Glendale’s First International Women’s Day Summit Spotlights Female Entrepreneurs

By Lila Seidman Glendale News-Press, Calif.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) More than 120 people gathered for the event which included an all-female local-entrepreneur panel discussion followed by smaller group conversations, as well as appearances by local and state elected officials.

Glendale News-Press, Calif.

An inaugural International Women's Day Summit hosted last Friday by the Downtown Glendale Assn. marked a milestone in an ongoing discussion about gender balance, according to Kendyl Young, one of the event's breakout session leaders.

"Real change doesn't happen overnight. If it did, I'd be suspicious," said Young, an owner of a local real estate brokerage, at CBRE's downtown Glendale office, where the summit was held.

The fact that the city is focusing on female leadership, "will organically create resources, will create networks, will create support, that will eventually bring us to that society that we're hoping to have," she added.

Drawing nearly 120 attendees, the first of what organizers expect to be an annual event included an all-female local-entrepreneur panel discussion followed by smaller group conversations, as well as appearances by local and state elected officials.

Attendee Christine Park, who owns a local State Farm insurance office, said she hoped to find lasting connections. "It sounds so granola, but I wanted to meet more like-minded, career-minded women and build each other up," said Park, who came across the event on Twitter.

There seemed to be consensus among the panelists that sometimes even a high-powered woman's biggest stumbling block is herself.

Growing up, Samantha Luu, an employment-branding specialist with the start-up firm Service Titan, said she often fell victim to unconscious gender biases.

"I admired all these women, but then I indirectly attributed success to men," she said. "Trying to figure out my identity... I [want to] make sure that I'm not letting that bias get to me and that I am just as good as everybody here."

While Porto's Bakery co-owner and Cuban émigré Betty Porto said her parents instilled in her a sense of confidence, she agreed that sometimes a woman's biggest barrier can be herself.

"So what I try to do as a mother is instill the same thing my parents instilled in me," said Porto, after detailing a hard life under the Cuban Communist regime.

"Because, if you believe in yourself, you might have to knock on the door twice, you might have to kick the door down, but in the end, if you believe in yourself, you can get whatever you want in life," she added.

Another recurring theme during the panel discussion was the importance of a strong work ethic.

Helen McDonagh, owner of Massage Envy Glendale, said she was often the first person to arrive and the last person to leave at the tech company where she worked before becoming a business owner.

Pointing to an example set by her mother and grandmother, Age of Learning senior vice president Miriam Lewis said she learned early on that "you work for what you want, period. No excuses. If you want it, go get it."

Elissa Glickman, chief executive of Glendale Arts, the organization that manages the Alex Theatre, tailored her advice for those in leadership positions, who are responsible for their employees' growth, as well as their own.

"Think about really where you want to lead [your employees] to and who you want them to be when they come out of this adventure," Glickman said.

While International Women's Day was established about 100 years ago by a socialist group in New York -- and is celebrated around the world -- it has only recently gained traction in the United States, summit participants pointed out.

According to state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), of the 18 cities he represents, Glendale was the only one that held a Women's Day event.

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