Los Angeles, CA – On Saturday, October 20th, CAUSE held the Women in Power Annual Leadership Conference at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, featuring a roster of women leaders as panelists and session facilitators, along with this year’s Changemaker Award Honorees.
Audrey Soriano, Manager of Leadership Development at CAUSE, welcomed guests and introduced the Women in Power program as a way to create opportunities for candid discussion regarding issues that women leaders face and to explore strategies for overcoming them. She spoke on how her own life was shaped by the female role models around her and invited the audience to share some words of wisdom they’ve received from others by writing them down on “Words of Inspiration” notecards. The cards were then collected and redistributed to other guests during the program.
Kim Yamasaki, Executive Director of CAUSE, then came onstage to share more about the organization and the importance of Women in Power. She shared that this year marked the 10th anniversary of the Women in Power program. While she acknowledged the tremendous strides that have been made for women’s rights, she also cautioned that the recent Brett Kavanaugh hearings and the continued wage / pay gap are signs that we still have a long ways to go in order to truly achieve gender equality. She said, “In order for us to truly find gender equity, we’ll need to shift our mindsets, alter our approach, and change our cultural understanding.” Sponsors, board members, elected officials, and promotional partners were also recognized.
Afterwards, Adam Ma, Community Relations at SoCalGas and Board Vice Chair of CAUSE, spoke on SoCalGas’ ongoing support for the Women in Power program and the progress made in ensuring that women are in positions of influence and leadership. He recognized the female leaders of SoCalGas in attendance and highlighted their intention to continue efforts in ensuring gender equality in leadership roles.
Next, Audrey introduced the first Changemaker Award Honoree of the program: Appointments Secretary Mona Pasquil of the Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. Although unable to attend the event in person, Secretary Pasquil sent over her remarks:
“Thank you for this honor – I am so humbled.
Thank you CAUSE for your work and your inspiration and your passion to provide pathways and opportunities for women to learn and succeed. All are critical for a stronger community, state, and world. this conference is so important – thank you to the speakers and conference organizers – I’m so sorry I can’t be with you today.
Sisters – we all have our own story. Blessed and wonderful moments. Trials and challenges that tested us. Ups and downs that got us to this place – today. This moment. Cherish every minute of it.
Take the time today to be in the moment and listen to each other – put the phones down and reach out to someone in the room you don’t know. Hear the stories of our speakers and ask questions. And reflect on your journey – your path.
At the end of the day or in the next few days, think about this homework:
Know your story.
Talk to the mirror (if you have doubts or fears) in the bathroom and walk out with confidence.
Do your homework.
When you fall, get up.
Know who’s in your corner.
Get a mentor and most of all, be kind.”
Afterward, Audrey introduced the breakout sessions planned for the day. During registration, guests had the opportunity to select two out of three sessions to attend. The breakout sessions were the following:
“Creating Women Friendly Workplaces” Panel
The panel featured Sienna Babb, Founder & CEO of WMN / WRK; Alice Y. Hom, Commissioner on the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women and Girls; and Wendy Greuel, Commissioner on the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Vivian Long, Director of Programs at the Long Family Foundation (LFF), served as the moderator for the panel.
The panelists were invited to share and discuss their own personal experiences in response to a series of questions and talking points surrounding their work and the challenges they’ve encountered.
As part of her introduction, Sienna shared how her journey to founding WMN / WRK started with realizing the inaccessibility of finding lawyers and legal resources who understand and empathize with experiences unique to women. Through WMN / WRK, she hoped to create a resource for women to rely on when they need legal services.
In response to a question on how women can get involved to increase female representation in government, Wendy shared, “Women in top positions need to have the willingness to fail. To have those experiences and mentor others and be able to support them is what they want to do.”
When presented with the topic of how workplaces can work towards being truly inclusive of all diverse aspects of identity, Alice spoke on the impact of utilizing gender-neutral vocabulary in the workplace, emphasizing that “affirmation does so much for people.”
Lastly, Joi spoke on the intricacies of the wage gap and how it disproportionately affects women across different ethnic groups and backgrounds. While progress is being made, she spoke on the importance of inclusivity among boards and leadership positions who can influence decisions from the top.
“Creating Inclusive Spaces” (presented by LEAP) facilitated by Alison De La Cruz, Vice President of Programs, Japanese American Cultural & Community Center
Because diversity of thought and perspective are an asset to any next generation leader looking to build community, this breakout session prioritized encouraging teams to openly communicate with each other and to establish the environments ncessary to be able to do so.
During this session, Alison emphasized the importance of utilizing effective communication styles and active and reflective listening to ensure that everyone’s experiences are heard and respected. Attendees of the session were invited to practice active and reflective listening with each other and debriefed on how the activity made them feel and think.
“Story of Self to Inspire Change” facilitated by Emilie Aries, Founder & CEO of Bossed Up
Emilie hosted a session on how to more effectively articulate our personal stories as a means of inspiring others into action. In an age where the stories we tell have the power to shape our world, we have access to endless content at the touch of our hands. By allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, Emilie stressed that conference attendees would be able to inspire greater action and change to lead our communities.
Emilie actively engaged with the audience and invited them to share their own personal stories. She shared how language and playing with time can make how one tells their story more effective. The breakout session closed with an inspirational speech by President Barack Obama.
After the first breakout session, guests were invited back into the main ballroom for the luncheon portion of the program. As guests were seated and served lunch, Audrey introduced the second Changemaker Award Honoree of the Day: Congressmember Judy Chu of the 27th Congressional District, the first Chinese-American woman elected to Congress and a champion of women’s rights. Congressmember Chu spoke on the personal significance of receiving such an award, especially from an organization she has been associated with for so long. She remarked on how far women have come in terms of representation, sharing, “When I was growing up, I never believed I could rise to become an elected leader because I just didn’t see anyone who looked like me in office.”
The third and final Changemaker Award was presented to Awkwafina, an Asian-American rapper, and actress who rose to fame with her casting in the all-female spinoff to the Ocean’s Trilogy, Ocean’s 8, and this summer’s big hit, Crazy Rich Asians. Although unable to accept the award in person, she created a video message to be shown at the event:
Next, Linda Akutagawa, President & CEO of Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc. (LEAP) was invited to the stage. Linda remarked on the importance of the community coming together, emphasizing, “Leadership requires all of us, not just one of us.” Linda’s remarks on leadership served as a reminder that just as women should support and elevate other women, so too do community organizations need to help and elevate each other’s missions.
As the luncheon portion concluded, guests dispersed to attend their second and last breakout session for the day.