By CDCR staff

Valley State Prison kicked off National Correctional Officers and Employees Week with the Women Working in Corrections Symposium held May 2 in Fresno.

The keynote speaker was Director Connie J. Gipson while other speakers included Deputy Director Katherine A. Minnich, Central California Women’s Facility Warden Janel R. Espinoza, and Regional Healthcare Executive Eureka C. Daye, PhD. Each speaker shared their personal challenges of working in a paramilitary, male-dominated field, while trying to practice self-care and balance a home life. They shared advice, wisdom and encouragement.

Dr. Daye gave advice on developing your own Professional Brand and Executive Presence. As well as reminding us, “The only time you should be looking down on another woman is when you’re lifting her up”. Additionally, Dr. Daye encouraged “Solidarity of Amplification.” Dr. Daye discussed ways to handle when someone feels restricted or stuck in mid-level management, offering tools to further a career and promote positive upward mobility.

Deputy Director Minnich said, “We each have a responsibility to demonstrate and encourage a culture that fosters inclusion, respect for ideas, and diversity of thought.” She reminded those in attendance of the resources the department provides for health and well-being. She said the importance of self-care is critical in having a healthy balance of your personal life and professional career. “Self-care isn’t glamorous. It’s the everyday work you do for yourself to make you a little bit happier and healthy.”

Warden Espinoza detailed her experiences and avenues she has taken throughout her career. She explained her personal struggle as she transitioned from the medical field to executive management as well as the resistance and challenges she faced along the way. Warden Espinoza noted, “Opportunities don’t happen, you create them.”

Director Gipson gave insight on her career and the challenges she faced as she promoted through the ranks. “Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know, what you don’t know.”

She also said your best resource is the first line staff who are doing the job day in and day out. Director Gipson explained there will be people who doubt and question you, but regardless of your job title or position, always be true to yourself. Director Gipson reiterated, “Never give up. Great things take time, sometimes two years and three weeks.”

CCII F. Singleton emailed following the event: “This was my first women’s symposium, so I really didn’t know what to expect; however, I was surprised by the turnout and intrigued by the speakers. Hearing from women who have walked in my ‘boots,’ and now ‘heels,’ really put things in prospective and let me know that I am not the only one who had/has a sense of doubt and have hit road blocks in my career. Hearing their stories and being surrounded by other women who are striving for a more successful career in corrections really is a great motivating tool.”

Lt. M. D. Williams emailed following the event: “It was absolutely phenomenal, extraordinary, and life changing. These women poured their hearts out to the attendees. No exaggerations, team. It was Incredible. The priceless experience, wisdom and information shared at this event were astonishing and impressive. I was humbled at some of the life and work experiences that were shared. The very best $25 I have ever spent in my life. I left energized, hopeful, and ready to take on the world.”

Sgt. V. Melendez emailed following the event: “I would like to thank you and your partner tremendously for all the work you put into making it happen! It was epic and I believe all of you wonderful women are paving the way for more of these events.”

Each speaker provided a unique perspective with a common theme; “believe in yourself, break the glass ceiling, make your voice heard and acknowledge that there is no limit to what women can do.”