Surrounded by a group of strong women growing up, Natasha Shifrin was always told, “There’s nothing you can’t do.” She took it to heart and worked diligently to rise to the role of head of global sales at Sisense.
Shifrin, who is Jewish, spoke about her journey as a successful business woman during a panel discussion at the Women’s Empowerment Dinner, hosted by Hunter College Hillel in celebration of International Women’s Day.
The panel also featured two other accomplished, Jewish women, including Tal Heinrich, a reporter for i24news, and Sarit Sandowski-Pizow, who is in her third year of medical residency at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital.
The March 7 event attracted Hillel students and community members, both women and men, who wanted to hear the women share their stories.
The women said that although they face different challenges in their respective fields of business technology, media and medicine, there is one glaring similarity between them: all are male-dominated.
Shifrin said language is the reason why there is a lack of women in these fields. The use of aggressive language in the business technology world, not the lack of any skillset, is the prime deterrent for women to apply to this field.
Hiring managers must be educated on this issue and be mindful of the language they use so they don’t dissuade women from applying to business technology jobs, Shifrin added. Hiring women promotes a rich diversity of thoughts and ideas within a company, which leads to success.
Language is a key component to other challenges faced by women in male-dominated fields, Heinrich explained. Heinrich was formerly a broadcast sports reporter, another career where women are underrepresented.
Heinrich said that male coworkers sometimes cracked harmless jokes. Other times, they made inappropriate comments that made her uncomfortable. Heinrich emphasized how important it is to recognize a joke that crosses the line.
“It’s really crucial for you to know when it’s a joke and when it’s inappropriate,” Heinrich said.
Shifrin echoed her thoughts and said that in light of the #MeToo Movement, it’s even more important to identify inappropriate language in the workplace.
Shifrin also spoke about having confidence in yourself as a professional. She said trusting yourself is of the utmost importance. And even when it’s difficult, you still have to believe in yourself.
“Don’t be afraid to own your unique opinion,” Shifrin said.
To the Hunter Hillel student moderating the panel, Ruthie Hoffman, this advice was powerful.
“What really struck me as inspiring was the validation that my perspective matters and sometimes it takes confidently stepping out of our comfort zone for our ideas to be heard,” Hoffman said.
The conversation shifted to setting priorities. Sandowski-Pizow explained that recognizing your priorities is essential to achieving your goals. Whether it be prioritizing work or family, a difficult choice must be made. She acknowledged that no matter which career path a person chooses, they will have to make difficult choices. And those choices won’t be the same for everyone.
Heinrich added on to Sandowski-Pizow’s point, telling students they’ll know when they made the right choice at the end of the day, when they come home and think, “I did the best I could have done today.”
Beck Talal, a student involved with Hunter Hillel, said she felt empowered by the optimism of these successful women who work in male-dominated sectors.
“Even with all the hurtles on their path to pursing their dreams, they all stayed optimistic,” Talal said. “Not only did they successfully achieve and overcome, but they stayed true to themselves with a smile on their faces.”
With the last question from the audience directed at her, Shifrin concluded by telling students that “No matter what, always keep trying.”
— Daniella Babaee