On a recent May afternoon, Class 2 students in Room 32 eagerly gathered on the rug, sitting crisscross and facing a panel of very special guests. “We’re so happy you’re all here!” Head teacher Chelsea Sue announced to the group.
These four guests were, in fact, Chapin moms, each with beaming smiles as the students applauded. Ms. Sue reminded the students that these women were joining them today for a belated Women’s History Month career panel and encouraged them to be a quiet and thoughtful audience.
The speakers began by introducing themselves and sharing their professions. First up was Evette Ferguson, Assistant Clinical Professor at Mount Sinai Hospital; followed by Reem Sharaiha, Director of Interventional Endoscopy/Director of Bariatric and Metabolic Therapy at Weill Cornell Medicine, New York Presbyterian Hospital; Rebekah McCabe ’93, Head of Communications and Creative at Chanel; and Liliahn Majeed, Global Chief Diversity Officer for Universal Music Groups.
Ms. Sue and Associate teacher Madeline Burns began the discussion by asking the panelists their first question: “Why is your career so fulfilling?”
Both Dr. Ferguson and Dr. Sharaiha expressed that their joy comes from being able to help people. Dr. Sharaiha explained that as a gastroenterologist, she’s feels rewarded by being able to help folks resolve stomach issues and Dr. Ferguson said, “As a primary care provider, I work mainly with teenagers. Sometimes they find their parents or even friends hard to talk to, but they can come to me, and then I can help them.”
“I work in the fashion, makeup and beauty space,” Ms. McCabe said. (When she asked students if they knew the brand “Chanel,” she was met with several cheers.) “I like to create things that make people dream.”
Ms. Majeed shared, “I am committed to ensuring our team members, artists, songwriters, fans and partners feel safe, seen, heard, appreciated and respected and using our influence to create a more civil and just society.” She stressed, “I get people to understand that everyone is valuable, important and belongs.”
The next question prompted panelists to share some challenges they’ve faced in their career. Both doctors agreed, “The training!” while Ms. McCabe noted that balancing everything as a working mother can be difficult at times.
“Sometimes I’m the only person in the room who looks like me – whether the only woman or only Black person,” said Ms. Majeed. She explained that a big part of her job is speaking up for those who are not in the room or whose voices aren’t being heard. “I tell myself to choose courage over comfort every day and I remind myself that I belong in every room I’m in.”
“How did you overcome these challenges and persevere?” asked Ms. Burns.
Ms. McCabe responded first saying, “Well, I went to Chapin, too. This place really helps build your confidence. When you leave, you know you have a place in the world. You are lucky and fortunate to be here.”
“Thinking about all of you!” Ms. Majeed answered, smiling. “I want to make the world a bit better for you all to grow up in.”
Next, the panelists shared how they help people in their respective fields. Dr. Ferguson explained that she recently started teaching at Icahn School of Medicine and loves getting to help young new doctors. “They’re just so excited!”
Dr. Sharaiha, too, helps people who are training for residency saying, “I love to help young women doctors and physicians who come to train in the States.”
Ms. McCabe shared that she often speaks with students at schools, universities or events – much like today – to share more about her industry. “Sometimes people just don’t know this opportunity is out there,” she noted.
The students listened attentively to the speakers while waiting for the opportunity to ask their own questions, some of which included “What did you want to be when you were our age?” and “How old were you when you started your career?”
Soon it was time for dismissal and the class burst into a round of applause as their teachers concluded the informative session, saying, “Thank you so much for spending some time with us today!”