For New Jersey housewife, Dolores Catania, reality TV has been a means to reinvention.
The spirited mother of two, who has held posts as a correction officer, surgical technician, and now a television star and fitness studio owner, may be one of the newest cast members on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, but she has quickly emerged as one of the most sensible and empathetic of them all. Catania, who hails from Paterson NJ, tells SWAAY that despite taking an unconventional path in life, most notably skipping a formal college education, she has found empowerment and purpose, in part because of her reality show.
“My life inspiration is to constantly get out of my comfort zone,” says Catania, who became a correctional officer after she graduated high school. “Back when I wanted to be a cop you didn’t need to go to college. It was a blue collar mentality; you’ll have your pension and benefits, you know what you are getting paid every week. I liked law enforcement and I looked up to my dad who became Chief of Police.”
Despite now being divorced for 15 years, she and her ex-husband and business partner, Frank, have a better relationship than most married couples. Their two kids, Gabrielle, 21, and Frankie, 18, may keep the reality star on her toes these days (she says she's not looking forward to her son leaving the nest), Catania found herself bored as a stay-at-home-mom.
“It’s all about drive and not being fearful.”
“When I had my daughter I thought ‘I’m married to an attorney and I thought I can stay home,” says Catania, who openly talks about her husband being unfaithful during her pregnancy, which left her as a single mom unexpectedly. “My mom always worked so I thought I wanted to be there. I soon found that you give up on yourself and lose yourself quickly. Sitting home watching cartoons not doing your hair and makeup, you lose your mojo. You go to the mall to shop at Marshalls. That was my life. I wouldn’t trade it but it did get mundane. I was afraid and insecure and I always thought that if I don’t have an education how can I do anything.”
In order to restart her life and get re-motivated after five years, Catania decided to go back to school and get her real estate license. She says she was petrified of taking the test and began planning how she would retake it before even setting foot in the testing room.
“I was sweating,” she says. “I am very fearful of math. I set myself up for failure. I want women not to be afraid and to have confidence. A lack of confidence is your biggest demise.”
Catania says after unexpectedly passing the exam, she did well in real estate thanks to a strong housing market, but that didn’t last.
“When the real estate market crashed we had to pull together,” says Catania, who then decided she wanted to formalize her education and study to be a surgical technician, which took three years.“It always bothered me that I didn’t have a [college] education,” says Catania. “I live in an affluent area and people always ask where I went to school. I always felt like not answering, so I decided to do something about it.”
Catania Family courtesy of Bravo
Powerhouse Gym in Old Bridge, NJ, which was featured on Real Housewives, now has over 11,000 members and Catania says she just opened a second location also called Powerhouse in Whippany, NJ. According to Catania, having the show as a platform has helped her, and in turn, her business gain popularity.
“My inspiration for the show and for the gym is to tell women don’t fall on your face and stay there,” she says. “We all will get hurt, but be strong, emotionally, physically and financially. Pick yourself up and don’t give up. Care about yourself enough.”
At the gym, Catania strives to do something for women she credits her friend and fellow castmate, Siggy Flicker, with doing for her every single day- motivating her to get up and try harder.
For Catania, who has more than 110,000 followers on Instagram, being a part of The Real Housewives of NJ offers her the chance to reach more women with her message of empowerment.“I had 999 followers when I started the show,” laughs Catania. “I remember saying I wish I had 1,000 followers. [When I got to 1,000] I thought I was so cool. I thought I made it and I arrived. Frank every day tells me how many more followers I have. He’s so supportive and excited.”
“Don’t feel 'less than' because you don’t have a formal education. I know a lot of Harvard graduates who may not have what you have.”
Catania, who along with Flicker have set themselves apart as voices of reason on the show, hopes to continue putting out a positive message for viewers.
“I’ve grown so much,” she says. “I look at what I do from a woman’s point of view and all the women who have been in my position where one day you can have something and the next day you don’t. It’s the scariest thing in the world. You want to curl up in a ball but then you look at your kids and say ‘I can’t fall on my face.’ You take chances and make something work.”
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she says. “I went into it with an idea of what I wanted to get out of it and I got out of it exactly what I wanted. I always do something with everybody else in mind. It’s part of my DNA. That’s what I enjoy. I wanted to reach a lot of people and tell them that even though my husband cheated on me, we are friends 15 years later. It’s part of my story. You don’t die. The show is a platform. It’s the best thing to reach so many people.”
“Don’t fall apart. You don’t have the option to fall apart when you’re a mom.”
Regarding her boss, Bravo producer Andy Cohen, Catania said even he saw a positive effect from the show in her own personality.“Andy said you are one of the few people who came out positive [on the show],” says Catania. "I grew. I got my mojo back. I got my groove back. I walk differently and I talk differently. Ideally Siggy and I would want our own show...Andy do you hear me?!”[thb_border]
The Quick 10
1. What app do you most use?
Instagram, I’m a stalker.
2. Briefly describe your morning routine.
I wake up under a pile of dogs every single morning, and it’s really hard to get up. Once I scoot out the first thing I do is brush my teeth.
3. Name a business mogul you admire.
Jessica Alba. She’s awesome.
4. What product do you wish you had invented?
The cell phone.
5. What is your spirit animal?
I have this fox that sits on my front steps every few weeks. It doesn’t leave my side and I think it is my spirit animal.
6. What is your life motto?
"Never give up"
7. Name your favorite work day snack.
8. To be successful you must be ___?
“Married to your business”
9. What’s the most inspiring place you’ve been to recently?
Patterson Arts and Science Charter School. It’s a charter school in Patterson where teachers teach out of an abandoned building. There was so much team work, it was such a happy environment.
10. Desert Island. Three things, go.
My rosary, my kids, my dogs.[/thb_border]
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.