Archive of ‘Events’ category

SoGal Summit: Entrepreneurship Conference for Women

I had the opportunity to brush up on my entrepreneurial skills and meet like-minded female entrepreneurs at the first annual SoGal Summit last Saturday morning, an entrepreneurship conference for young women. Despite having to hit the alarm clock several times, I appreciated that the conference was held on a Saturday. There were no urgent work emails to respond to and I could focus on the conference. Once I was fully caffeinated, I jumped in my car and headed to University of Southern California where the event was being held. I was pleasantly surprised at the great turnout the conference brought its first year. Nearly 450 entrepreneurial women attended and came ready to network and learn from fellow entrepreneurs.

The conference kicked off with venture capitalist Eva Ho founder of Susa Ventures, one of the few female venture capitalist is her field. Her story was enough to not only inspire hundreds of entrepreneurs in the room, but also inspire anyone who loves a good underdog story. Eva grew up in public housing, was terribly shy, and didn’t interact with a computer until she got to college. After college, she had the opportunity to work at Google and You Tube during its infancy and quickly moved up the ranks. Now she’s advising and investing in start-ups and speaks in front of hundreds.

After Eva infused some energy and inspiration into the crowd, we were ready to move into breakout sessions with the summit’s panelists who were speaking on topics like building a brand, launching a company, and raising funds. On the panel where seasoned entrepreneurs such as Leura Fine; founder of Laurel and Wolf, Julie Thorne Engles; founder of Tribemint, Shona Mitchell; managing director of Headspace, Melinda Moore; chief marketing officer of Crowdfunder and dozens of other panelist speaking on various subjects. These women have seen it and experienced everything either through their own start-up or investing and betting on someone else’s. It was amazing to hear, first-hand, about the amazing growth that’s happening in start-ups, especially in tech.

Probably the most impactful part of the conference for me, personally, were the Speed Mentoring Sessions where you sat in a small group and spoke to a few of the panelists about your start-up. No matter your level of expertise, it was an opportunity to make contacts, ask questions specific to your start-up, and listen to other women going through similar experiences. It was like getting a personal consultation about your start-up from experienced entrepreneurs.

It’s inspiring to see entrepreneurship alive and well and women willing to help other women. If you’re starting a new company or have an idea and don’t know where to start, this event may be for you.

Eva Ho, founder of Susa Ventures

Eva Ho, founder of Susa Ventures

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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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    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)