At a panel discussion hosted by Oxygen Media last night, five successful women discussed women”s reluctance to take leadership positions and the importance of women taking active roles in times of crisis.

Paul Wong
Oxygen Media Senior Vice President Cheryl Mills moderates a women”s panel titled “”Choose to Lead: Powerful Choices”” last night.<br><br>LAURIE BRESCOLL/Daily

“It”s a tremendously powerful image,” Associate Publisher and Editor of Crain”s Detroit Business Mary Kramer said of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. “She is at the epicenter of everything that is going on, and so for people to see a woman in that kind of position is like, yes, women can make decisions that have value in these types of situations.”

Students attending the event said they found it helpful and inspiring but some said they did not see the issues the panel was advocating at work in the University.

“It was great to see a panel of successful women. I don”t often see that at this university,” said LSA junior Tiffany Buckley.

Taking questions from the audience, the panelists expressed their concern about “hurtful loose talk” about female leaders and unequal treatment by other women.

“There were secretaries who would willingly make coffee for the men, but when I asked, I watched their cheeks tighten,” said Verna Green, president of the Detroit Black Chamber of Commerce.

Shirley Stancato, president and CEO of New Detroit Inc., said that women who step out of their roles are questioned.

“When a woman moves to a particular position, other women who are socialized think, “Well, they”re out of place,”” Stancato said.

The five panelists wrestled with the inquiry of why women do not support female candidates, such as Elizabeth Dole, although they would like to see positions filled by women.

“A woman candidate has to deal with that whole layer of surface stuff,” Green said.

“Older women have in some cases been biased because they look at her and think, “Well, she cannot possibly be in selective offices if she has young child at home,”” said Teresa Planchetka, who works in the office of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

Stabenow was originally scheduled to attend the event, but issues in Washington kept her from appearing as a panelist.

“Debbie has served on very non-traditional committees her whole career,” Planchetka said.

“When you look at her public perception and what people think about her, they will not recall these things about her.”

Oxygen, the event”s host, is a media company catering to women but also works with improving women”s leadership positions.

“Our campaign is to change leadership one woman at a time,” said event moderator Cheryl Mills, senior vice president of Oxygen and former deputy counsel to President Clinton.

Oxygen will be in Nashville tomorrow for the next date in the tour.

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