NYWICI Heritage Project: Charlotte Tomic

Charlotte Tomic

Education: BA, English, Queens College. MBA, St. John’s University.

Career: More than 25 years in strategic communications and media relations. Worked as a media relations strategist at GolinHarris after a long career as assistant vice president of communications for St. John's University.

Current: Owner, Tomic Communications

NYWICI Involvement: President, 1996-1997.

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NYWICI: is the most important attribute of a leader?
Charlotte Tomic:
A leader should set an example to others by allowing them to flourish and present their ideas without being intimidated.

What change in the role of women in the workplace was the most significant for you?
The acceptance of women in positions of power was the most significant for me and is inspirational. Little girls now think they can become anything they want. That is great.

What obstacles did you overcome early in your career?
Sexism was very rampant when I first started working and it really was a boy's club. In order to get respect for your talents and ideas, you had to play up to the men in charge. Business was done at lunch, many times accompanied by wine. I knew early not to drink at these business events, so I wouldn't lower my guard and lose control. The women I worked with were very competitive and looking for any opportunity to stab you in the back. I think it stems from the insecurity women felt in those days. Men were much more upfront and easy to work with.

What is the best career advice you ever received?
Give credit to your team for any success. Don't try to steal the spotlight for yourself. At the same time, don't underestimate your worth to the organization - especially when it comes to getting raises and promotions. Also, remember to give back to younger workers and mentor them.

Reflect on the word "feminism." Is it still relevant?
Feminism is such an anachronism today, and it's a shame. It was the forefront of women's liberation. Gloria Steinem was the idol of all women. Young women today don't realize how feminism paved the way for their freedom to become anything they want in the workplace. There is no longer a glass ceiling, though women still have to fight to get equal pay for equal jobs.

What change in the communications business most impacted your career?
Technology! I remember when you had to fax press releases to the media to cover an event. In those days, you had a landline, a typewriter and a fax machine. Work was not as hectic, but you developed relationships with people you had to work with on the phone. I see that missing in today's world of smart phones.

What is your most vivid NYWICI memory? 
I coordinated a student career conference in 1993. It was to be held at the Vista International Hotel [at the World Trade Center]. At the last minute, the Marriott Marquis [in Times Square] offered to charge me $5 less per person to host the conference there. I thought, it's a more central location and we can save some money. As I was introducing a panel on broadcasting, a participating reporter from CBS Radio charged to the stage with all of his gear in tow. He said a gigantic bomb blew up in the World Trade Center garage. Remember: there were no cell phones in those days and I was inside a hotel with no access to televisions or other news information. I realized things could have ended tragically for any of the conference attendees. I'll never forget that moment.