Influential Napa Valley Women Gather To Share Ideas, ‘Speak Up And Do Great Things’

By Courtney Teague Napa Valley Register, Calif.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) More than 50 women in local leadership roles gathered Tuesday night to forge new bonds in hopes of empowering Napa Valley women and girls.

Napa Valley

The Progressive Women of Napa Valley hosted an event at the Napa Women's Club to honor female leaders.

The group has put on a similar event in the past for elected officials, but this year invited women from local nonprofits, businesses and public offices.

Attendees included women from Ole Health, UpValley Family Services, NEWS for victims of domestic and sexual abuse, and the Napa and Calistoga city councils.

Men still hold more leadership roles than women, though the gap has closed some, said Sharon Macklin, a founder of the organization. When women are leaders, other women and girls are inspired, she said.

Bringing local leaders together gives women a chance to connect and share ideas, she said.

"We want to support them," Macklin said. "We want them to speak up and do great things."

While the Progressive Women has advocated for local progressive candidates and issues for more than a decade, Tuesday's event was more about female empowerment than politics.

Napa Valley residents may elect female officials, but those women don't always get to connect, said Judy Myers, a group member and event planner. Women have a unique ability to share strength and courage with one another, and should look out for each other. Men already do, she said.

Elba Gonzalez-Mares, head of local nonprofit Community Health Initiative and board member of Napa Valley Unified School District, was the first to address the crowd after some time spent mingling, sipping wine and munching snacks.

Gonzalez-Mares said she was fortunate that when her family came to America, they ended up in Napa, where she was raised around women she could admire.

"It's the strong women in my life, my mother and my sister, that taught me the strength, and the dedication, and the hard work that it takes for us women to find our voice," she said.

Gonzalez-Mares said that as a bilingual and bicultural woman, she saw a little bit of herself in others. Progressive Women gave her a place to grow and learn from women with different skills, she said.

"I can only be my best if you are your best," Gonzalez-Mares said. "And if you are your best, we all win."

Vintage High student activist Bailey Stone spoke to the crowd about her plans to organize an on-campus event -- inspired by one at St. Helena High -- to register students to vote, discuss student apathy and encourage attendees to find an issue to get involved in.

Three women in the crowd announced on the spot that their organizations would help fund the event, which is May 30 at 4 p.m. in the Vintage High gym. Attendees of all ages are welcome.

The guest speaker on Tuesday was Monika Bauerlein, CEO of Mother Jones Magazine, a San Francisco-based nonprofit known for its investigative reporting and left-leaning political commentary.

"Behind every woman who has accomplished anything, which is to say every woman, is another woman," she said, as her mother crouched on the floor to film her remarks. "Often our moms, our mentors, our grandmothers."

Bauerlein said she grew up in Italy and Germany, where her father was a journalist. One of Bauerlein's earliest memories, she said, is walking down the streets of Rome with her mother and sharing that she wanted to marry a journalist so she could live in interesting places.

"I remember her saying, 'Have you thought about becoming a journalist yourself?'," Bauerlein said.

The anecdote is an example of the power that women have in counteracting self-defeating messages that they receive, she said.

Bauerlein also spoke of her own daughter, who said in the sixth grade that she did not think she was a feminist because feminists were too hard on men. Two years later, she wrote an argumentative essay on why everyone should be a feminist, she said.

It goes to show that every generation of women has to rediscover its strength, Bauerlein said. It won't come naturally.

And while many working women may still be fighting for equal pay and better representation in leadership roles, Progressive Women co-founder, 84-year-old Hope Lugo, said she was feeling inspired by the bright, intelligent women in the room with much to offer to the community.

"The excitement and energy that's here now is uplifting for me," she said.

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