Following its successful launch at Bloomingdale’s, Women, Wine & Wisdom was back for another sold-out panel and mixer at Red Bull’s headquarters in Santa Monica on July 27, 2017. Founded by Stacey Bean earlier this year, the nonprofit organization hopes to encourage, empower, and inspire the next generation of female leaders by bringing together senior executives, successful female founders, and women in all stages of their career.
The panel discussion focused on “The Road to Leadership” as industry leaders shared their inspirational stories about their rise to the top, sacrifices they have had to make along the way, and how to make their voices heard. It featured four distinguished executives, each with numerous accolades: Lina Akopians, Fertility Specialist at Southern California Reproductive Center; Diane Reichenberger, Vice President of Consumer Products Global Strategy at Mattel; Olga Kay, Founder of Moosh Walks and YouTube celebrity; and Angie Barrick, Head of Industry, Media & Entertainment at Google.
The event was sponsored by Google and Southern California Reproductive Center, with appetizers and desserts provided by Haute Chefs, Sconely, Canelé Gourmet Pantry, and Chewse, and drinks by Loft & Bear and Dearly Beloved Wines. Guests also had the opportunity to experience virtual reality games, and enjoy a complimentary makeover sponsored by beGlammed.
Here are the highlights from the panel:
What is the most challenging thing you have had to overcome to get where you are today?
Olga: I came from Russia to the US when I was 16 years old. I didn’t speak any English, and in my first three years here, I worked really hard without getting paid. I found that the US is the land of opportunity if you work really hard, do something different, and really stand out.
Angie: I took five years off from work because I wanted to spend more time with my kids. The world changed drastically in those five years, and when I finally came back, it has transitioned to a tech-heavy world, and I had to catch up with that.
Diane: I took four years off and had the most amazing journey. However, during my time-off I was told I was never going to be able to come back. My friends, family, and society all told me I will never get the same position and salary when I come back. But you know what? It turned out to be the best thing that happened to me, and I made more than I’ve ever made when I came back.
What is the one thing you’ve done that set you apart from others?
Diane: It would be sending hand-written thank-you notes to the people I have met. This has helped me get further in my career and given me more amazing opportunities than any other thing. It may seem like a small thing, but people will remember you.
What is the biggest sacrifice you have had to make?
Diane: I haven’t had to sacrifice anything yet.
Angie: I agree. When you really enjoy what you do, you won’t feel like you have to sacrifice much. When I took time off work, I thought I was sacrificing something, but really, I gave myself something, and that is invaluable family time.
Olga: I have had to give up my personal life, but I wasn’t bothered by it, because I was building something bigger.
Lina: I have had to put my personal life aside to get ahead in career.
Have you experienced any gender blocks in the workplace?
Olga: I found out I was paid 50% less than my male counterparts, even though we had the same metrics, number of fans, and engagement rates.
Diane: Every day I experience gender bias in some way or the other. I think the more important thing is to mentor younger women on how to overcome gender biases, and to find champions that support them.
Lina: Definitely. In the healthcare industry, patients often prefer older men to women.
How do you get your voice heard?
Diane: First, find female or male counterparts who will have your back. Tell them your ideas ahead of a meeting, and ask them, “Will you engage with me?” Second, after your meeting, follow up with the leader of the meeting and address the problem. Ask him/her for advice on how you can make your voice heard.
What resources do you think women need the most?
Lina: I think what they need is the right support and leadership, so they can see what they can become.
Olga: I think it’s important to mentor young girls, to make them believe they can do it.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing women?
Olga: There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I think it’s the best time to be a woman right now – the future is female.
Diane: We need more voices at the table that represent the diverse cultures we come from. In order to grow, companies have to be more diverse. It’s not going to come from the government – it will be from us, from within the organization.
What is the one advice you would like to give as leaders?
Angie: Be yourself – your authenticity is what sets you apart.
Olga: Dive in, be terrible, and be better as you go. That’s the only way I was able to learn.
Diane: Believe the universe is conspiring to help you succeed. Follow your heart, find your authentic voice, and find people you trust, whether they are male or female. We are stronger together.
To view the complete event gallery, please click here.