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  • Tiffany Liao

The Other Side of Pratima - Part 2

The Other Side of Pratima - Part 2

Interviewer: Tiffany Liao

Interviewee: Pratima Mangar

Thank you all for supporting our blog. Here is the second part on my interview with Pratima!

T: Did you associate yourself with other organizations in Baruch other than WIB?

Pratima:

A couple. I applied to TEAM Baruch the same semester I joined WIB (Fall 2013), and I started TEAM Baruch training in January 2014. I always wanted to pursue higher education and this gave me an opportunity to teach freshman and transfer students that I admire so much. I love this program because transfer students are at a malleable point in their lives and they need the guidance that I didn’t have in Hunter. It has that here in Baruch and I want everyone to have that. I grew so much as leader through TB and I also joined HSA.

I love talking about my experience in HSA because I was very religious growing up. I went to temple every Sunday with my family. I think as a child, religion is forced upon you because you don’t know what you are believing in. You only know that your parents believe in it and you have to believe in it as well. When I started Baruch, I was finally experiencing religion as an adult. There wasn’t someone telling me what the right thing to do is or what god does or who to pray to. I knew I had to put some research in it; so I joined the club to spend some time with other adults who were not apart of my family as a way to see what they believed in and how they worshipped.

After joining HSA, I felt so in tune with my culture and religion. I learned how open religion could be and that it doesn’t shut doors on people. It is very open, it’s not like it’s good or it’s bad, it is more of “what do you believe in?” If you think this makes you a good person then do it, if it makes you a bad person then don’t, but don’t listen to what other people label you as. My eyes were opened by a student organization and I wanted to open the eyes of other students in the same way. I wanted to be president of HSA so that other people could experience the same feeling that I felt. I didn’t know I was actually going to run for president, but the founding president that year, Kamelia, saw something great in me. I didn’t know that she did until the election, but I wasn’t sure since I also wanted a board member position in WIB. She spoke with me and said that she has always seen me excel in something I loved. If I wanted to do both of these things, that’s all I needed to be capable - and she was right. I was so happy with the end product. It was a hard year and there was so much stuff to do but I learned and grew so much as a leader and as a person.

T: How have you changed since you joined WIB?

Pratima:

There are many ways for me to approach this question. The first thing is: I have gained more confidence, not to say I was insecure. I never had a problem asserting myself, standing my ground or giving my opinions. I think WIB made it easier for me so when I joined the organization. There are so many women who ran sh*t. They came to the organization with the mindset of what they wanted to do and how they were going to do it. They lead this club, and if they wanted something done in a specific way, they would get it done. If they showed people their vision, others would believe in it as well.

I had a lot of ideas for WIB when I was a sophomore and I wondered if one day I too could be president. Many presidents in the past, had that same attitude, and if I adapted this attitude, then I could do it too. I knew I was going to lead this organization one day, and here I am today. So the first thing I learned in WIB is attitude is everything. Fake it till you sort of make it and if you are not sure if you can make it, just believe in yourself 110% and it will happen.

I read somewhere--and I also hear it in WIB all the time, if you have no doubts in your mind, it’s because you are in your comfort zone. However, if you have doubts, then you will grow from that experience. I feel like this for Target. I constantly think to myself: “I am about to work full time for this company and lead 300-400 employees of a store, is that something that I will be able to handle?” It will be difficult at first, and I will be really stressed out about it, but I will learn so much from the organization and leading the company by jumping out of my comfort zone.

I also learned not to be strictly professional, but to let people see the other side of you. I would love to come to Baruch everyday dressed professionally to give off the impression that WIB means business , but sometimes I want to come to school someday wearing a t-shirt and jeans. Today I am wearing a workout outfit. I am wearing my Nikes and a big scarf. It is snowing today [at the time of the interview] and I wouldn’t want to come to school today wearing heels. I want people to know that about me. I am a regular person like everyone else. A lot of new members join WIB, and they think they have to put on this persona when they talk to Genna, myself, or any e-board or board member, but it is not like that. If you come to us and speak like a regular person, we will respect you so much more for it. It means that you are comfortable with us already. I said this already, but if you act that you are comfortable, you will be comfortable. If you act uncomfortable in the situation, then you will be uncomfortable.

T: When did you realize women needed more empowerment and leadership to achieve feminism?

When I was growing up, my parents told me that I couldn’t go out late at night because I was a girl. I was really young, I did not know what rape culture was. I asked them, “If you had a son, would it be okay for him to go out and drink or take the train at night?” They would blatantly say yes. I would tell them I don’t get it. Like why me? The gender issue was instilled into my parents and that was a big part of me growing up.

