Tag Archives: women

Women In Leadership: A Discussion Hosted By Leading From Within And Touchstone Central Coast

In honor of Women’s History Month, local nonprofit, Leading From Within, joined with Touchstone Central Coast to host a virtual presentation and panel discussion recently called Women in Leadership: A Discussion for Everyone.

“The pandemic of 2020, unfortunately, has created a loss of nearly 3 million women in the workforce,” explained Touchstone Central Coast co-creator Emily Smith. 

“This past year threatens to wipe out all the progress made over the last several decades to close the gender gaps and if not addressed will exacerbate existing inequalities,” she urged.  Smith facilitated the discussion along with co-creator and business partner Diane Adam, a Leading From Within Katherine Harvey Fellows alumna.

The presentation and panel provided an outline for “Servant Leadership,” a model that empowers the team over the individual and examined how to support and create more positive environments for women in the workforce. 

Panelists included Connie Alexander, founder/co-executive director of Gateway Educational Services; Nancy Gastelum, associate professional clinical counselor and nonprofit executive; Petra Gomez, Ed.D candidate at USC and program manager, the Santa Barbara Foundation; Sarah Kirwan, CEO/founder of Eye Level Communications; Pamela Macal, CEO McDonald’s Central Coast; Simonne Mitchelson, South Coast estate manager for Jackson Family Wines; and Sevelyn VanRonk, Ph.D candidate at Claremont Graduate University and senior manager of People Strategy of BlueShield, CA.

“Covid-19 has disrupted the workplace in ways we’ve never seen before,” said Smith. “The boundaries between work and home have blurred, workplace structures have shifted, employees lost jobs experiencing financial distress, and burnout has become rampant.” 

Smith says it’s been particularly challenging for women who were more likely to be laid-off or furloughed, and who often struggle more intensely with the balance of childcare and work.

“We expect women to work like they don’t have children and raise children as if they don’t work,” was a quote attributed to Amy Westervelt and used in the presentation to demonstrate some of the challenges that women face.

These challenges can present an opportunity to reevaluate and restore critical leadership qualities. Smith queried the 90 zoom participants who shared qualities that they believe define a strong leader, and discussed timeless leadership attributes and the benefits of a service leader mindset.  

First coined by AT&T executive Robert K. Greenleaf, servant leadership turns the idea of traditional workplace leadership on its head, focusing on empowering and uplifting others rather than commanding from a position of power or authority.

“Servant leaders prioritize other people’s well-being and growth, share power, and enable their team to grow, develop and perform to the best of their ability,” said Smith. This approach aims to increase retention rates, provide greater collaboration, create a more positive work environment, support a culture of belonging and foster leadership everywhere. 

The presentation focused on increasing and honoring women in the workplace; Smith noted that companies that don’t encourage women to join them are missing out on talents and abilities of over half the population. 

“Multiplicity of perspectives can spark creativity and innovation and inclusivity boosts morale and opportunity,” she said. She quoted a study by management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company that found the most gender-diverse companies are 21 percent more likely to experience above average profitability.

A panel of female leaders candidly shared thoughts and experiences after the 40-minute presentation, reflecting upon their own successes, challenges and sources of inspiration. 

VanRonk revealed a core message learned from her mentor: that when we say yes to things that are draining us, we have less time for things that could benefit us. “No is a complete sentence.”

“The best leadership gift we have is our time,” said Macal.  “How you choose to spend time with your people and how you choose to make time for your family are integral,” she said, noting that showing up, being supportive and making time for Sunday family dinners is essential.

Alexander, who is participating in the Courage to Lead program at Leading From Within, shared wisdom that she refers to as “holy boldness.”  “In navigating situations, you have to be able to acknowledge and name things that you perceive as wrong because if you don’t then you end up pushing back, and so the lesson I learned is to walk right into those tough conversations and show up with some holy boldness,” she explained. 

Kirwan shared a story about the mentor at her first job out of college and how her female boss instructed her solely on what to wear (stockings, suit and heels). It’s a lesson that’s informed her own mentorship style, which Kirwan says concentrates on empowerment, building confidence, having empathy and teaching young woman to own their value — with or without the heels.

The panel also shared impressions of what Leading with Love means to them. “Being honest, having integrity, and giving back to the community by providing resources and support to others,” said Gomez.

“Self-care is critical,” said Mitchelson, who candidly shared that she always felt “other” coming from an immigrant family raised in a majority white Michigan town. This feeling followed her to the Central Coast where she said it’s difficult to find people who look like her in management, or even in the wine tasting rooms. “It’s important to know and love yourself and to bring that love into your leadership.”

Gastelum stressed the importance of mental health, crediting her own meditation practice with granting her the space to focus and reflect. She also encouraged the value of hope as being a catalyst for vision and fortitude. 

“For me, it’s that loving moment when you can put the oxygen back in the room after watching it go out,” said Alexander. “It’s giving breathe and making space to ensure the little brown girls that I serve get the equity they deserve.” 

Leading From Within was honored to partner with Touchstone Central Coast to offer this forum. The nonprofit has remained active throughout the pandemic by collaborating with other organizations to continue offering learning opportunities for their extensive network of local leaders.  For more information, visit http://leading-from-within.org.

Touchstone Central Coast provides support and training to individuals and organizations desiring to learn, grow, and lead with a servant’s heart. For more information on upcoming workshops, visit https://www.touchstonecc.com.

Healing by Fostering Hope

In 1997, a group of breast cancer survivors and others came together to talk about having a place where women and men could come to receive practical advice and emotional support addressing the realities of a breast cancer diagnosis.  Today, with 23 years of service to the Santa Barbara community, the Breast Cancer Resource Center continues to stand at the ready with an unwavering message of hope and perseverance. 

