Women’s conference leads the way to empowerment
By DEBORAH A. MILES
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Kirsten Gillibrand, the
youngest member of the U.S. Senate, have had a positive motivational influence
on some PEF women.
Maddie Shannon-Roberts, chair of the PEF Region 8 Women’s Program, said, “The
national and local 2008 elections were an inspiration. They showed us there is
opportunity to run for office. Women must learn ways to get there. Our mission
is to mentor, educate and empower.”
Shannon-Roberts organized a one-day conference in March to do just that. It
attracted 50 people from PEF and other unions and was co-sponsored by the NYS
United Teachers. “Empowering Women for Leadership in the Union and Beyond” was
The conference included a panel discussion with Marcia E. Sutherland, chair and
associate professor in the Department of Africana Studies at the state
University of NY at Albany; Anne Pope, the NAACP Northeastern Regional director;
Kathleen Scales, executive director of the Capital District Area Labor
Federation; PEF Vice President Pat Baker; PEF Secretary-Treasurer Arlea Igoe;
Christine Grosse, who was PEF’s first public relations director; and Colleen
Gardner, a representative from the state Department of Labor.
Kehoe Shea, a PEF Division 343 member who works at Greene Correctional Facility,
tipped her hat to the group.
“The panelists shared their backgrounds and how they rose through the ranks.
They encouraged everyone to never stop learning and to follow their dreams. They
also discussed specific issues such as the state labor commissioner’s plans to
strategically assist New York’s economy.”
Among the various workshops the conference provided, Kehoe Shea said the history
of PEF, presented by PEF Editor Sherry Halbrook, was a powerful illustration of
how many people were committed to making PEF the union it is today, how members
still remain dedicated, and the importance of supporting PEF during the global
“PEF is not your typical union,” Kehoe Shea said. “The caliber of individuals
who started it and the ones who continue making it strong is one of the best
examples of how we, as women and members, can make changes to better the lives
of ourselves and others.”
PEF Division 211 Council Leader and Executive Board member for Motor Vehicles,
Maureen Kozakiewicz, said she looks for every opportunity to learn, grow and
develop partnerships to better serve PEF members at her agency.
“The conference was an excellent opportunity to network with the other women and
men who attended,” Kozakiewicz said. “The idea of empowering women rang true for
me as a leader in trying to set my own path to better the membership.”
One of the things she brought back from the conference was “to seek a good
mentor and be a good mentor.”
Kozakiewicz and Kehoe Shea also shared this comment: “This was another great
opportunity presented by PEF.