Panel of four powerful Houston women spoke to a sellout crowd in the ballroom of Houston’s Junior League at the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL’s) Women’s Initiative Breakfast: “Breaking the Glass Ceiling” September 11. Speakers included Partner and Chief Diversity Officer Elizabeth Campbell of Andrews Kurth, Africa Region ExxonMobil Exploration Company Vice President Pam Darwin, Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dr. Laura Murillo, Bank of America Houston President Hong Ogle, and moderator Linda Lorelle, who serves as President and Executive Producer of Lorelle Media.
As former ADL Board Chair and Women’s Initiative Leadership Council Member Sherry Levy pointed out, the subject of the glass ceiling is important to ADL because advancing women’s equality is an ADL priority. Levy said “Just this past year, ADL supported equal pay for equal work, a woman’s right to choose, and the Violence Against Women Act, designed to protect survivors of domestic violence and provide for prosecution of their abusers.”
All four panelists gave their take on what the glass ceiling has meant for them. In general, it is regarded as an invisible barrier that blocks women and minorities from advancing up the corporate ladder to management and executive positions. And while each of the panelists had broken through the glass ceiling to an executive position, each had faced obstacles that gave them a true understanding of what the phrase meant. They also provided encouragement and expressed the belief that any women could achieve her dream, even though the prospect of a glass ceiling could be daunting.
Elizabeth Campbell, an attorney who promotes diversity at her law firm as part of her job, spoke about what it was like for her growing up, as an African American woman. Both her race and her gender presented her with challenges, but she says she was told: “ ‘You have to be better to be good.’ ” As a woman of color, I realize the challenges that I face and performance cannot be one of them. You have to be better than your “peers” in order to succeed.”
Pam Darwin, who has become a Vice President with ExxonMobil, pointed out that “women and men are equally smart.” She added it can be tough for “women going into science and math, but boy, is it worth it. If you love what you do and are passionate about it, it is worth it.”
Dr. Laura Murillo, who leads men and women as the President and CEO of Houston’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, told a story about her daughter, who was the only girl on her kindergarten basketball team. She remembered a game where there were three points left on the shot clock, a boy had the ball, and everybody on her daughter’s team—all the boys and her daughter—were yelling, “pass the ball to me!” After a moment of indecision, the little boy passed the ball to Murillo’s daughter, who sunk a basket and won the game. She said from that, she learned it’s a good idea to “pass the ball to the women in the room.”
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