June 2014 archive

Breakfast with Geena Davis, Amy Wakeland, and Ann Mc Elaney

I started Thursday morning with an omelet, strong coffee and councilman Tom LaBonge enthusiastically introducing four well-known L.A. female figures to a crowd of 100 engaged attendees. No, it wasn’t a fundraiser to support a political campaign. Los Angeles magazine hosted a breakfast conversation at Public Kitchen and Bar at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel to discuss female leadership and gender inequality. With editor-and-chief Mary Melton as moderator, the panelist included City of LA first lady Amy Wakeland, Academy Award-winning actor and advocate Geena Davis, and Mount St. Mary’s president Dr. Ann McElaney-Johnson.

Together these four women came guns blazing with answers, research and ideas on how to get women in more leadership positions. Each work in different industries, so they offered different perspectives, however, they all came to agreement on several key points:

▪   More research is still needed on gender inequality in the workplace

▪   We need more women in leadership roles, but we’re making progress

▪   We are moving the needle forward just by making gender inequality a topic of conversation

▪   We need more women involved in the movement—and gaining the support of some men would be great, too

Each woman is actively using their influence to make a difference:

Geena Davis started an organization called Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to promote the awareness of gender roles in the entertainment industry. Davis raised a significant amount of money to conduct research studies that examine how women are represented in films. This includes family films like the ones our children watch over and over. As I’m sure you can guess, women did not come out ahead. For instance, males outnumber females 3 to 1 in family films. The research also found that 4.8 males working behind-the-scenes (directors, writers, and producers) to every one female.

I wasn’t surprised to hear that the actor who played the strong female character Thelma in the movie Thelma and Louise, was behind this type of organization. But I WAS surprised to learn that the entertainment industry is in need of this type of organization and is suffering from such a gender imbalance.

Dr. Ann McElaney-Johnson agreed that more women need to be in powerful positions, but she added that they also need to be seen in unconventional types of roles. She has been instrumental in promoting issues related to women in her role as president of the all-girl, liberal arts college in LA, Mount St. Mary’s College. On March 27, she delivered The Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California to a sold out crowd on their campus in Downtown LA. The Report highlights information on the status of 19 million women and girls in California. I highly recommend checking out this research. Who knew we had this type of research at our finger tips?! These are the times I feel fortunate to live in state that offers these types of resources.

Amy Wakeland, LA’s own first lady and wife to Mayor Eric Garcetti, discussed how they are encouraging women to get involved in politics, which by-and-large is male dominated. I almost fell out of my chair when she said that only 25-35% of government is made of women. Mayor Garcetti and his administration have improved these numbers during his time in office. Wakeland’s view is that women can’t gain experience in politics if they’re not given the opportunity in the first place.

Ok, so how do we affect real change on gender inequality in our own lives? The answer is to have more women actively pursuing leadership positions. As Wakeland implies, women need to just get started somewhere. That means jump into a career that you want to excel at or begin a project that you’ve been itching to start. Do it now. Stop reading the rest of this blog entry and start your project. (Yep, I just said that.) This could be anything you want to start—a new profession, a hobby or a new company. Begin by telling people your idea—get people behind you. Trust me, when you tell someone your idea, you hold yourself accountable. (For me, the idea for this blog started with one person, my boyfriend. I thought he was going to be bored with the idea of a blog spotlighting women in L.A., but he was jazzed about the idea.) So Nike this thing, and Just Do It.

What project have you been itching to start? More importantly, what steps are you taking to start it?

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    Geena Davis (activist), Amy Wakeland (first lady, City of L.A.), Ann McElaney-Johnson (Mount St. Mary’s, president), Mary Melton (editor-and-chief, Los Angeles magazine)

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    Geena Davis (founder, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media)

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    Ann McElaney-Johnson (Mount St. Mary’s, president)

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    Geena Davis, Ann McElaney-Johnson, and Tom LaBonge (councilman)

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    Mary Melton and Amy Wakeland

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    moderator, Mary Melton, and panelist

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    breakfast menu

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    Breakfast Conversation at Public Kitchen and Bar

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    Founder of Women A.R.E: Angella Nazarian

    img_half If I had to name someone that best embodies That’s Pretty Powerful, I would choose Angella Nazarian. So I couldn’t be more thrilled to launch this Power Point interview series with her as the first profile. She exemplifies what it means to be both an accomplished career woman in LA and a person who puts civic responsibility high on her to-do list.

    To call Angella Nazarian “accomplished” would be an understatement. She was a professor of Psychology and a faculty member at Mount Saint Mary’s College, California State University Long Beach, and Los Angeles Valley College for eleven years. She parlayed her skills as an educator and psychologist to create a multi-faceted program that educates and empowers women to be leaders. And in doing so, she has successfully conquered a multitude of different media platforms from traditional media to new media. When she’s not on local and national news channels touting the importance of women leadership, she’s writing books on female leaders, launching an app for personal development, and hosting women empowerment events for an organization she co-founded called WOMEN A.R.E. And she helps run Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation.

