Girl Scouts host 'Women in Leadership Career Seminar'

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Killingly - posted Mon., Jan. 30, 2012
Girl Scouts Ruth Maerkel, Emma Miller and Taylor Randolph with panel members. Photos by D. Coffey.
Girl Scouts Ruth Maerkel, Emma Miller and Taylor Randolph with panel members. Photos by D. Coffey.

Girl Scouts from Troop 65005 sponsored a “Women in Leadership Career Seminar” at the Killingly Community Center on Jan. 28. Emma Miller, Ruth Maerkel and Taylor Randolph coordinated the event as part of a Journey project. Journey projects are a necessary step toward a Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouts. 

Miller, Maerkel and Randolph brought together seven women from the community to talk about their careers. The women fielded questions raised by the Scouts, their mothers and troop leaders on topics ranging from how they got to their current positions to what goals they still have to reach.

The panel consisted of Lisa French, respiratory therapist at Day Kimball Hospital; Tracy Wood-Waggoner, assistant director for Killingly Parks and Recreation; Tracie Molinaro, a partner in the St. Onge and Brouillard law firm; State Rep. Mae Flexer (D-44); Karen Osbrey, owner of WINY radio station; Shaina Smith, WINY news director; and Linda Colangelo, education and communications coordinator for the Northeast District Department of Health.

The seminar was aimed at giving the girls a chance to hear about a wide range of job possibilities and how each panelist realized her career goal. Most admitted that their job goals changed over time as they came to realize what their talents were. Osbrey started out studying to be a nurse, but soon realized that she loved working at a radio station.

Molinaro studied anthropology as an undergraduate. She came to appreciate how her studies of other cultures prepared her to look with fresh eyes at a variety of legal issues. “There's not just one way to look at things,” she told the girls in the audience.

Colangelo had her heart set on being an opera singer when she graduated from high school. When financial constraints and health challenges shut the door on singing, she found work as a copywriter. “I loved writing,” she said. “I had a flair for it.” That talent led her to create her own business. It also led her into the public health field, where she coordinates educational programs for the Northeast District Department of Health.

Panelists were asked how they managed to balance work obligations with family needs. The mothers on the panel admitted that it was a continual challenge. Molinaro said, “I'm good at my job. I'm good at being a mom. I'm just not always good at both at the same time.”

Wood-Waggoner said she retired from a professional sports team when her daughter was 5 years old. “It was her turn to play,” she said.

Smith's family life revolves around a radio schedule that has her up most mornings at 3:30. “When you're a mom, you have lots of energy you didn't know you had,” she told the audience. But she also spoke about the help she gets from extended family.

Osbrey spoke about her decision not to have children. “It was a conscious decision my husband and I made,” she said. She ran down a list of organizations that she belongs to, spoke about the nieces and nephews and other children in her life. “It's important to know that you have a personal choice,” she told the girls. “You can live a happy, fulfilled life.”

Each of the women spoke about what motivated them. Each of them offered their own advice garnered over the years: Don't close off any opportunities; Always be ready for something to come up out of the blue; Take a chance, even when you can't see how things will work out; Find what you love to do.

The women also spoke about the stereotypes they encountered in the workplace and how they overcame them. Flexer talked about the internal and external stereotypes she battles – being a politician, and being a young woman working at the state house. “Not all politicians take advantage of their jobs,” she said, speaking against a popular notion that politicians are unsavory. “Most of us are there to do what's right by our communities, our state and our country.” And she has had to push back in order to be taken seriously as a young woman in a field dominated by older political leaders, she said.

Osbrey said that most radio stations are owned by men. People often assume that her husband is the sole owner.

Molinaro said that the legal profession is a male-dominated field, with women making up about one-third of the local, state and national work force levels.

Colangelo told the girls not to compare themselves to anyone. “Honor and embrace yourself,” she told them. “Find your God-given talents and celebrate the person you are.”

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