Women’s History Month Employee Spotlight

Featuring women of the USC Career Center

By Sarah Ju

“I think that, as women, we always try to help each other. Even with complete strangers, there’s just a sense of community among us as women because we face gender oppression. There’s a community among us that I think is beautiful — that we help each other out, even if we don’t know each other, even if we just met. You just know that you can rely on someone else because of your shared identity or shared struggles, and I think that’s something so beautiful and empowering about being a woman.”

– Liz Banuelos-Castro, Internship and Diversity Programs Advisor

March is Women’s History Month, in which we celebrate and honor the vital role of women in making valuable contributions to history, culture, and society. In honor of Women’s History Month, the Career Center heard from some of our valuable women staff members about their personal identities and their experiences as women.

Where is your hometown?

Rodriguez: Los Angeles, CA
Rojo: Los Angeles, CA
Banuelos-Castro: Long Beach, CA
Galindo: Carson, CA
Oh: Los Angeles, CA

What drew you to a career in career services?

Rodriguez: I started working as an undergrad intern after coming in for an advising session since I was a 2nd-year student wanting to change majors.

Rojo: I joined career services to empower students, alumni, and student interns with career resources and connections in order to help them successfully launch into their career journeys.

Banuelos-Castro: I always loved professional development,, and I have always loved helping my friends and family achieve their professional goals. I also took on student leadership positions where I was the director of professional development where I was exposed to career services in a different capacity. I then decided to make a career of this,, and I decided to pursue career services.

Galindo: I love helping people discover their passions and strengths, while providing them with the practical tools toward reaching their goals.

Oh: I would not be where I am today without the amazing educators who encouraged and challenged me to pursue my dreams. In the same way, I hope to help students discover their strengths and passions and live their life to the fullest.

Is there a woman from history or in your life you find particularly inspiring?

Rodriguez: My mother. She was a single mom and worked hard to do what she could to make sure nothing was ever missing.

Rojo: My mother is my inspiration. She came to the United States as an immigrant and was able to flourish against all odds. She is the most resilient person I know.

Banuelos-Castro: During my first year of my master’s program, I signed up for the mentorship program with alumni. I was paired with my mentor Ayan Jama who had so much experience and knowledge to share with me. She made a huge impact on my academic and professional life. Although this mentorship ended, I am still inspired by her. We continue to root for each other from afar through social media. She made such an impact that I try to do the same by mentoring other young women in my master’s program. My former supervisor Denise Nelson Nash, the Vice President at Scripps College, was also one of my mentors and a person I aspire to be as I grow professionally.

Galindo: Michelle Obama: ““Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”

Oh: My mom inspires me every day through her wisdom, strength, and unconditional love.

What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

Rodriguez: It’s a time to reflect and learn about the women who have had an impact in our society/history. It allows us to highlight them to our newer generations to inspire them to follow their dreams and passions.

Rojo: When I think of women’s history month, I think of woman empowerment & all the courageous women who fought for equality and opportunity.

Banuelos-Castro: Women’s History Month holds a very special place in my heart. It is the time to celebrate how far we’ve come and the women and movements who have paved the way for us. It is also the time to reflect on what we still need to change to better support women.

Galindo: Honoring our strengths and our continued efforts to move forward despite all the challenges. I hope that as a full-time working mom, military spouse, and woman of color, I am a role model for my daughter and son. I hope they know and see the strength of women and all that we are capable of achieving.

Oh: Women’s History Month means finding inspiration from past women leaders and continuing the movements they have started.

As a woman, what are the most significant barriers you had to overcome to thrive in your role, industry, or workplace? And how did you overcome them?

Rodriguez: A barrier I have had to overcome is the ability to speak up.

Rojo: Wage equality and inappropriate behavior.

Banuelos-Castro: As a woman, I’ve had to deal with ‘mansplaining’ in former workplaces or teams. As a young professional, I didn’t know how to address this and stayed silent but I’ve since learned how to speak up and bring attention to these actions in a polite and professional way. This issue isn’t specific to my role or industry since it happens everywhere which is why I like to open this discussion with my friends and colleagues who are women to learn more from their perspectives about how to tackle this.

Galindo: Imposter syndrome is something I think a lot of women, including myself, struggle with. It’s important to tell ourselves we are here due to our hard work and to remind ourselves that we belong.

Oh: Breaking barriers in male-dominated industries.

What should leaders do to empower the next generation of women leaders?

Rodriguez: Leaders should allow the next generation of women leaders to have a voice and be able to speak up and provide opinions and ideas.

Rojo: Leaders should offer equal wages for both men & women who are performing similar jobs.

Banuelos-Castro: Leaders can provide professional development opportunities and spotlight achievements!

Galindo: Provide opportunities and mentorship for professional growth.

Oh: Increase the diversity of talent in STEM.

What advice would you give to women looking to follow in your footsteps?

Rodriguez: You should surround yourself with people who will be your mentor/champion and will make themselves available when needed.

Rojo: Never give up. When one door closes, another one will open.

Banuelos-Castro: I would advise them to find mentors and ask questions! I have learned a lot by finding mentors in my academic programs and workplaces. They have provided me with so much guidance on these challenges that women face on the path to leadership.

Galindo: You never know unless you try. You never know unless you ask. Be open to opportunities and possibilities.

What can we do to support other women?

Rodriguez: We can listen and give them a platform/space to grow personally and professionally.

Rojo: Less judging, more compassion.

Banuelos-Castro: Continue to spotlight women’s achievements and bring attention to issues we need to address.

Galindo: Continue to build each other up and provide support to one another.

All of the incredible women at the Career Center help support Trojans seeking guidance at USC by sharing the means to explore and pursue various opportunities and thrive in their career goals. 

“One of my passions is diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Banuelos-Castro said. “I want to bring that into everything that I do. I take a lot of pride in bringing students the resources that we have and external resources to make sure that they are successful. I feel like I am most proud of the events I’ve put together to bring students together, create a community, bring them resources, and help them build their professional careers at the start of their academic careers. 

“In the Career Center, all of our leaders are actually women,” she added. “They are so supportive of our professional development, day-to-day and long-term. I feel truly empowered by their actions and support for us as women in the office. They’re amazing, and they’re truly women I aspire to be more like.”

The remarkable women here at the Career Center do so much for the USC community behind the scenes. As we conclude Women’s History Month, let us continue to appreciate the significant work that women around the world do.

By Sarah Ju
Sarah Ju