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Hundreds seeks jobs at women’s center fair

Despite a slow job market, professional women from the political and business worlds told a full room of job seekers at the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel Friday that with enough determination they could not only find work but also start a career.

“When you can write your own check and you don’t have to depend on anybody, you are empowered,” said Ann Jawin, chairwoman of the Center for the Women of New York.

For the past 21 years, the center has held a conference entitled “The World of Working Women,” followed by a job fair, workshops on entering new fields and a fashion show. Moderated by TimesLedger Newspapers Editor Roz Liston, the panel featured women this year who spoke about how they started their careers and how the women in the audience could follow their own dreams in male-dominated fields.

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), the first woman and first Democrat to be elected in her district, said she graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a major in art restoration, which she used to work on restoring historical buildings. At 21 she was working on the construction sites in a field usually made up of men.

“There really are no barriers,” said Crowley, who spoke early in the day before hundreds attended a job fair and workshops put on by the center.

State Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) spoke about being one of the few women and the only Asian in the Assembly, while City Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing) recounted how his mother both worked and took care of his family. Koo said that with good health and a good education, women can get jobs.

“America has all opportunities for men and women,” Koo said. “It doesn’t matter.”

Other panelists talked more specifically about opportunities in their chosen fields. Sharon Perry, who works for the Federal Aviation Administration at John F. Kennedy International Airport, said her agency has jobs available to both those with high school diplomas and those with bachelor’s degrees. Grace Protos of the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor said jobs are opening up in science, technology, engineering and math-related fields. There are also openings in government, health care, green technologies and waste management.

Protos suggested that those who want to change their career or get back into the job market after a lapse should try informational interviews, as she did while trying to find a job for a year.

“I learned so much in that year just talking to people,” she said.

Johanna Maynard, director of the Queens Economic Development Corp., also said that while the current job market and unemployment can be tough, a bad job can be worse, so be open to new opportunities.

“With the economy the way it is, there’s a lot more push to starting small businesses,” she said.

Maureen Nappi, an artist, writer, theorist and professor at Long Island University who was recently inducted into The Women’s National Hall of Fame as a Veteran Feminist of America, said her parents had believed women should not go to college, but was encouraged by her teachers to go into the arts, a path which led her to doing video installations for night clubs with United Artists.

Jawin also said women should not be discouraged by hiring freezes and fears of being overqualified in the job market and that the center can help women use their experience to achieve their goals.

“I want to know what you have and if you can do it, you’re going to look beautiful to me,” Jawin said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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