By Elina D.
The 5th annual Woman to Woman Conference was held at the Skirball Cultural Center on Tuesday November 14, 2017. The Women’s Leadership Network (WLN), which is part of the organization JVS, hosts the event every year. It was a chance for women of all ages to come together, be inspired and hear success stories from other women who have overcome many obstacles to get to where they are now. These women’s personal and professional journeys all tied back to this year’s theme, “Unstoppable: The Power of Women.” All the proceeds from the event went to JVS’ programs serving women in different stages of career crisis or transition. This range includes veterans, at-risk youth, women who are unemployed, have disabilities or are considered “working poor.” The conference was a great success with more than 500 women in attendance.
The morning began with a networking breakfast. This was a chance for everyone in attendance to get to know each other, and make connections, before the conference officially started. The event host was Nikki Crawford, an award-winning actress, singer and dancer. She has a variety of theatre, television and film credits, and can currently be seen on the show “Criminal Minds.” She introduced each speaker, and also led the question-and-answer portions after each.
Haifaa Al-Mansour, the first female Saudi filmmaker, kicked off the conference. She talked about the making of her film “Wadjda,” which broke down many barriers. Not only is it the first movie filmed entirely in Saudi Arabia, by the first female Saudi director, but it is also the first Academy Awards submission from the country. Although it was not nominated, it did receive lots of critical acclaim. Al-Mansour’s story was inspiring, saying that it took her five years to make and release the film. She showed all the women in that room that anything is possible with enough perseverance.
The inaugural WLN Women’s Empowerment Award was then presented to Kathy Suto, Vice President and General Manager of Bloomingdale’s Century City. She received this award in recognition of her work with the Downtown Women’s Center, which is dedicated to ending homelessness for women in Los Angeles.
Next to speak was Unplug Meditation CEO and Founder, Suze Yalof Schwartz. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she was working as a fashion editor. When her husband received a new job offer requiring them to move the family to LA, she had to leave her dream job behind. It ended up being a blessing in disguise, because this is ultimately what led her to start Unplug Meditation. She is a great example, especially to other women in similar situations, that it is never too late to do something new. She even got the audience involved by having everyone close their eyes, and use a special breathing technique to relieve stress. Then she had us all stand up and hug the person next to us, even if we did not know each other. It was a great way to build connections with the women around us, and by the end of her speech, everyone was smiling from ear to ear.
The final speaker was acclaimed jazz singer and recording artist, Barbara Morrison. She told stories about her family growing up, and how much her parents sacrificed for her so she could go to college. She also talked about friends, becoming a singer, and much more. The highlight was Morrison giving phenomenal performances of multiple songs, each dedicated to the particular story she had just told.
There was a luncheon and prize raffle that followed the speakers. Finally, WLN Leadership Council Members and event chairs, Barbara Leanse and Nancy Paul, closed out the event with a wonderful speech thanking everyone. This event was an important reminder of the power women have when we stick together and encourage each other to grow.