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United We Are a Force, and Individually We are W.O.N.

Image Courtesy of Denise Olivieri Bishop

Women of Note celebrates the unique talents of women of Hampton Roads and seeks to raise awareness of issues women face in the 21st century. We are well aware of the many hats women wear throughout the day as well as throughout their lives and we would like to give women the opportunity to share their experiences juggling these with our community. By sharing our experiences, we hope to inspire others, learn from their perspectives, and foster a dialogue that creates solutions. Today we spot light Denise Olivieri Bishop.

Affiliation(s) (past and present):

Wilbanks Smith & Thomas, Downtown100, Todd Rosenlieb Dance, YWCA South Hampton Roads, Virginia Symphony Orchestra

How long have you been (working in/participating in) your field? How did you get into it?

I've actually only been working in my current field for a couple of years. I started out as a stage manager for theatre, dance, and opera, but over time, as I moved into production management and operations management, I started to do more work with budgets and time cards and less work with actors, dancers, & singers which was much less fun. I decided I'd rather work with budgets and time cards in another field so I could have fun again volunteering in the arts. Now I do accounting and human resources tasks at work and volunteer with the Downtown100 and Spotlight News.

How long have you been working/ living in in Hampton Roads?

I was born in Virginia Beach but left for college and jobs after school. I have been back in Hampton Roads for 8 years.

What advice would you give young women going into your field?

Learn how to say no. It's difficult for a lot of us (it's still hard for me), especially when you're young and trying to gain experience, but it can be so helpful to manage your time in and out of work.

Does your gender influence your relationship to your work? In what way?

Yes and no. As a caring person (nurturing is often seen as a feminine trait), I always want to help my boss and coworkers to complete their tasks and be successful. At times in my career, this meant prioritizing work over myself and my family (which is often seen as a masculine trait). In the end, I learned that I couldn't help others if I was not taking care of myself.

Have you faced challenges in your field because of your gender or have you found your gender to be an asset? What kinds of challenges or advantages, and how have they affected your life?

I definitely struggle with impostor syndrome and confidence in negotiations. Working in theatre, I often had very short contracts, so I was constantly negotiating contracts and having those New Job Jitters (we didn't call it impostor syndrome then) because I was expected to hit the ground running on day 1. It wasn't until I switched fields that I was able to let that go - I was given time to learn, whether it was new software or where the supply closet is. I'm still working on confidence and negotiating.

Has parenthood impacted your career or shaped your perspective as an artist? In what ways?

When I was a young stage manager, I thought that I would burn out or retire very young when I met someone I wanted to start a family with. Then, I wanted to teach once the kids were older and in school. I kept waiting and waiting, and I didn't burn out or meet my husband until I was in my 30s. Since then, I have paid more attention to family leave policies and tried to vote for elected officials who prioritize mothers and families.

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