“Women of African Descent” Pass Along Words of Wisdom From the World of Work

Two attendees“Saint Mary’s opens a lot of doors when it comes to finding jobs. Take this experience and run with it,” said Tamika Workmon, during a “Tribute to Women of African Descent” last week.

Workmon was one of six panelists at the event, which was held in honor of Black History Month to “give a voice to alumnae of African descent” and provide an opportunity for students and other SMC alumni, faculty and staff members to network and share experiences of transitioning from college to the workforce or graduate school.

Many of the women emphasized the importance of education, including postgraduate education, in advancing their careers. “To be competitive in the financial services field, it’s imperative to have higher education,” said Workmon, who earned a B.A. in Economics and Business Administration from Saint Mary’s in 1999 and an MBA from Mills College in 2011.

The participants were:

Karla Jenkins, analyst in the Construction & Engineering division of AT&T and a member of the SMC Alumni Board of Directors

Lyone Conner, assistant registrar at Saint Mary’s

Angelica Moore, director of transfer recruitment at Saint Mary’s

Jahmese Myres, research and policy associate at the West Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy

Nicole Jackson ’05, a Ph.D. candidate in history at Ohio State University

Tamika Workmon, financial advisor for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

Conner ’04 recently completed the M.A. in Leadership program at Saint Mary’s and described it as “a phenomenal experience.” Not only did both she and her husband complete their M.A. degrees at the same time, she also provided inspiration for her mother, who completed her B.A. degree. “It’s for my daughter,” she said. “I’m not going to stop. I’m going to keep going and be the best I can be.”

Jenkins also spoke of the transformative power of education on her life. “I was working at a zipper factory,” she said, before coming to California to attend the University of San Francisco. She recently completed an M.A. in Leadership at Saint Mary’s, a program that she said “changed my life.”

Moore, a 1989 graduate of San Diego State University, said she enjoys being in a position at Saint Mary’s to give back to young people by “helping to walk them through the gates of college.”  

panel membersThe panelists also answered questions on issues in the world of work and struggles that African-American women face, such as racism and sexism in the workplace. Many of the panelists agreed that racism is still endemic in the United States and that the world of work is “a man’s world.”

Workmon spends her work days in the very male-dominated arena of construction and engineering. Her advice? “Treat others with respect. How you treat others is what’s going to get you through the day.”

Myres, who graduated from SMC in 2006 with a degree in economics, told the audience members to “challenge the images that people see in the media” and “seek out situations where you feel safe and can flourish.” After graduation, she joined Lasallian Volunteers and worked with underserved communities, and she now works for an agency in which 90 percent of her co-workers are people of color.

Moore drew laughs, and nods of recognition, when she said, “You have to be smart and strategic. Act like a lady but think like a man.”

When the panelists were asked to name the best course for someone entering the workforce in today’s economy, Jenkins encouraged students to take full advantage of the many services offered by the College, including the Career Center.

Workmon extolled the advantages of internships. She said she found her passion for finance when, during an Inroads internship with Bank of America, she visited the Pacific Stock Exchange. She also advised graduates to keep in contact with professors and staff members from Saint Mary’s and to join the Black Alumni Chapter.

And many of the panelists agreed with Conner when she said the most important thing is to “find a mentor and celebrate other women of color.”

By Teresa Castle
Office of College Communications

The event was sponsored by the Women’s Resource Center, Alumni Relations, Academic Advising, the Black Student Union, Black Student Achievement Program and Black Alumni Chapter.

Before the panel discussion, SMC student Amber Butts delivered a moving poem called An Ode to the Black Mother. Read it here.

View photos of the event.