Santa Clarita Women Say #CountMeIn
To honor the “Year of the Woman” and a national #CountMeIn movement, local businesswomen and leaders from the Santa Clarita Valley came together for a special town hall policy discussion put on by the Women2Women Conversations Tour. Held at the Hyatt Regency in Valencia, the tour aims to increase women’s involvement, empowerment and engagement in business, politics and the workplace.
Women2Women founder Sarah Chamberlain was joined on stage by actress/entrepreneur Vivica A. Fox; Gloria Mercado Fortine, President and CEO of Global Education Solutions; and Nicky Dare, President of the International Association of Women, Santa Clarita. They spoke and answered questions from the audience about women’s engagement in local and national politics, networking and mentoring, and how to get ahead in the workplace. The panel was moderated by SCVTV anchor Tami Edwards.
Founded by Chamberlain in 2014, the Women2Women tour aims to connect local women with the legislators and key business leaders that live and work in their communities. The tour is dedicated to engaging women across the country in a discussion about their shared concerns and goals. “Every issue in America is a woman’s issue,” says Chamberlain. “It’s time we are counted in on the conversation!”
Throughout 2018, the tour has made stops in Charlotte, North Carolina, Syracuse, New York, Newtown, Pennsylvania, and Jacksonville, Florida.
In addition to spearheading W2W and #CountMeIn, Chamberlain serves as President and CEO of Republican Main Street Partnership, a Washington, D.C. based coalition of nearly 80 members of Congress who represent the governing wing of the Republican Party. She is the only woman in the country running a major G.O.P. organization.
A near sold-out audience at the #CountMeIn event submitted questions beforehand for the four panelists to answer. Questions included: “What efforts exist or could be initiated to help mothers – particularly single mothers – to obtain career education and workforce training?” And: “What are some suggestions for reducing the guilt women tend to feel when their work-life balance isn’t perfect?”
Mercado-Fortine, the reigning Santa Clarita Valley Woman of the Year, told the gathering that “you may fail, but failure makes you stronger and wiser about your next goal. I know through my failures I am a stronger woman.”
Chamberlain and the panelists also highlighted the ongoing gender gap when it comes to small business funding and the number of female CEOs nationwide.
As illustrated by Chamberlain, there are almost 7,000 women-owned businesses in Santa Clarita and nearly 11.6 million nationwide. While impressive numbers, many of these businesses are still receiving less funding and growing at a much slower rate than male-owned ones.
According to Fortune magazine, women in the U.S. received just over 2 percent of venture capital funding in 2016, and still only make 80 cents for every man’s dollar.
“A gap is still a gap,” says Chamberlain. “Pay inequality is real. It’s time to permanently change that.”
Early last year, local U.S. Representative Steve Knight introduced in Congress the Workplace Advancement Act, which aims to reinforce and strengthen equal pay laws and protect employees who seek or share wage information. The panelists discussed details about that bill and similar legislation, while also sharing tips for moving up in the workplace, especially as women in male-dominated fields.
“Women are sticking together,” says Fox, who just this fall launched her own daytime talk show called ‘Face the Truth.’ “We are writing, producing and employing each other. We have learned that together there is so much more power.”
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