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Embracing Our Journey at the Women’s Leadership Conference

Women's Leadership Legacy Conference, Pasadena, 2012

Christine Schwab, Hope Edelman, Stacey Gualandi and Inger Miller

By Stacey Gualandi/Nov. 1, 2012
Photos by Stacey Gualandi and DPW Leadership Council

With this being a Presidential election year, we are all concerned with “who is the best leader for the job?”  Our leaders are often elected.  But, history has shown that many women have embraced and claimed leadership roles simply by electing to follow their own passion—from political activists like Susan B. Anthony and Lilly Ledbetter to Nobel prize winners Marie Curie and Leymah Gbowee.

Women's Legacy Leadership Conference, Pasadena, 2012

Well, there was no shortage of dynamic female leaders at the 3rd annual Women’s Leadership Legacy Conference held recently at the Pasadena Convention Center.

This year’s theme was “The Journey,” and one eloquent speaker after another—authors, entrepreneurs, Olympic athletes, motivational speakers, general managers and chief executives—shared their personal stories of triumphs, tragedies, and tributes to a sold-out crowd.

The conference is the brainchild of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works Leadership Council.  Their sole mission is to foster the growth and leadership skills of their employees through educational and networking opportunities.  And with over 600 people in attendance, their mission appears to be working.

Stacey Gualandi and Gail Farber, Dir. of LA County Public Works at Women's Leadership Conference, 2012

Stacey Gualandi and Gail Farber, Dir. of Public Works, LA County

Gail Farber, the first female Director of the Department of Public Works in the history of the country’s largest Public Works Department, said this conference was meant to inspire, to encourage creativity, and to help us all learn from everyone’s journey.

I recently interviewed Gail for the local public affairs’ program “My County.” It must have gone well, because I was invited to speak about my own personal journey at the conference!  Normally, I just cover events like these, but this was a new experience on my journey, and I was certainly honored to be in such good company…

One of the outstanding speakers was author and motivational speaker Angella Nazarian, who emphasized we can all learn to be leaders at any age.  In her book “Pioneers of the Possible,” she profiled 20 of the world’s most inspiring women of the last century.

She says we can all learn leadership lessons from Amma, “the hugging Saint;” or the “Mother Theresa of the Far East,” Master Cheng Yen; or the artist Frida Kahlo.  All we have to do is build a life around our strengths.  Everyone’s personal story has power – now we just need to amplify our voices.

Angella Nazarian, author of "Pioneers of the Possible" at Leadership Conference/2012

Angella Nazarian, author of “Pioneers of the Possible”

Professional athlete and entrepreneur Inger Miller spoke of enduring injuries from a car crash only to persevere and claim a gold medal at the Olympic Games in 1996.  She says the grit and determination that helped her win gold has made her a successful event planner.  Her motto?  “Don’t worry, we will.”

Christine Schwab is a successful author, TV personality and fashion guru, but when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis 20 years ago, she feared her career would be over.  “Designer dresses didn’t go with arthritis,” she said.

But Christine discovered changing lanes in life can be a good thing.  She is now an Ambassador for the National Arthritis Foundation and says advocacy work has become her life’s work.

Hope Edelman, the prolific author, whose best-selling books have helped families deal with the loss of their mother, recounts in her memoir how we are all capable of believing in the “The Possibility of Everything.”

And Phyllis Currie, the general manager of Pasadena Water and Power, says leadership takes education, experience, mentors, setbacks and also some luck.  She says the key to rising to the top is by defining yourself for yourself or “Doing it our way!”

Martha de la Torre/Women's Legacy Leadership Conference/Pasadena-2012

Martha de la Torre,
co-founder of El Clasificado

Martha de la Torre knows that all too well.  As the chief executive and co-founder of El Clasificado, a Spanish-language weekly “penny saver,” she was an “accidental entrepreneur” who overcame a recession, near-bankruptcy and reinvention to emerge a role model, and a huge success. There were so many more amazing speakers, so when it came time for me to discuss my topic, “Leadership Through the Media,” I was a little nervous, but definitely energized.

I chose to describe my journey as the three R’s:  the Rise, the Rejection, and the Reinvention. I’ve had success, and I’ve had failure, and I’ve been able to rise again.  I quoted Gail Farber in my speech, and I’ll quote her again here:  “Leaders need to see adversity as an opportunity and that failure is an opportunity to try again and succeed.”  These are words I now live by.

Stacey Gualandi speaking at the Women's Leadership Conference/Pasadena 2012

Stacey Gualandi, host of TWE Radio, speaking

It was actually kind of enjoyable to write about my journey…I encourage everyone to do that.  And while I don’t necessarily always feel like a leader, I do believe I can inspire everyone’s “inner leader” by covering events like this conference through The Women’s Eye.

I’d like to thank to Rossana D’Antonio and Christie Smith for inviting me to be a part of this conference.  Each year this event has grown, and that shows there is a never-ending supply of stories from women who lead, make change, and succeed, which is terrific news.  And who knows? Maybe someday soon, we will elect a female to lead our country.