Wisconsin Women of Color Network, Inc. (WWOCN)
Surviving a tough economy: Leadership
Part 2 of 2
By Heidi M. Pascual
The Wisconsin Women of Color Network, Inc. confronted head-on the most important issue of the day —
the economy, and how we can “survive” or, tough as it seems — succeed — amid its difficult challenges.
People are losing jobs — by hundreds of thousands — almost every week, as America’s companies and
several state governments, wobble on their foundations. Many big firms have closed shop, following the
death of smaller, and most of all, minority-owned businesses. The group met at the Madison Area Technical
College, a very appropriate choice of venue, on a beautiful spring day in May.
The keynote speaker and the workshop presenters are known for their expertise in what they do, and
they tackled their topics with passion and energy to really drive their messages across. For these women of
color, the hard times are trials of life that we all have to hurdle and overcome. Keynote Speaker Daryl Davis
Fulmer, Ph.D., is MATC’s Vice President for Learner Success. The presenters were: Malika Monger, Rose
Jenkins, JoAnn Moore, and Gladis Benavides.
Session I: Employment Opportunities
Rose Jenkins (consultant with the Dept. of Transportation, and a DBE [Disadvantaged Business Enterprise]-
Rose Jenkins discussed the following important steps for people who are thinking to start their own
business and be their own boss.
• Self-examination- Jenkins said that this is where you would address what you’re going to do and why.
Some just jump in because the grass looks greener on the other side, but in this day and age with our
resources being tighter, she said, “If you got something great going on, maybe now is not the time to take that
leap of faith.”
• Choosing a business that’s right for you- “When you commit to be self-employed, you are wearing every
single hat there is to wear. There are no sick days, no paid vacation, no maternity leave, and you’re going to
run whether you have a fever or not. The beauty of being self-employed these days, working from home, is
that technology allows us to work in our bathrobes and slippers. But again, you have to really know the
business you’re involved in and your backup plans if you’re not going to be in production (a certain day).”
• Business Plan- You have to set benchmarks, and build on those benchmarks to gauge your success.
“Remember, you don’t have a boss now to periodically evaluate your work. You’d be responsible to yourself
to account for your work. In my business plan, I write down the numbers. I start with my personal business,
my lifestyle. I need to know exactly how much I need to make in order to sustain my lifestyle. And it’s gotten
real tight. But you got to understand what that bottom line figure needs to be. From that you work backwards.
So I have to backtrack to what it means in gross revenue , because from the revenue, I have to subtract the
expenses. By the time I’m down to the bottom line, I’m taking a draw. That allows me to meet my lifestyle.”
Jenkins added that when you’re self-employed, a big consideration is health insurance. One should ask
herself the quantity of products to sell to enable her to pay for it.
Session II: Educational Opportunities
JoAnn Moore-Getting an advanced degree
JoAnn Moore talked of her educational journey, from being a high school dropout and teen-age mother to
a highly educated woman. “I became pregnant when I was a teenager, so I dropped out of school, and
(Above) Rose Jenkins tackles
"Self Employment" while JoAnn
Moore (below) explains the
benefits of college education
|Some of the WWOCN participants at the MATC gathering
reduced poverty levels. She said even adults should go back to school because “people are losing jobs, and to remain competitive, people
have to go out and reinvent themselves.”
Gladis Benavides -A discussion on corporate culture
At the outset, Gladis Benavides quoted anthropologist Edward T. Hall on the meaning of culture:
“Man’s (humanity) medium; there is not one aspect of human life that is not touched and altered by culture. This means personally how people
express themselves, the way they think, how they move, how problems are solved, how their cities are planned and laid out, as well as how
economic and government systems are put together and function.”
