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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Female leaders in San Marcos share their paths to success

Photo Courtesy of Student Involvement and Engagement
Panelists (From Left to Right) Cynthia Hernandez, Zenarae Antoine, Bobbie Garza-Hernandez and Jessica Gendron speak at “Embracing Your Power,” Thursday, March 21, 2024, in LBJ Student Center Ballroom.

In honor of Women’s History Month, Texas State University’s Student Involvement & Engagement hosted a panel luncheon on March 21 in the LBJ Student Center Ballroom, highlighting the women in leadership.

The panel titled “Embracing Your Power” allowed four prominent women in leadership roles in San Marcos to share their stories.

Jessica Gendron

The keynote speaker, Jessica Gendron, is the CEO and president of The Center for Leadership Excellence, a resource for organizations and companies to build leadership and culture within the workplace. Gendron covered her experience as a woman and empowering other women, inspiring her to share her wisdom through her novel “What It Takes to Shatter Glass.”

“I started writing [the book] about self-advocacy because I believe with every fiber of my being that if we were better at advocating for ourselves as women, we would be able to be more successful, not just in our careers, but also in our personal relationships, our friendships, our romantic relationships and in our lives,” Gendron said.

After some research in 2019, Gendron discovered that a disproportionate number of men wrote books about leadership than women. This inspired her to understand the difference in how women achieved their success and offered an outlet for women to share their stories in a program called “Ladies Leading” where she interviewed successful, everyday female leaders.

While receiving anecdotes from successful women, Gendron realized commonalities throughout their stories and discovered seven female leadership competencies: self-advocacy, self-awareness, resilience, courage, communication, intuition and relationships. She said these skills, especially self-advocacy, are needed for women to succeed.

Cynthia Hernandez

Panelist Cynthia Hernandez, Texas State’s vice president for Student Success, was motivated by her father to become a leader, despite being a woman.

“My dad always said to me, ‘If you don’t see somebody who looks like yourself in something you want or in a position of leadership, you be the first,'” Hernandez said.

Before working at Texas State, Hernandez worked for the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs at Texas A&M University for 15 years. For ten of those years, she was the only woman on the institution’s senior staff. However, Hernandez’s first female mentor offered her new lessons and perspectives that impacted her life.

Hernandez now possesses over 25 years of progressive leadership experience. She works to help students meet their academic goals.

“If we help students learn how to navigate, understand the agency they have and then the resources and scaffolding available to help them, then that helps them get… closer to their goal,” Hernandez said.

Zenarae Antoine

Panelist Zenarae Antoine, the head coach of Texas State Women’s Basketball, is the program’s all-time winningest coach. Her leadership and coaching skills have set 21 school records and six Sun Belt Conference records.

Antoine’s biggest role model is her mother, who immigrated to the U.S. from China after communists invaded the country. From a young age, Antoine’s mother gave her books that taught her more about her culture and exposed Antoine to prominent sports figures and scientists.

“The mentorship that I received from my mother, who’s my role model, was tremendous in me now seeking out mentorship within my profession and career,” Antoine said. 

Antoine highlighted the evolution of women’s sports through the media and the value of women’s participation in team sports, especially at a young age. She believes building leadership skills in women at a young age is best achieved through sports.

“Through sport is where a lot of us learn how to work cooperatively, how to learn under a specific… structure, how to be able to balance those things in addition to our other friends, and then obviously going to school,” Antoine said.

Bobbie Garza-Hernandez

Panelist Bobbie Garza-Hernandez, a San Marcos native, owns Pink Consulting, a public relations firm that’s developed her leadership skills through many facets.

Garza-Hernandez started her firm 27 years ago receiving most of her help from white males and Hispanic women while building her business and the least from white women and Hispanic males, which she believes is a cultural incident.

“Having had to overcome challenges and many, many obstacles as a woman of color in an environment that has been predominantly led by white males and white women…it really does help to have a sisterhood that is there to hold you up,” Garza-Hernandez said.

This lesson inspired Garza-Hernandez to create her company, Pink Consulting, which focuses on community outreach and engagement. During her tenure with the former Mayor of Austin, Gus Garcia, she met with Austin community leaders and advocates to focus on Hispanic communities. The relationships she created while doing this work translated into Garza-Hernandez’s business practices.

“[Pink Consulting] carved out a niche as the go-to company to help on high-profile projects that affected disenfranchised communities,” Garza-Hernandez said. “I count on women I met early in my career who have been lifelong friends. I count on them at every gesture in my life.”

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