The independent student news site of San Marcos, California

The Cougar Chronicle

The independent student news site of San Marcos, California

The Cougar Chronicle

The independent student news site of San Marcos, California

The Cougar Chronicle

Breaking Down Barriers in Business: Women of Color


On March 7, the Latinx Center collaborated with the Women and Gender Equity Center to host their annual event, “Breaking Down Barriers in Business: Women of Color Edition.” The event allows students to hear from a diverse panel of women about their respective fields while also giving them the chance to network. This year’s panel consisted of Paola Ometto, Assistant Professor at CSUSM; Karla Cortez, Senior Manager of Ticket Operations at San Diego Wave FC; and Subarna Tripathi, Research Scientist at Intel Labs. 

Upon arriving, students were greeted by staff members, given a raffle ticket and an activity to complete while they waited for the panel to begin. The activity involved listening to the three student organizations and student businesses present in exchange for a stamp. The Latino Business Student Association, the Career Center, and Killer Bakes (a student-owned business specializing in baked goods) all spoke at the panel. After completing the activity, attendees used the stamps to redeem their dinner. 

During the panel discussion, the panelists shared what motivated them to pursue higher education, their experiences with imposter syndrome, the difficulties they’ve encountered due to gender and ethnicity, and strategies for achieving a healthy work/life balance. 

Paola Ometto shared her journey with working towards becoming a professor. She highlighted the challenges of balancing her professional aspirations with her personal life responsibilities. She recounted instances where she faced difficulty in reconciling her roles as a mother and a career driven individual. Ometto recounted the frustration with her male counterparts not understanding the challenges that came with being a working mother. 

Thanks to prior advice given to her by a colleague, she emphasized the importance of recognizing that life moves in a cyclical manner. She learned that different phases of life demand different focuses and that it’s important to embrace these cycles. For her, there were times dedicated to nurturing her family, understanding that this phase would later be over, and she could later prioritize her career and take whatever opportunities came her way.  

Karla Cortez spoke on her journey entering the male-dominated world of the sports industry. She mentioned instances where she could feel the difference in treatment between herself and her male and female counterparts, noting that women of color, like herself, faced unique challenges. Despite this, Cortez expressed gratitude for the supportive women in higher positions who actively helped her and other women to grow in their career. Today, she has strived to extend a similar mentorship to others who wish to thrive in that industry. Her advice to the attendees was to be grateful for the opportunities we are given and to extend the same help to others when we can. 

Subarna Tripathi vividly recalled a time in her career when she found herself questioning her place in the industry. While attending Google IO, a tech conference, she began to feel inadequate as she struggled to understand the topics being discussed, which is a normal, yet isolating feeling. She convinced herself she didn’t belong, which led to her considering quitting her PhD program. Thanks to her family and advisor’s advice, she overcame her imposter syndrome and understood that her not knowing everything was okay. There will be times when we will be experts on a subject, and times when we will only be able to understand a fraction of what is being discussed. The next time she attended the conference, she found a topic she understood and guided others who were struggling, echoing her own previous experience.  

Their stories not only shed light into the unique struggles that women face, but it also highlighted the importance of resilience, mentorship, and embracing that it’s okay to not always be the smartest person in the room. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s remember the valuable lessons learned from these amazing women, and continue to support and uplift each other as we further our education and careers.  

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