Benavides explained that some people are process thinkers, while some are linear thinkers. “So sometimes if you’re writing a report, we
may have the tendency to write longer sentences or use more qualifiers,” she said. “Someone asks you to write a memorandum or a report,
you may use five pages, and the person might be expecting two. And so it’s not what we know, but how we put it down in the context of who’s
She also noted that some people, like her, may be intense in expressing things. “My boss would say, ‘You know, I have never seen you
so emotional.’ And because I have a four-degree blackbelt in Taekwando, I said, if I were emotional, he would be dead.” (laughter)
As far as how the cities are planned and laid out, Benavides has a very keen sense of cultural influence. “If you look at Milwaukee, it is the
second most segregated city in the country —geographic, economic, and racial. So economics has a lot to do with in terms of who’s working
and who’s not ...” She cited the case of the Indian Nations, which are geographically segregated in a sense, as well as the case of Allied Drive
in Madison. “What’s wrong with this picture?”
About how economics and government are put together and function, she observed that the schools are tax-based, so we know why the
poorest schools are located in certain areas.
Benavides then explained the characteristics of culture, some commonalities or principles arising from various definitions:
-Every human being has a culture. If you grew up in a rural environment, you might be different from one who grew up in an urban
-Culture is learned. It is not innate or biological.
-A large component of culture is below the level of conscious expression.
-Culture is shared. It reflects tradition, having been passed from one generation to another.
-People can belong to many different subcultures.
Benavides noted that people have “cultural tapes.” “The more obvious the difference from the person you’re talking to, the more your
tapes run,” she observed. “If I see somebody who’s White, I might feel uncomfortable, because I grew up with people who are like me. If I don’
t find my OFF button to my tape, I may be in trouble, because I’m making assumptions.” She added that abstract ideas such as religion or
sexual orientation shouldn’t be topics of jokes especially in the workplace. “These are the things that may get people in trouble because they’
re comfortable talking about stereotypes or making certain kinds of comments.”
On culture being shared, she cited the Hmong community where we see a lot of multigenerational households. “You have the
grandparents who may not speak English (in the Latino community that happens sometimes), and then the parents which are one foot here and
one foot there,” Benavides said, inviting a lot of nods from the audience.
Benavides also stated some premises about culture and race, including the following: -people tend to be racially integrated but culturally
segregated; sometimes racial segregation is caused by economic and geographic segregation; behaviors reflect the environment in which we
live; and age can affect our cultural perceptions and behaviors.
She then gave a brief description of culture’s universal characteristics and explained the implications of “high and low contextual
-How do your inventory responses help you to understand your behavior in relation to the high-low context framework?
-How has membership in various cultural groups influenced your behavior?
-How do you feel and behave with someone from a different culture?
-What are the advantages and drawbacks of your own high or low context orientation?
“High context people may be too rigid, but are good at processing information. But if you’re too high context, you would be wonderful and
get nothing done. You just go around and go ‘Oh, how are you doing? how’s your mother? I put treats in the back.’ If you’re low context, you get
everything done, but you leave dead bodies in the hallway.
“In your situation, whether it’s advocating in the community, getting together, at work or you’re looking for a promotion, I don’t believe in
selling out. I believe in negotiating with the system effectively.”
After the presentations, Gale Johnson discussed “Women’s Health and Well Being: Body, Mind and Spirit,” followed by the election of
WWOCN Board Members and Delegates to Networking Together Inc. Regional Board. The meeting was capped by a “Women’s Circle Dance”
led by Jan Saiz.
Gladis Benavides discusses
personal and corporate cultures
worked full-time to take care of my son,” she began, amid the disbelief of her
audience. “It was only when I moved to Wisconsin, from America’s Georgia back in
1985, when I went to MATC Downtown ... so I earned my GED from MATC.” From
then, Moore took computer courses to get her foot on the door. She was also
challenged by the fact that she couldn’t get promoted in her jobs. She took classes
at American Institute of Banking and received her Supervisory Skills Diploma. Later,
she went for an associate degree at MATC and transferred to Concordia University
where she earned her BA in management and communications. She continued her
education while working full-time for the State of Wisconsin. She went to Edgewood
College and earned her MBA, staying longer in school to earn her Total Quality
Moore explained the benefits of having a college degree, citing her own story to
underscore her point: a higher average yearly income; more job opportunities;
higher benefits for advanced degrees; understanding the power of knowledge;
control over your future; personal satisfaction; increased standard of living and
|Attendees perform the Circle Dance led by Jan Saiz