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Berkeley Leadership Panel Celebrates Women's History Month

(l. to r.): Melissa Orsen, Shavonda E. Sumter, Teri Duda, Holly Schepisi, Jennifer Padolina, Lauren Murphy
(l. to r.): Melissa Orsen, Shavonda E. Sumter, Teri Duda, Holly Schepisi, Jennifer Padolina, Lauren Murphy Photo Credit: COURTESY: Berkeley College

WOODLAND PARK, N.J. -- More than 150 students, faculty, legislators and community members attended the Seventh Annual Berkeley College Women’s Leadership Panel, held in recognition of Women’s History Month at Berkeley College in Woodland Park.

“It’s so important to have leaders on campus and have our students hear from successful women,” Berkeley President Michael J. Smith told the gathering Monday.

Panelists included Melissa Orsen, CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority; state Assemblywomen Holly Schepisi and Shavonda E. Sumter; Clifton Councilwoman Lauren Murphy, who is also director of the Passaic County One Stop Career Center, and Jennifer Padolina of New York Life Insurance Company.

Berkeley College Senior Vice-President Teri Duda moderated the event.

The speakers expressed passion about their work, and acknowledged how far women have come -- taking on more responsibilities beyond their families to include business ownership, civic engagement and organizational management positions.

“It’s getting better,” Orsen said. “We can be proud of the thousands of women-owned businesses in New Jersey. But many of us – myself included – are mothers and wives and have busy jobs. We have to remember that sometimes we can’t do it all, and it really does take a village.”

“We still have work to do to get women into leadership positions and involved in politics,” Schepisi added. “Studies show that companies that perform the best financially have the greatest number of women in leadership positions, but still women lag behind in assuming leadership and board roles.

"The truth is: The women aren’t stepping into enough key roles that would allow them and their companies to realize their full potential," the assemblywoman said. "As a collective group, we need to change that.”

Women have always had obstacles, said Murphy.

With perseverance and dedication she learned from her mother, Murphy became the first in her family to attend college.

“Once a woman makes it to the top, she paves the ways for others to come after her,” she said.

A question-and-answer session followed the panel discussion. Students asked about building confidence, influencing legislation and increasing the number of individuals pursuing degrees in higher education.

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