I also went to a male dominated engineering high school. I think that is when I was awoken to all of these issues. I started the cheerleading team in my high school. Cheerleaders are always viewed as airheads and kind of dumb, but why? Because it is the only group in school that is all women. It is a sport like any other. You have to work just as much, our warm ups are running a mile 3 times a week. It was a really big deal. People treat it like it’s just girls waving pompoms in the air because it is the only sport that is dominated by women.

It is the same thing for majors and industries, if it was dominated by women, you don’t have to be that smart for them. For example, you don’t have to be that smart to be a teacher and you don’t make that much money as a teacher, why? Because these fields are dominated by women?

Engineering is a male dominated industry, so when a girl doesn’t do well on an exam, she would probably not pursue engineering or architecture anymore. As opposed to a guy, if he doesn’t do that well, he probably just did not study. What does that mean? What if I did not study and I am pretty smart, but I just don’t do the work. It wasn’t because I can’t consume the work, maybe I wasn’t prepared.

When I started the cheerleading team, the principal at the time, was a guy. He never wanted us to have an opportunity to create the team. I went to a specialized high school and his view on it was: “We are a really smart school so why have a group of ditzy people on a sports team?” The thing is, it did not have to be a cheerleading team, it could have been gymnastics or any other type of sport, but we wanted a team or a club that was for women and that did not exist. This was not the age when Girls Who Code was popular, but now my high school and other prominent high schools and universities have that club. This was not the case 7 or 8 years ago when I was still in high school. I explained it to him that there was a men's basketball team and he sends them out all the time with funding. They are allowed to leave the school early to go to games and there is also the women’s basketball team, but they don’t get the same treatment. It would be the same for volleyball, the men would get all the attention while the women wouldn’t.. Why can’t we just have a team that is strictly for women? The school is 85% male and there would only be around 30 people on this team because this would be the only option for like 60 women in the whole school. There would be so little people on this team and he still didn’t agree to it when we talked to him; so we just did it anyway.

T: So you did not really changed his views?

We eventually did and that is what women empowerment has been since the very beginning. If people tell you no, just do it. Just do it anyway, if you have to say sorry afterwards, then say it. That was exactly what we did. We had a gym teacher who was recently hired and she coached cheerleading full time in Long Island. We told her our situation and if that meant we have to meet up with her after school or off of school grounds to do some cheers, then we would do it. We were getting more attention than the basketball team, even though we were not a legit club or team. We had to get recognition for ourselves to be acknowledged by the administration and finally, we were. We were also faced with the opposition where the principal did not want to get us uniforms, but again, we did it anyway. We paid for our own uniforms and since we went to a public school, he couldn’t tell us not to wear it. Every time we have a game to cheer, we would wear that. The school today, funds the team and they receive actual uniforms that cheerleading teams for private school would get.

Again, coming from a high school dominated by males, my girlfriends and I got joked on all the time. Being the president of WIB, and as a graduating senior, it felt like my high school girlfriends and I all branched out and sort of did the same thing. Some joined sororities for the same reason: they can’t stand being in an environment where they are looked down upon because they are women or they have to be ditzy because they are on a cheerleading team. It’s crazy even till this day if I tell someone I was captain of a cheerleading team, they would be like damn, you are a president of a business professional club and you came from a cheerleading team? Like what is wrong with that? It was my first leadership experience. I saw a problem and I fixed it. That is what I do now too, I see problems every day and I fix them.

T: What is your favorite place to go to when you are stressed or want to chill by yourself?

Pratima:

I love anywhere with water. During the Harvard WIB workshop, we were asked a series of questions about our happiest place. I do not remember exactly what the activity was, but for the past 8 years I have traveled on trains and buses, and went to really crowded schools. People shoot by me all the time, we don’t stop to say hi to people unless you know them. Otherwise, you are on the go all the time. I need some place really quiet to watch the peacefulness of the water. I could find some of these places in NYC, but the one that I love the most is Glen Island in New Rochelle. It is my favorite place at any time of year. It could be snowing and the lake is frozen and I would still love it. It could be summer and some of it is dried up and I would still love it. Sometimes I would be at Randall’s island just watching the river and it would be really pretty. Sometimes I would take the SI ferry back and forth because it’s free and I can be at the water. The Target where I work at in Harlem overlooks the river so sometimes when I am really stressed out, I would take a walk outside and look over it for 5 minutes and go back. I also love beaches.

It is really rare when I don’t have something to do especially since I am involved with club life. Whenever I am in a really crowded place, and I am not in a rush somewhere, I would go to Grand Central Station and listen to quiet music. I would sit in the Apple Store or a balcony and watch other people rush. I like the idea that I do not have anything to do at the moment and other people are rushing gives me some sort of peace. I would also always listen to Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange during my alone time.

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