Courtesy of Thomas Breen

The Collab, a local nonprofit seeking to help young businesses overcome the early barriers in starting a business, hosted a panel on the importance of women in entrepreneurship at the New Haven Free and Public Library on Tuesday night. The three panelists were drawn from different business and social leaders, and the event drew a crowd of roughly 20 community members.

“How do you go at this world when people think you are impenetrable?” said one of the panelists Patricia Melton, founder of the nonprofit New Haven Promise. “As women, we do hold up the world. It is important for the world to hold us up.”

All three panelists spoke about the importance of being authentic while finding success in their professional lives. Sun Queen, who co-founded Black Lives Matter New Haven, stressed the importance of finding strength while expecting to be imperfect as a female in the workforce in general.

Queen said failure should not take confidence away, but allow people to learn. Her fellow panelists echoed the importance of determination amid uncertainty.

“Secret [of confidence] is resilience,” said another panelist, JoHannah Hamilton.

Hamilton discussed the difficulty of speaking out to co-workers as the only woman in certain conversations, and the responsibility of women to speak up when they are in a position to do so. Hamilton is the founder of District New Haven, an organization designed to help build businesses while keeping talented workers in New Haven.

The panel later spoke about the potential for expectations from co-workers for women to fall into gender-typical roles. Hamilton spoke of times where she is expected to take notes in meetings when she is the only woman present.

The topic of expectations resurfaced in a question about crying in professional situations. Melton talked about the burden that social expectations can place on workers’ emotional states. The inability to confront or name intense feelings in the workplace is negative for workers, she said.

“I will cry. … If that’s you, then cry.” Melton said. “Some narratives you just have to change, like ‘men don’t cry.’ Yes, they do.”

Another issue women experience in pursuing careers in entrepreneurship is the lack of mentors, according to panelists. Melton discussed the need to eradicate spaces where women are not welcome, explaining the importance of creating a welcoming workplace environment for women.

Recent Yale graduates Margaret Lee ’14 and Caroline Smith ’14 founded the Collab last year.

Aaron Jenkins | .