    You may recognize her last name.The Nazarian family has built a prominent name in LA through a series of successful entrepreneurial endeavors. Her brother-in-law, Sam Nazarian, founded LA’s largest nightlife and hospitality company, SBE.

    (Power Point): You are part of a close knit group of LA women who meet regularly to discuss a number of topics. What gets accomplished at these meetings? What do you take away from these meetings?

    (Angella Nazarian): I believe in the power of relationships. It is through relationships that we learn about ourselves, find and give support for our growth, and discover new perspectives in life.

    With this in mind, I first organized and facilitated women’s groups that met weekly for 6 years. There was a tremendous amount of bonding and deep appreciation for one another, although were a diverse group.

    Two years ago, I took this vision and broadened the platform to include a wider network of female leaders in our community by co-founding WOMEN A.R.E.

    WOMEN A.R.E. invites thought leaders from different disciplines to discuss relevant issues such as: business leadership, social entrepreneurship, education, the arts and sciences, and health and wellness. Our participants not only feel uplifted and inspired by hearing about other women’s journeys but also have the opportunity to meet other like-minded women. Many have reached out and provided support for various initiatives that have been discussed in the meetings, so having impact is a big motivator for us.

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    Angella Nazarian, Wallis Annenberg (philanthropist), and Willow Bay (director, USC School of Journalism) at a WOMEN A.R.E event

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    David and Angella Nazarian, Brian Grazer (tv and film producer), and Chelsea Handler (tv host and comedian) at WOMEN A.R.E Inaugural Summit

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    Jacqueline Novogratz (ceo, Acumen) and Angella Nazarian at WOMEN A.R.E Salon Series

  • (PP): What recommendations do you have for women who want to create their own close knit support group? What key points do you recommend considering when starting a group?

     (AN): From my experience, the composition of a group and the way in which we communicate its mission play a big role in its long-term dynamics. By having a clear mission, one can attract a group of members who share the same general goals and values—which is essential. Also, having a diverse group of members from different fields and backgrounds brings a great deal of energy and discussion to an organization. Finally, it is important that we set a particular emotional tone to these meetings, where people feel that they are truly benefiting from the experience. I always encourage feedback from participants and refine strategies as we grow.

    (PP): What common traits did you find in the female leaders you researched for your book, Pioneers of the Possible?

    (AN): The key ingredients for successful leadership has always fascinated me. This was in fact the catalyst for the intense research and interviewing I did on the lives of noble laureates, activists, and trail blazing women leaders for my book, “Pioneers of the Possible”.

    What became apparent is that the most effective women are not perfect, and they are not bothered by this either. As a matter of fact, they instinctively concentrate on their strengths and talents and build a life and career around these strengths. How liberating and validating it is not too put too much emphasis on our weakness.

    Also, many of these women did not start out knowing what they were going to do for the rest of their lives. Many started in completely different fields and had pivot points at different stages of their work. I must add though, they were all committed to following an often times ambiguous path that fulfilled them in the deepest sense.

    Finally, what I discovered is that truly successful leaders are relationship builders and affect change in the world with the support of others who buy into their vision.

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    Pioneers of the Possible

  • (PP): I find it interesting that you recommend we demystify the essence of leadership. What do you mean by this?

    (AN): In my decade long research on leadership, I can safely say that there is a leader within all of us. Leadership is not just about running multinational organizations or leading countries. It is not about being an extrovert either. Leadership is about bringing our most authentic and passionate selves to our lives and affecting change one person at a time. That is why I created My Personal Coach App…an App that assesses your strengths and engages you in daily challenges and inspirations

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    My Personal Coach App

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    My Personal Coach App

  • (PP): You are a “Pioneer of the Possible” in your own right. You have an impressive list of accomplishments both personally and professionally and have made contributions on both a local and global level. What do you suggest for people who may think your level of growth and success are beyond their reach?

    (AN): Believe it or not, I never knew in my 20’s that I would be involved in such exciting projects myself. There have been a good many “pinch me” moments because even now there is a part of me that is still that wide-eyed 11 year-old girl. I believe that comparing ourselves, our needs and goals with others seems to be one of the surest ways of feeling “less than”.   We all should nurture a sense of possibility for ourselves and our growth, knowing that each of us can make a unique contribution.

    Seeking out mentors and spending time with people who you admire is a good way for us to get a jump-start on our path. Many doors open for us when we have the courage to take that first difficult step toward our goals. I often ask women “what would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail?”

    (PP): I downloaded your app My Personal Coach and I took the personality test. I’m turning the questions on you now. Do you prefer your day to be routine or do you try to keep it spontaneous? While we’re on the subject of your personal life, what’s an average day like for you? What keeps you centered and grounded? How do you recharge?

    (AN): I do tend to keep good amount of structure to my days, because it is the only way I can fit my priorities during the week. Just imagine, I could never write a book if I did not block out a significant amount of hours to doing research and writing. I try not to plan too much during the weekend so that I can have a sense of space and openness in my schedule. Going to galleries and artists’ studios is a highlight for me and keeps me inspired and happy on weekends.

    During the week, I wake up at around 6am. It is the best time for me to read and write with no interruptions. After a breakfast with David, my husband, I usually schedule in my dance classes two to three times a week. Since I know I am not gym person, I have incorporated dancing as a way to keep fit.

