Diversity & Inclusion
Biotechnology / DEI / Events / Women in tech

‘Stop asking for permission’ and other advice from women making a difference

Doneen Keemer Damon, Dr. Velma Scantlebury and Amira Idris Radović shared their challenges and triumphs at the October Conversations event.

Carol Arnott Robbins, Amira Idris Radović, Doneen Keemer Damon and Dr. Velma Scantlebury at October 2019's Conversations with Women panel. (Photo by Holly Quinn)

Doneen Keemer Damon, president of Delaware’s largest law firm, didn’t get to where she is by letting others dictate what she could and could not do.

“I make a point to tell young women to stop asking for permission,” said the Richards Layton & Finger head. “Own it. Don’t let your confidence wane when you have a place in that room.”

Damon was one of three “Delaware Women Making a Difference” featured on October’s Conversations panel, along with biomedical engineer and founder of TheraV, Amira Idris Radović, and Dr. Velma Scantlebury, ChristianaCare’s associate director of the Kidney Transplant Program, with NEWS4Women’s Carol Arnott-Robbins facilitating.

“There were dark days I had because I didn’t see myself as competent enough,” said Dr. Scantlebury, who was the first African American woman in the field of transplantation surgery. “One thing we always need to do is always encourage the next generation, because they get a lot of negativity and self doubt. Be a mentor or a sponsor, reinforce their confidence.”

“I used to think, ‘who am I to present this idea?” said Radović, whose biomedical startup developed the ELIX, a vibrating device that has been shown to ease phantom limb pain in amputees. “I did lots and lots of interviews with amputees, leading to fiver or six prototypes before getting to the ELIX, which is a success.”

While self doubt is inevitable, especially early on, the panelists agreed that, especially for women, supporting each other instead of treating other women in your field as competitors is vital.

“I’m always disappointed when I meet a woman who doesn’t understand that,” said Damon. “[They say] ‘she needs to earn it like I did’ — it’s all about ‘me.’ That’s a sad state of affairs, when people get so important in their own minds that they don’t see the need to help others.”

Other takeaways:

  • Have the self-awareness to know when you’re not a fit with focus, job or investor.
  • When an investor tells you you’re not ready yet, but doesn’t give you advice on what you should do, they’re not interested.
  • Don’t assume someone who is a “first” in a field (ie: first African American woman partner at a law firm or in the field of transplantation surgery) sees it as something to celebrate. “It should be disappointing that it took so long,” said Damon.

The Conversations series is organized by NEWS4women and Blue Blaze and Associates, hosted by the Delaware Art Museum. It will return in 2020.


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