On September 26, 2017 Women in the Public Sector at John Jay College collaborated with the Office of External Affairs to host Commissioner Ana Bermudez of the New York City Department of Probation. John Jay College met Commissioner Ana Bermudez and in turn provided students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to learn more about her work and inspiration behind her work within the juvenile justice system, trial work, collaborative efforts with ACS, probation policy and planning all while serving as the first female Latina leader of the agency. This discussion also stood as a platform for students to learn more about how to go about overcoming social bias in and out the work place, what it means to be authentic as a professional, leader, or a woman of society today, career planning, governmental opportunities for students, the significance of teamwork at any level of success, and so much more. Below WPS student team members Gina Ortiz, Danny Ovando, Uroosa Malik, Matthew Lynch share what their highlights and responses to the discussion with Commissioner Bermudez.
Ana Bermudez was the most honest, forthcoming and inspirational speaker I have ever had the honor of witnessing! Through the words of her mother, Commissioner Bermudez shared, “the key to happiness and success is by praising one’s unique sense of self, that is authenticity”. As Commissioner Bermudez broke down the distinction between being the leader and the boss, we learned teamwork and mentorship is critical to organizational success at any level of authority because no matter how wonderful or skillful we are, we will never be able to carry out success alone. She began her opening remarks by stating, beyond many of her professional achievements as a successful woman in the field of Probation and Juvenile Justice, she is also the first lesbian woman leader to make a difference and that is a liberating and proud cornerstone to her daily life that she will never take for granted and proudly seeks to pave the way of strength for those who struggle with bias intended to limit their success. Her message to those who fear homophobia, sexism, social bias in the workforce, guess what, you are going to encounter bias, judgement, criticism but you must always love yourself enough to flourish in a place where you are respected, valued, and invested for the individual in you. Now that is authentic! Thank you, Commissioner Bermudez!
– Gina Ortiz
The impactful portion of Commissioner Bermudez’s discussion was inspiring. She took the initiative to address a negative and critical aspect of our criminal justice system. As an advocate for change, Ana Bermudez supported the establishment of a new law that prohibits individuals under the age of 18 to be tried as adults. This new policy provides minors with a platform that promotes educational opportunities, life coaching, and goal oriented seminars. Commissioner Bermudez stated that “the goal will not be to complete probation, but to focus on a future worth living.” Such a restorative approach to this type of injustice will help reduce the high recidivism rate that our country currently faces.
Commissioner Bermudez’s restorative changes will apply to all individuals regardless of their gender, race, sexual orientation, religious preference, and all other attributions. She argued that we, as a country, have a lot of work to do when it comes to resolving gender conformity issues. We also need to get better at interacting with the opposite sex. For example, she stated that there are more male probation supervisors than female probation officers. This has led to several cases of abuse of power, involving quid pro quo scenarios. Commissioner Bermudez suggested that we must get involved in our community and support legislations that address these issues to bring about change and awareness to the public.
– Danny Ovando
Ana M. Bermudez is a living, breathing example of change in our society. She has been faced with many challenges throughout her years of being the Probation Department’s Commissioner. However, one challenge which struck the most was her addressing the need of her employees and their comfort working in her Department. One Human Resource example that Commissioner Bermudez cites as a challenge for her was being open about her sexual orientation and understanding how she cannot favor one group of individuals over the other. She had hoped to hold an LGBTQ gathering in her office, in order to open more doors for individuals who face discrimination, bias or misjudgments. However, being such an authoritative leader, she continues to tackle disparities and pushes forward to connect the differences she faces. It is her goal and further aspires to build bridges in the community, while filling in the gaps through the trials she’s witnessed within her timespan of being Commissioner. Her fierce persona and diligence in committing to her vision is what inspired everyone in the room to stand up for what they believe in, joining together and fighting for justice!
– Uroosa Malik
Commissioner Bermudez’s no apologetic attitude about her values and what she stands for is very inspirational to everyone, no matter what your background. It showed how tough and unbreakable she is when she began her speech about stating her sexuality for everyone right away. It is important to show how strong women, no matter what their diversity and background can succeed. This gives women in New York City hope that you can succeed and women like Ana Bermudez and paving the way by becoming the first openly lesbian w Latina woman, and only second women woman to hold the office as commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation.
Here at Women in the Public Sector we work hard to showcase women like Ana and to help raise awareness and address gender issues in the public sector. All of us here thank Commissioner Bermudez for her magnificent work! We are encouraged that female leaders continue to inspire young generation public servants, especially women and members of the LGBTQ community.
– Matthew Lynch