laura Perry: As an attorney I face obstacles every day with my own clients, other clients, other attorneys and in the courtroom. I didn't have any issues at Gavilan, at SJSU and none during law school being female. Early in my working career I worked in the athletic department at a university. This was before Title IX. I watched all the jocks, they were all men, to see how they won games and how they were successful. We were in the military, it was all men, and I watched how they became pilots, officers and leaders. Working in Silicon Valley, it was all men in sales and marketing and executive positions. I watched what they did.
You need to have lots of weapons when you're a female working in law.
I used to race motorcycles, and I kept up my skills. I took flying lessons and got my private license. At Gavilan I took my GE courses. I took Spanish because I wanted a foreign language. And I took golf, because I knew going into business or law you were going to need it. A guy walks into the courtroom, he's tall, he's bigger, he's wearing a dark suit, he has a big booming voice. We actually took classes on jury skills, how to dress, how to stand. I always had a large purse that can slam down on the table. I put it down as a divider, and I put my briefcase, and it's like a wall. You have to know your job, but there's a lot of intangible factors. The tangible is knowing what the law is and the facts to argue your case. There's a whole aura around it. I need to be as forceful and convincing as guys are. An English teacher at Gavilan helped me get rid of my New York accent. She told me you want people listening to what you're saying, not how you're saying it. I worked for years to get rid of that accent to accomplish that.
She taught me that to have a good voice, you want to sound commanding.
Advice I got from my dad, and from late husband: if you want to learn to ski, follow a great skier down the slope and copy their body. You know this is an athlete. Whatever you want to do, find a person who does it really well, there's no magic, no hidden tricks. Copy exactly what they are doing. That's how you learn it. That's what I try to do. I don't have any women role models. I grew up in a time when it was all male role models. I don't think that's a bad thing because where I ended up is dealing with male attorneys.
Krystal Lomanto: Most of you realize that science is not the traditional field for a female. Times are changing, and kids going to school now see more females leading the way in a science field. When I attended Fresno State, my study was on the biological side, the kinesiology side. There were not a lots of females in the classrooms. I had a professor, Dr. Donna Pickle, now retired, who was a strong female in the science department. She told me this, and I use it to this day: speak loudly, speak proudly. If you don't know what you're talking about, fake it!
You commanded the room, and that's what you need to do. Every day.
Convince everyone in the room, every time you speak, that you know what you're talking about. Wear it well. Dr. Pickle would coach us behind the scenes. I was very fortunate to have her at the college level. I wasn't sure I wanted to continue in that field because it was so competitive. Mostly for PT. A lot of men are physical therapists. As I got into the practice of it, my advisor was a male PT, the asst was a male PT, and I was surrounded by male classmates. And her voice, Donna Pickle, was always in the back of my head. It gave me the strength to carry on in that field and continue to my degree, decide to change my field and go into teaching. It carried over into the administrative side as high school principal. I was the only female during my time running a 3000-student, 300-employee comprehensive high school.
Taking over a table, taking over a room: it's a power struggle.
Out of the 58 California County Office of Education superintendents, more than two-thirds are male. When we do meet, because there are only 58 of us, we are very empowered as women. Sometimes we can't be heard, so we strategize as females prior to meeting We know there will be topics that need the female voice articulated. I learn from my male counterparts, but I also know that my voice, supporting my county, all of my teachers and my kids, matters. I'm going to have that voice.
Mickie Luna: Coming from a family of 12, and having eight brothers, they were my support group. My sisters were the quiet ones. I became a member of the ATT Latino advisory board, a 15-member board with only one other woman. We got along fine, great, but as soon as she spoke, the men started to speak. Excuse me! I'm on this board as a member. I would appreciate you not interrupting because we do have something to say that you should hear. From then on everyone backed down, the other woman looked at me and followed my example, and we got the attention of everybody in that room.
Don't ever sit in the back of the room, sit in the front.
Being the chair of a statewide organization, when the board had conflict, the majority were men. From 1929 to 1992 LULAC continued had all men, it took that long to elect a woman to the largest Latino organization. But we did it. I worked on her campaign, and by 2004 we had more women than men. It took women supporting women. The high school and college students are looking at you to see what you have done, because they need to follow your example. Growing up I felt the discrimination. But if we don't stand up for our rights, no one is going to hear you. You need to speak out, it brings credibility to women. As women we speak out. People are aware of what you are doing in a room full of people.