I was so honored to be asked to participate as a speaker at the United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ Women’s Summit on April 25, 2016 at the Beverly Hilton. It was an incredible event – inspiring, informative, and important. Here’s a recap of my trip…
SUNDAY, APRIL 24
I arrived in LA after a great flight and had dinner at my hotel with my sister, Terry, and niece, Ava. We went to Trader Vic’s which isn’t now at all like the Trader Vic’s of old time LA. It’s now a little lounge area off the pool with a sad little menu. But we had fun. Then we checked out the International Ballroom, where the Summit was to be held the next day. It was a hive of activity with tons of people setting up. This is the same room that the Golden Globes are held in every year. I got to meet Sharon Topping and Carol Chaker, the two smart women from the United Way I’d been coordinating with for the past couple months.
MONDAY, APRIL 25
Wow. The event itself was incredible. The room was packed with interesting and influential women from all backgrounds and industries. First we heard from Amy Wakeland, the first lady of Los Angeles (Mayor Eric Garcetti’s incredibly accomplished wife) and Elise Buik, the charismatic President and CEO of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. The morning also included an interesting review of the United Way of LA’s social report, “The State of Women in Los Angeles County,” which reviewed the situation regarding poverty, homelessness, etc. in LA. It’s a dire situation but incredible that the United Way commissioned this piece of research which will certainly be an impetus for change and forward momentum in the county. There were additional speakers and we heard the story of Lakiesha Anthony, a US veteran who turned her life around with the help of the United Way of LA.
Then it was time for the breakout sessions. I was in the third rotation of breakout talks so I was able to attend Sessions I and II. For Session I, I went to “Women and Start-Ups, Shaping Your Future” where the three co-founders of FoodStirs, Gia Russo Levin, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Galit Laibow discussed their company. Really interesting and fun to see Sarah Michelle Gellar in this role as entrepreneur. For Session II, I listened to Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, Professor of Psychology, discuss happiness, which was also quite interesting.
Kerry Washington spoke during the lunch (in a conversation with Elise Buik), and I was completely blown away by her. She speaks so passionately about using her voice and encouraging other women to do the same, encouraging others to do what we can do philanthropically to help society at large, dreaming big, and having her co-workers truly see her. She is a joy to listen to and I was so inspired by her as were so many others based upon the commentary on social media.
Then it was time for my breakout session: “Work/Life Integration: How to Manage Family, Friends, Work and You.” First I was introduced by Kathy Mandato, EVP of Human Resources for NBC Entertainment who I really enjoyed getting to know. Then I was up! The speech went well—in honor of Kerry Washington, I opened the talk by analyzing Olivia Pope’s work-life balance ;-)—and I enjoyed the Q&A at the end and meeting some of the audience members who approached me afterwards.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience. I love having the opportunity to speak to women about what I’ve learned about work-life balance from doing The Balance Project interviews and from writing The Balance Project novel. I love stepping outside my normal life of writer/mom to meet interesting people and get inspired by new ideas. I love having my boys see me as a professional. I love hotel rooms by myself. Parting shot: Monday night, jammies, Bravo, room service. What could be better!
Thank you so much, United Way of Greater Los Angeles, for inviting me to be a part of your event!! I loved every minute of it!
P.S. I also loved meeting Marianne Schnall, author of What Will It Take To Make A Woman President? and Executive Director of Feminist.com. She was also one of the breakout session speakers. Despite deep questioning of her father and my father-in-law, alas, we could not find a family relation.