Careers, Suits and Possibilities

By FIONA HSU, Spark Board Member

Last night, Spark hosted its 2nd Career Night at Oasis for Girls. Located in the South of Market Area of San Francisco, Oasis’ mission is to provide a safe place where young women are inspired and empowered to become strong, creative leaders in their communities. Oasis Executive Director Jessica Van Tuyl noted of the Spark Career Night partnership, “for many of our girls, this is their only exposure to successful, professional women who share some of their lived experiences so it represents an exciting space to dream and consider all that is possible in their lives.”

The panelists ranged from Monica, a pulmonologist and AIDS researcher, to Tatiana, a civil litigator, to Nancy, an investment fund advisor, to Megan, a nonprofit fundraiser, to Shelley, a skincare specialist and small business owner, and to me, a community development banker.

All of us came prepared to share the story of our life journeys. Some of us were raised by immigrant parents. Some started working at as early as 14. Some of us were often the only woman in a room. The girls nodded as we spoke. Parts of our stories reflect their own. We described studying hard, taking risks, failing, succeeding and realizing our worth.

Several of the girls asked about our salaries. Taking Jessica’s words to heart, we provided detailed and honest accounts of our salary progression, we opened up about our savings and student loan debt and we described our experiences negotiating  for compensation that reflects our work and worth.

I heard a girl in the group gasp and say, “I didn’t know a girl could make that kind of money.”

Next week is part two of Career Night – it’s the Spark Swap for Good for Oasis for Girls.

The girls are learning about work etiquette and dress, so we thought it would be a fun if we hosted a clothing swap. Each of them will be bring a few items to share and Spark members generously provided donations to supplement the girls’ contributions. We will spend the evening trying on new suits and continuing our discussion from the panel.

As professional women, we know what a new suit represents–the opportunity to dream and consider all that is possible.


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