ABILENE, Texas (KTAB) – They are influential and powerful, but their roads to their success weren’t easy. It may be 2019, but that doesn’t mean women aren’t still facing challenges every day. These five unique women are all hoping to empower women of all ages.
Right now we’re in a new wave of feminism, with women across the country stepping up and letting their voices be heard and right here in the Big Country, we are no exception. These five women are making their marks in Abilene, but their paths to success look very different.
“I have always been what I call the ‘token female,'” Billye Proctor Shaw says.
From businesswoman to what she calls herself, “The Queen of the Volunteers,” Billye Proctor Shaw is no stranger to being the only woman in a room full of men.
“I cannot say that you don’t go in thinking, ‘Oh my gosh,’ but you get in there and you put your shoulders back and you look straight ahead, and I never felt intimidated, no,” she says. “I felt very special to be there among them on what I thought at the time was an equal footing. Maybe they didn’t think so, but I did.”
For Hendrick Medical Center neurosurgeon Leslie Pickett Hutchins, her career field is dominated by men.
“There’s probably 10 to 15 percent of neurosurgeons are female,”she says.
Having a child during her residency didn’t make things any easier, but with support from those around her, Dr. Hutchins says motherhood has actually made her a better surgeon.
“Because I start thinking, ‘That’s everybody’s little boy, that’s everybody’s little girl,’ and treat people how I would want them to treat my family, and so I think being a female adds a lot to surgery and I think having more females in the field has actually made neurosurgery better,” Dr. Hutchins says.
A woman’s perspective is exactly why Donna Albus says she ran for city council.
“Yes, the guys are doing a good job, but sometimes you just need to have that woman voice,” Albus says.
Now as the only female city council member, Albus says she’s seen her fair share of naysayers.
“Well, it’s kind of the last laugh, you know? When people think that you can’t do it, it’s just like waving a red flag in front of a woman. It’s just that extra push that you need to show that we can indeed do as much as you think we can and more,” Albus says.
For Senior Pastor at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Felicia Hopkins, breaking barriers is nothing new.
“The church is just like every other group in society. We wish that there was not discrimination, we wish everything was perfect in the church, but it’s not,” Hopkins says.
Being an African-American woman has also added some adversity.
“I’ve always had to do as much as my peers and the truth, sometimes yes, a little more, but understanding that, I’ve always been up for the challenge,” Hopkins says.
For McMurry University President Dr. Sandra Harper, it’s overcoming perceptions that she’s had to battle through her career.
“For whatever reason, people still think of a leader as a man,” Dr. Harper says. “So you have to really overcome that. Be more prepared, more confident, more whatever to be able to overcome that subconscious thing.”
Despite their different roads to success, these women all have one thing in common.
“I’ve had some of the younger women say, ‘Well we just haven’t noticed that glass ceiling that, you know, you keep talking about,’ and I’m like, ‘You can say thank you now,'” Albus says.
Through their success they know they are leaving a legacy for the women of the future.
“Have confidence in yourself,” Albus says. “Don’t be afraid to speak up, but always give more than what’s expected of you.”
“Believing in yourself and don’t take it personal if it doesn’t work out. That is huge.” advises Dr. Harper.
“When things don’t go your way, regroup and make a new plan and go,” Dr. Hutchins says.
“Continue to learn,” Billye Proctor Shaw says. “Do not get static in where you are.”
“You are who you are with the gifts and talents you have for a reason. Find your passion and fill it.” Hopkins says.
Sitting down with these women, hearing their stories and seeing how they opened doors for the generations to come was nothing short of empowering.