When Georganne Lubin, a mother of four, was diagnosed with breast cancer, the road ahead – chemo, surgery, the unknown – was daunting, but the center’s home-like atmosphere, Reiki, Reflexology, and staff, many cancer survivors themselves, proved a salve. “What I found at the BCRC was a place of encouragement and hopeduring a time when my world was turned on its head by a cancer diagnosis with multiple treatments and surgeries,” Lubin says.

Amara, client with daughter

Silvana Kelly, Executive Director of the BCRC, is a survivor. Nearly two decades ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She watched her hair fall out, fought through months of treatment, recovery, and marveled at how after treatment, health improved daily and her physical strength returned.

So when a young woman with a recent diagnosis walks into the center, Kelly can, from a place of knowing, tell her that yes, you can get through this, your hair will grow back; and you will have the strength to play with your children again, and learn how to ask for help. Like Kelly, the center’s director of programs, outreach coordinator, and mammogram coordinator are all survivors.

“We are not the doctors to provide a cure, but we are the support system and family that will encourageand uplift clients, so they have the stamina to move forward while maintaining a semblance of mindful wellness,” Kelly says.

While the organization’s programs primarily focus on women because 99% of breast cancer cases affect them, Director of Donor Engagement Armando Martinez recently launched Men in Pink, a distinguished group of compassionate and philanthropic leaders dedicated to raising awareness and money to help the Breast Cancer Resource Center of Santa Barbarawith their mission to support individuals facing breast cancer.

“Breast Cancer affects everyone,” Martinez says. “It also affects the lives of those standing strong, supporting a loved one through their journey”

Whether men supporting women as sons, friends, or partners, or women survivors helping those in the throes of breast cancer, the Breast Cancer Resource Center is at the heart of providing better lives for everyone touched by this terrible disease.

“We know how to support and love and be there for you,” Martinez says. “That’s what we do, and that’s all we do.”

Women, a Smart Investment

Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) was founded in 1991 when women earned 56 cents for every dollar earned by a man. A male college graduate earned almost twice as much as a female college graduate. Women weren’t routinely viewed as managers or executives, let alone entrepreneurs. There were only a handful of organizations in the entire country devoted to helping women start businesses. WEV was a pioneer in the arena.

Fast forward to 2020. WEV has provided business training and consulting to more than 17,500 women and men throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, and made over $6 million in loans to local businesses. More than 5,000 businesses have started or grown with WEV’s help, creating or sustaining an estimated 9,400 local jobs. And for those interested in ROI, every dollar spent on WEV results in $12 in tax revenue and jobs created.

Charlotte Andersen, The Andersen’s Danish Bakery & Restaurant

Small business owners have grown to depend on WEV not only to learn how to write a business plan or secure a loan, but to find a community that encourages and supports them in their personal and business growth. 

If you are invested in creating a better world for your children and grandchildren and are concerned about the economic stability of our country in general, then you should be interested in women’s entrepreneurship and women’s leadership. The cost of not caring is enormous. A seminal 2015 study by McKinsey & Company found that the global economy would grow by $28 trillion by 2025 if women reached parity with men in the workforce. That’s $7.5 trillion more than U.S. GDP.

If macroeconomics doesn’t tug at your heartstrings, think local quality of life. “WEV is helping to create a pipeline of sustainable entrepreneurs who build businesses that are the heart of our communities,” CEO Kathy Odell says. “The businesses we rely on daily for fresh juice, dry cleaning, childcare, staying healthy and fit, personal care services, dining out – businesses that enable our prized lifestyle.” 

Now that is something worth investing in.

Girls Take the Lead

By her sophomore year of high school, Sarahi Larios Cruz had already experienced family disruption, racism and systemic inequity, but she chose the “path of most resistance” focusing on overcoming these challenges and limitations to create the future she envisions for herself.

Key throughout her journey has been her confidence and resilience, which she cultivated at Girls Inc.’s Goleta Valley Teen Center where she spent almost every weekday from 2:45 – 6:00 PM.

“Girls Inc. is a place of independence, support, respect and opportunity,” Larios Cruz said during the Girls Inc. 2019 Celebration Luncheon. “At Girls Inc. I am at home. It is a place I am excited to go to, and a place I don’t want to leave.”

And while the space itself is “home,” it is the Girls Inc. staff – many of whom are Latina like Sarahi – that serve as her “extended family” and make her experience so transformational.

In fall of 2019, Larios Cruz was selected as one of 12 teens to serve on the National Girls Inc. Teen Advocacy Council where she advises the national organization’s public policy team about the issues facing girls and teens in their respective communities. With the leadership skills she has developed from the experience, attending college is not even a question for Larios Cruz after she graduates in 2021.

For CEO Barbara Ben-Horin, the strength of young women like Larios Cruz is the whole reason why Girls Inc. exists. When girls have tools and opportunities, they change their own circumstances and they also change the circumstances of others around them.

“The girls are not victims, they are powerful,” Ben-Horin says. “We want them to take their power and their voices into the world and make their mark as leaders.”

To do that, Girls Inc. uses its two facilities in downtown Santa Barbara and in Goleta to serve as many as 1,500 girls and teens every year. The programming is developed around the three words that capture the group’s mission: inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.

Strong (healthy) programs are aimed at health and wellness. Smart (educated) programs focus on academic enrichment and literacy and developing girls’ interests in pursuing STEM. Bold (independent) programs cultivate girls’ social and emotional intelligence and teach girls – many of whom grow up in under-resourced communities – to break through gender bias to create their place as powerful leaders as adults. These programs focus on areas such as economic literacy, leadership, civic engagement, and advocacy.

After nine years at Girls Inc., Larios Cruz is the embodiment of Girls Inc.’s mission – confidently shaping her own path forward, and ready to take the lead.