    I tend to spend the rest of the day working on the various projects— whether it is my non-profit, Looking Beyond, or organizing the details of the next women’s salon. As we all know, so much work goes into bringing great speakers and collaborating with our sponsors. I do quite a bit of speaking at conferences, so I am constantly working on new topics to discuss with my audience.

    Evenings are spent with family and friends, which is one of the ways I recharge.

    I know that my schedule will be more flexible when the kids come home from college in the summer. I will be ending my days earlier and blocking out time to spend time with them and travel— but nevertheless I will have an eye on my deadlines! We all juggle so much, but this is the blessing of having fullness in our lives.

    (PP): You’re a woman always on the move. What’s next for you? What do you hope to accomplish in the next year? Over the next 3-5 years?

    (AN): I am incredibly excited about writing about another group of 20 visionary women around the world. The research phase is coming to an end, and I will be writing the book this year. I have already uncovered more nuggets of wisdom to share with my readers.

    I hope to establish a non-profit around supporting women’s thought leadership programs and initiatives. I truly believe that our voice and power is magnified when we engage others in our vision. I hope that in the next couple of years this non-profit plays a significant role in empowering other women and girls.

    To learn more about Angella Nazarian, you can visit http://angellanazarian.com/

    Step Up’s 11th Annual Inspiration Awards

    It’s not easy to step away from the office for a few hours, so when I get the opportunity to attend an event during the weekday I do a little dance in my head debating whether to go. But when my colleague said that Step Up Women’s Network 11th Annual Inspiration Awards was worth attending, I took it as an opportunity to learn more about the non-profit organization. Then headed to the Beverly Hilton where the awards ceremony was being held.

    Step Up connects teens with a variety of professional women mentors for role modeling. I was surprised to learn that 100% of Step Up seniors have graduated high school and been accepted to college 4 straight years. I don’t think I’ve heard of a 100% graduation rate touted in LA– maybe ever.

    It was truly an inspiring setting. There were of hundreds of women (peppered with a few men) in the lobby of the Beverly Hilton. The event welcomed 850 guests. Many attendees were from the entertainment industry (the founder of Step Up is a former UTA agent), but people were there from all different industries.

    While walking through a sea of people in the lobby of the Beverly Hilton, I met Tamia Walker. She is one of four Inspiration Award honorees and one of those fortunate teens taken under the wings of women mentors. She will be attending Cal State University Chico (CSU) in the fall. She was sweet, affable and excited to accept her award. She later got on stage and explained her riveting story about growing up in LA in poverty. I wondered how someone manages to hold onto that kind of spirit after a series of misfortunes. After Tamia’s speech, Julie Bowen from Modern Family swept onto stage as her usual vibrant self and showered Tamia with jewelry from Dogeared and a $500 gift certificate donated by the Container Store to help Tamia start college on the right foot.

    Claudia Eller, editor-in-chief of Variety, was also an Inspiration Award honoree and Stacey Snider, CEO of Dreamworks, presented her award. Eller exudes this natural cool factor that is not intrinsic in us mere humans. Maybe it comes from those years in her early 20’s when she was trying to figure things out. In her speech, she mentioned dropping in and out of college only to become Variety’s first female editor-and-chief in its 108 year history. Her words of wisdom to the new Step Up graduates and the audience were be honest and true to yourself, pursue your endeavors, and make everything in life count. Roger that.

    Zoe Saldana, actress on Guardians of the Galaxy, radiated onstage as she accepted her Inspiration Award presented by her good friend and director of Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn. KPMG was named corporate honoree presented by the principal of Gertz-Ressler High School, James Waller.

    All the honorees on stage possessed several commonalities despite their many differences. First, none of them accomplished their achievements alone. Saldana referenced in her speech that “it takes a village” to raise young leaders and each of the honorees recognized the “village” that helped get them where they are today. They have mentors, family, bosses and others who helped. Also none of them got to where they are without overcoming some type of hardship. I guess it’s true that there’s no easy way to the top. They all stumbled into some type of roadblock along the way. They put their thinking caps on, got back on track, and persevered.

    I’m glad I found the will power to step away from the office for a few hours to attend the 11th Annual Inspiration Awards. I have enough inspiration to keep me going for a little while, at least until the next event.

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    Tamia Walker (2014 honoree) and Julie Bowen (actress, Modern Family) photo credit: Alison Buck Photography

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    Kaye Popofsky Kramer (founder, Step Up) photo credit: Alison Buck Photography

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    Stacey Snider (ceo, Dreamworks) and Claudia Eller (2014 honoree and editor-and-cheif, Variety) photo credit: Alison Buck Photography

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    Zoe Saldana (2014 honoree and actress, Guardians of the Galaxy) photo credit: Alison Buck Photography

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    Desiree Hall and Helen Huang

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    Stephanie Greitzer, Melanie Barr-Levey (board director, Step Up), and Alison Prakin Shiry

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    Thien Ho (Panda Express), Aja Brown (mayor, Compton), Gail Herring (Toyota)