Kalynn Clinton, Contributing Writer

“It’s not just thinking about how you show up and go to work every day, it’s reminding yourself that you get up and make a difference.” This is one of the many valuable pieces of advice shared by Ashley Harris and other panelists at the HER-Story event.

On March 7, to celebrate Women’s History Month, the University of Missouri–St. Louis’ Black Business Student Association (BBSA) hosted HER-Story, an annual discussion panel featuring local black female professionals. The panelists included Janell Buckner, CPA for Ernst & Young; Paris Forest, director of Strategy and Operations for Boeing; Jeanetta Hawkins, president and CEO of Personal Touches by Jeanetta; and Eric’el Johnson, an electrical engineer for Boeing; and Ashley Harris, community outreach specialist for World Wide Technology. Dacia Polk, an award-winning activist and entertainer, served as moderator. The event was held in the U.S. Bank Executive Education Room in Anheuser-Busch Hall and was also livestreamed.

The panelists discussed their experiences and shared a plethora of candid advice. On the topic of relationship building and conflict management, Hawkins discussed her experiences in various situations when she had to “check herself.” She ended by saying, “Sometimes, if you walk into a room with negative energy… sometimes you can shift the energy by checking yourself first.” Forest echoed that sentiment and also added that when dealing with conflict, “My mantra is to ‘forgive on purpose and trust on credit’ because if I let one thing ruin my day, I’d never get anything done.”

They discussed diverse and relevant topics including setting boundaries in your current professional environment, forgiveness and relationships. On maintaining professionalism, Hawkins’ practice is to “Set boundaries and make sure that I’m professional at all times.” When discussing the impact of social media on young women, Johnson said, “A great way to counteract [the negative effects of] social media is to be out in the community… be a mentor, someone they can have a reality check with, be a support network.”

Another major topic was self-care and self-worth. It was encouraging to hear how each of them overcame, or were in the process of overcoming, their own struggles with self-worth. They all stressed the importance of self-care and encouraged the audience to understand their value in both their personal and professional lives. Harris said, “[Self-care is] not always about the obvious things like getting a massage. Reminding yourself of your worth is one of the most important things you can do… don’t just remind yourself of your value in what you do but in who you are.” Buckner also added, “My daily affirmation is simply that ‘I am enough.’”

Overall, the HER-Story event was an inspiring and motivational opportunity for all those in attendance and its positive effect on attendees was apparent. HER-Story was planned and organized by BBSA President Myrina Otey, Vice President Donella Johnson, Secretary Kalynn Clinton, Treasurer Aliyah Bradshaw and Secretary Wangui Gathungu. The team was highly commended for their leadership and commitment in making it a successful event.