MIAMI (CBSMiami) – CBS4 is celebrating Women’s History Month throughout March by shining a spotlight on women shattering the glass ceiling in our community.
One such woman is the newest president of Miami Dade College. Madeline Pumariega is calling 2021 “The Year of the Woman.”READ MORE: Retired Police Major Explains How Miami-Dade Officers Are Trained Not To Mix Up Handgun & Taser
Pumariega is a self-proclaimed “Hialeah girl” by birth and a Miami-Dade shark by choice.
She is now at the helm of the college she attended as a student-athlete, where over the course of 20 years, she went from basketball player to the President of the Wolfson Campus.
After a few professional stops outside of MDC, she made her comeback as the first female president of Miami-Dade College.
“It was emotional on a couple of fronts,” she told CBS 4 news anchor Lauren Pastrana. “To be able to come back home, to be able to come back to an institution that gave me and so many in our community that opportunity. And then to be a woman and what it means for all of the women and girls out there that are working every day to break through that glass ceiling. To know that you can believe it, you can dream it and you can do it.”
She’s been breaking barriers before her latest job.
Pumariega was also the first female and Hispanic Chancellor of the Florida College System, which oversees 28 colleges and serves more than 800,000 students.
She took charge of Miami-Dade in the midst of the pandemic, which has not spared higher learning institutions.
Enrollment is down.READ MORE: With J&J's Single-Shot Paused, Medical Expert Says People Shouldn’t ‘Try To Skimp At This Stage’ When It Comes To 2nd Dose Of Pfizer Or Moderna
And as in many other sectors, women, in particular, have been impacted.
“Usually, we’ve got about 60 percent of our enrollment are females. So when you see the enrollment decline, also proportionally affecting them. They’re balancing life right now,” Pumariega said. “So many of them are mom, teacher, therapist, just doing everything. Probably hard for them to focus on their educational career. But my message is it’s that time to invest because the jobs are going to come back.”
Nationwide, roughly 57% of college students are female, but only 30% of college and university presidents are women.
Pumariega says representation matters and it starts with mentoring the female leaders of tomorrow.
“I really think mentorships are so important. I have always in my career tried to mentor young women coming to the college and they’re early in their leadership trajectory. How can they get that chance? Innovate that new program? Mentorship opportunities are really important. Leadership opportunities. Those programs that let us refine our leadership so that when the opportunity comes in you’ve had the experiences to seize the opportunity,” Pumariega said.
She says it’s important for women to find their passion and to surround themselves with people who will cheer them on.
“Together we can do it. Stay the course. Great things will happen,” she said. “I think 2021, without a doubt at least in Miami-Dade County, seems to be the year of the woman and certainly an exciting time for breaking and shattering those glass ceilings.”
Pumariega says it’s important for people who put school on hold to return because the jobs will soon be out there — particularly in STEM — science, engineering, technology, and math.MORE NEWS: 'Bed Tax' Change Backed In Florida House
And there’s a push to encourage women to pursue careers in those fields.