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Breaking Glass

NJCU prez: Next generation of women in business is well aware their options are virtually limitless

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Sue Henderson is the president of New Jersey City University in Jersey City.
Sue Henderson is the president of New Jersey City University in Jersey City. - (NJCU)

I can never keep straight what generation we are on — Y? Z? AA? Well, whatever you call the group of young women currently in college, the working world they will enter in a few short years (hopefully) is markedly different from the one Sue Henderson faced as a young woman. For this group, the choices are limitless, and, Sue says, they know it.

Sue is the president of NJCU. When she was in high school, she wanted to be an architect but was dissuaded by the fact that Georgia Tech wasn't really accepting women at the time.

NJCU's female students seem well aware they won't have that problem, she said.

"They have a much freer concept about what they could be, which is a very, very exciting thing," she said.

"And then at the same time," she added, "some of them are unsure about how to do it."

That's why Sue advises young women to develop a support system.

"You need to find smart people to work for, and you need to find good mentors and friends," she said.

That still won't make life easy. Sue said her first boss was tough, always pushing her to work hard and do things she didn't think she could do. He once tasked her with coaching the gymnastics team — even though he knew she had absolutely no gymnastics experience.

Requests like that challenged her, but she realized he was training her to step outside the box and be a leader. (And FYI, she did start coaching and even went on to be a judge at national gymnastics competitions.)

"He really wanted it done right, which I was grateful for, but you had to work hard," she said.

So her advice to young women is to not let anything stand in your way.

"Don't let preconceived notions that people have about expectations keep you from doing something," she said. "I had to learn that you have to keep listening to your gut and your heart, and you've just got to keep on moving."

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