Bakersfield College holds “The Second Annual Jean Fuller Women In Leadership Panel”

Saioa Laverty, Reporter

The Second Annual Jean Fuller Women In Leadership Panel was live broadcasted on March 4th on Bakersfield College’s YouTube Channel. 

BC’s President Dr. Sonya Christian said, “Since the 1980s, Bakersfield College has participated in the county-wide effort to recognize the historical accomplishments of women with a month-long series of programs presented by local and regional women leaders.”  

The panelist include, Mary Barlow is Kern County’s Superintendent of Schools, Nicole Parra was a former California State Legislator, is involved in State government affairs, and is a part of the Marathon Petroleum Corporation. Katie Russel is the Superintendent of the Panama-Buena Vista School District. Dr. Fuller is a Senator Emeritus, was the former Superintendent of the  Bakersfield City School District, and also was prompted to initiate the panel.

Dr. Fuller begins by asking the panelists about the history of how they came to be in their current positions. The women had a variety of experiences but one thing that they all had in common was perseverance. Despite many obstacles they had to overcome, none of them let those deter them. In fact, they saw them as something that made them better. Barlow said that her experiences with poverty and having a parent with mental illness allowed her to be able to “understand people of a variety of backgrounds.”

Although they had different challenges, all of them had to face challenges related to being women working in fields, which are usually dominated by men. Parra explained how she had to work extra hard because she did not fit into the roles that were expected of her. She said that as a “single woman with no kids” people made automatic judgments about her and she had to persevere and work that much harder in order to gain people’s trust as a State Legislator. 

Dr. Fuller continued the panel by asking them who were some women in leadership that they admire and were role models for them. The women’s answers varied from women they knew personally to women that were more well known. Russel and Barlow both talk about women who they knew personally, such as teachers they had or former superintendents they worked with. Parra said that our Vice President, Kamala Harris, was a great inspiration to her because of how important it is for “women in the Central Valley to see women that look like them in positions of power.”

For the last question, Dr. Fuller asks the women for some “words of wisdom” for other women working to be in positions of leadership. Katie Russel has many words of advice for women who are working toward becoming a Superintendent. The biggest takeaway was to “not let rejection impact your confidence.” She explained that in her field she applied for seven superintendent positions until she finally got the last one.

Barlow’s advice was to “suit up, show up, speak up”, meaning to be and look your best, always try to be on time, and find your voice and what you are passionate about. She explained that by doing these three things someone is completely prepared for whatever they need to take on.