By Mary O’KEEFE
The roles that women play in business – and recognizing their importance – were highlighted at the recent Women Mean Business Awards luncheon. The look and feel of the event was a bit different this year. California Senator Carol Liu took it up a notch, renaming the annual luncheon from Women In Business to Women Mean Business.
The audience was primarily women from a wide variety of areas including science, philanthropic and business.
Liu opened the luncheon by talking about how things had changed over the years for women. For example, in the past, women had limited choices for a career. The most common jobs available were as a nurse, a secretary or a teacher, which is what Liu became. She noted that many more opportunities are available now for women to make a difference, whether in business or in other ways.
“We decided not to just honor women in business but to honor women who are mentors and in science. We are recognizing a robotics team that [is made up of] a majority of women,” Liu said. “There are a lot of success stories in [this room] but so many are left behind. We are doing what we can to bring those two worlds together.”
Though the passing of time has changed some things for the better, challenges remain.
“The new iconic image of the economically insecure American is a working mother dashing around getting ready in the morning, brushing her kid’s hair with one hand and doling out medication to her own aging mother with the other,” said keynote speaker Dixie Noonan, quoting her “boss,” former California First Lady Maria Shriver.
Yet women continue to make strides in business and education. In 1964, women were 40% of the enrollment in colleges. That number today has grown to 57%. Women-owned businesses contribute over $3 trillion to the gross domestic product, according to Noonan.
“Fifty years ago this function honoring the contributions of women in business would not have taken place,” Noonan said.
But with every step forward another one is not taken.
“Women are nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers [in the U.S.]. Seventy percent of low-wage workers get no paid sick days at all,” Noonan said of the Shriver report conclusions. “The median earnings of full-time women workers are still only 77% of what the average man makes.”
Liu said her hope is that the women in the room will help other women, and their stories will inspire. When she was growing up, women seemed to be always competing with men; now she sees an opportunity for women to work with each other.
“Our testosterone levels are lower but our elbows are sharpening. It’s time to gather together and support each other,” she said.
Those honored at the luncheon with the Women Mean Business Awards were:
Outstanding Small Businesswomen: Debra Nielsen (Pasadena) and
Yvette-Janine Pardo (Pasadena)
Outstanding Junior Businesswomen: Elizabeth Yang (Pasadena) and
Amie Boersma (San Dimas)
Outstanding Corporate Women:
Lisa H. Reed (South Pasadena),
Lindsey Rehfield (Glendora) and
Robyn Grandy (Pasadena)
Outstanding Nonprofit Executive Director: Jody Gmeiner (La Verne) and Nickia Cleaves (Claremont)
Outstanding Nonprofit Employee: Florina Flores Schultz (Glendale) and Julie McElrath (Pasadena)
Woman in Law: Betty Crocker (Claremont)
Woman in Law Lifetime Achievement Award: Patricia Larrigan (Glendale)
Woman in Energy Efficiency:
Wendy M. James (Burbank) and
Debra C. Man (San Marino)
Woman in Environment Lifetime Achievement: Betty McKenney (Pasadena)
Woman in Science:
Dr. Sara Kim (Glendale), Dr. Mary Gatter (Pasadena) and
Linda Malkas (Duarte)
Woman in Technology:
Sophia Viklund (Pasadena)
Woman in Arts/Entertainment:
Keely Milliken (Monrovia),
Lissa Reynolds (South Pasadena) and Maria Akopian (Burbank)
Tami Ginsburg Award (Corporate or Small Business Employee of the Year): Joanne Fletcher (Burbank) and America Solis-Bowman (Pasadena)
Hope Perello (South Pasadena)
Most Inspirational Award:
Anne Lansing (Pasadena)
Vicki Oldham (Burbank)