Ring! Another phone call rang out waiting for her to answer, she apologized immediately and turned off the notification. The bustling household and yells of her family members continued to play out in the background of a Zoom call with Maria Ahumada, CEO of Angel de la Comunidad Fundacion, a non-profit based in the Los Angeles Area which uses advocacy and litigation to protect and fight for Latinos.
These are just a few examples of the reality of women who have transformed their homes into their new office space during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ahumada and Cierra Hammond, the CSUSB ASI Director of External Affairs, are just two of the leaders in our community who are bringing a feminine touch to leadership as they innovate and find new ways for coping with the psychological pressures that come with COVID-19 pandemic.
Hammond said that she must stay positive during these trying times, as many people look to her to lead. Instead of dwelling on the negative, she explained, “I try to focus on things that are in my control and cope using things like baking, cooking, and playing guitar.”
Women Leading in Business: Overing the Economic Challenges of COVID-19
Cynthia Pasky, CEO of Strategic Staffing Solutions, began monitoring the developments of COVID-19 starting in December. She explained that thanks to this approach, she was able to protect her employees and be prepared to help the businesses that are essential to San Bernardino.
“We moved our employees and consultant to work at home two weeks before anybody was mandated to do so. Because we had everybody working from home and the technology lined up, we were prepared to help our customers,” stated Ms. Pasky.
Strategic Staffing Solutions has supported and employed the most essential industries in our community, such as Trinity Health, Chevron, and Wells Fargo. Pasky has kept herself occupied and has overcome the economic struggles of COVID-19.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Minority Populations: Maria Ahumada on Protecting the Latino Community During COVID-19
Ahumada spoke about the work she continues to do for the Latino community during these trying times.
“COVID-19 has closed a lot of doors for me,” Ahumada said. “My employees are out looking for jobs that pay them during these times and I don’t know if they’ll come back when this virus is over.”
Instead of letting these challenges stop her, Ahumada has found greater importance in defending the Latino community during these times.
“I am currently fighting to get a Latino man out of jail, he has been abused not only by other inmates but guards as well. I understand that now is my time to help him and that it is my job to help people no matter the circumstance.”
While some women are running our business and protecting our minorities, others fight for the students. Student leaders have pushed to make changes for CSUSB students, while simultaneously dealing with their own problems.
“There are a lot of things that got taken away from me due to COVID-19. I do not get to visit the campuses of the Ph.D. programs I was accepted into and I don’t get to walk the stage at commencement,” said Hammond.
Marina Stone, President of the Panhellenic Council at CSUSB and the President of Alpha Delta Pi, has led through example.
“It is my job to be a calming and stable force in my sorority, as well as being the main line of communication between the local and international chapter of ADPi,” said Stone. “Throughout the day, I’m working at my campus job and hosting meetings for my sorority, but at night I’m sewing, painting and giving myself the time to wind down.”
Not unlike many businesswomen, Stone has undertaken the task of caring for someone in her apartment. She explained that instead of picking up meals and staying at school to study, she goes home after work to cook and clean up after her younger sister.
The changes COVID-19 has made in our community has helped our leaders grow and look forward to the future. Hammond explained that this crisis has opened her eyes to how easy it is to “accommodate disabilities and illness” if people were more conscious of the role they play in other people’s health and lives.
By taking a step back during COVID-19, more women have also recognized the state of their mental health and how they can better service their psychological wellbeing.
“Women are quickly learning how to navigate the difficult terrain COVID-19 has paved for them and are beginning to be more vigilant of their mental health,” said Tayna Torres, a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch. “Besides marketing and a strong presence on social media, women are looking to meditation, reading and bonding with loved ones as a way to cope.”
One of the similarities found between these women is that their support systems have helped them greatly at this time.
Stone explained that she shares recipes and conversation with Hammond at night. Hammond explained that she and other women leaders in ASI are truly engaged in the work they’re doing and support each other on each of their individual projects.
“All women business owners agree that physical distancing does not mean social distancing, so they are supporting one another in many admirable ways, and reminding themselves, it’s okay to not feel okay,” stated Tanya Torres.
Despite taking on new household responsibilities and being forced to adapt to the challenges of social distancing, our women leaders have found ways to overcome the barriers set in their path. Whether it’s taking up painting or meditating, these women have found ways to handle their own personal disappointments and issues so that they could give their communities and industries a fighting chance. Though society tells us that women cannot be effective leaders, these women are surpassing and dismantling the expectations and limitations set before them.
“As a successful business person and a woman, I do not allow what they call a ‘glass ceiling’ to stop me. I can either beat my head against that glass ceiling or go somewhere where I can succeed,” Pasky stated. “As a woman, I can let that be an excuse and let there be a limit to what I can do, but I don’t let that happen. I continue to drive change and it’s because I don’t let there be a limit on what I can do because I’m a woman.”