Texas Conference for Women provides opportunity to rise above gender inequality

Morgan O'Hanlon

Pantsuits and briefcases, symbols of professional feminism, will be abundant at the 17th annual Texas Conference for Women, where women will fight patriarchy by building their careers. 

The Texas Conference for Women is part of a national series created to provide networking and career development opportunities through workshops given by some of the top women in various fields. Among the list of women speaking today at the Austin Convention Center are Olympic soccer player Abby Wambach and international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney. 

UT alumna Carla Piñeyro-Sublett, the chief marketing officer at Rackspace, has been a member of the conference’s board for three years. This year, she will be a panelist in a session about the barriers against women’s upward mobility in the tech field­­­­­­­­ — obstacles she hadn’t always been aware of.

“When I was in college, I turned a blind eye to the role that gender plays in career paths,” Piñeyro-Sublett said. “But once you start to look at the statistics on women’s representation in corporate boards and on the number [of] women in leadership positions, you start to realize that we actually do have a problem.”

Years later, when Piñeyro-Sublett received negative feedback from a boss for having too much ambition, she decided she wanted to work toward eradicating gender inequality. 

“I tried to remember if there was anything about my actions that made it seem like I was operating from a place of blind ambition, but I couldn’t really think of anything,” Piñeyro-Sublett said. “When it came down to it, my response to him was ‘God forbid anybody ever tell your daughter that she’s too ambitious.’”

Since realizing these discrepancies, she’s decided to help other young women further their careers. 

“I’ve had an awesome career and have been helped by a lot of men and women along the way,” Piñeyro-Sublett said. “I’ve been very fortunate and am by no means jaded. I have to pay that forward.”

Doreen Lorenzo, the director of the University’s Center for Integrated Design, will lead a session titled “Strategies to Stand Out, Step Up and Get Noticed in a Male Dominated Environment.” 

In light of accusations that president-elect Trump made derogatory comments toward women, Lorenzo thinks women’s equality is especially important to keep in mind.

“You must stick to your moral compass and keep doing the right thing,” Lorenzo said in an email. “Women just don’t get a break. It is clear based on the election we still have a lot of work to do.”

Young women such as Briana Torres, a Plan II and government freshman, are excited to get a leg up in their careers by listening to advice from successful women such as Piñeyro-Sublett and Lorenzo. Torres, who will be attending the conference, hopes it will help her fulfill her aspirations to become a lawyer. 

“I want to change the idea that women can’t be powerful in politics,” Torres said. “This election was discouraging because we didn’t get our first woman president elected, but I think there’s still hope. After all, we did just elect our first Latina senator.”

Both Torres and Piñeyro-Sublett believe the low minority representation resulting from the most recent election will only motivate them to work harder. Facing these new challenges will be a hot topic this year at the Texas Conference for Women. 

“You’re only limited by your ability to think boldly,” Piñeyro-Sublett said. “I built my career by identifying issues and rising to the challenge. What I always tell people when they’re starting their careers is that if you see a problem and you’re frustrated, congratulations, because that’s an opportunity for you to make an impact.”