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Does Your Life Fit You?

08/26/10 | Astrid Sheil | 2 Comments

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Astrid Sheil, Ph.D.

I’ve learned that sometimes what seems right -- in terms of life goals and aspirations -- isn’t.

Shortly after I finished my PhD in Organizational Communication, I was recruited by a Midwestern college with a solid reputation. I was very excited that someone/anyone wanted me, even though I couldn’t imagine living among cornfields and dilapidated barns with no city life. (I had grown up in Washington, D.C., with all its culture and diversity.) Nonetheless, I was thrilled with the opportunity and prepared for the interview and site visit as if this were my destiny, the perfect job for me. I researched the university and the department. I practiced as many tough behavioral questions as I could think of with a friend. I chose my wardrobe carefully—not too flashy—classic blazer with gold buttons, white crisp shirt, and black skirt. I wanted to make a good impression. I wanted the job.

For a day and a half, I interviewed with everyone in the department, toured the campus and presented my research at a faculty meeting. As I was preparing to leave the meeting, one older professor took my hand and wouldn’t let go. She looked at me from head to toe and back up again, and then uttered, “Hmmm…you look expensive to me.” I laughed and said, “Thank you!” Naively, I took it as a compliment, but it wasn’t. She was telling me that I didn’t fit in with the department’s low-key, don’t-rock-the-boat culture.

A few days later, the chair of the department called to tell me that the faculty had chosen someone else. I was stunned. I thought I had done a great job with the interview. I thought they liked me. Apparently, they did like me—liked me enough to know that someone like me would probably last only a year or two and then I’d be gone, lured away by bright lights and the big city. Crafting his words carefully, the chair described me as someone who was more than the department could handle.

In my heart of hearts I knew there was a compliment somewhere in that description, but all I felt at the moment was rejection. I was devastated. Years later, I know the faculty made the right decision for themselves—and for me. I didn’t fit in at a quiet Midwestern university.

A month after my painful rejection the dean from another university called and said he wanted to interview me. Still smarting from the experience with the Midwestern university, my opening salvo was:  “Let me save you some time—if what you are looking for is someone who won’t rock the boat and who will just be a wall flower, then I’m not your ideal candidate!” There was a long silence on the other end of the phone and then a slight chortle. I could feel the smile in the dean’s voice when he said, “Oh, I think you’re going to fit in just perfectly here!” I got the job and I’ve never looked back.

So the question is—does your life fit you? Does your life match the dreams and ambitions you have for yourself or have you altered yourself to fit the dimensions of your life? What have you given up to make it work?

This October 25 & 26, you have the opportunity to try on some new ideas that may fit you better than what you have come to accept in your life. For two days – here, on www.womensconference.org -- you can watch the live webcast of The Women’s Conference 2010. Gather together at the office or at home with colleagues or friends and family to see and hear the most amazing speakers encourage you to become an Architect of Change in your own life and in your community. They will expand your thinking and challenge you to find the fit that engages your greatness.
I too will be taking it all in, trying on new concepts to see if I have outgrown any ideas I have about my own life. I’ll be looking for and listening to ideas and goals that fit me better now.  (This may be one of the few times when going up a size is actually a good thing.)

Astrid Sheil, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of communications studies at Cal State University San Bernardino. Originally from Washington, DC, she graduated from Georgetown University.

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Our Right to Vote - A Hard-Won Freedom

  • Architects of Change

08/24/10 | Ernesta R. Walker | 1 Comments

Ernesta R. Walker 250x350
Ernesta R. Walker





Ernesta R. Walker participated in our Great July Giveaway – noting that her most valued personal freedom is the right to vote. In light of that, we invited her to write a piece commemorating the 90-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment – which gave women the right to vote. She shares the history of the Amendment – and the honor and responsibility bestowed with that Amendment, here.
"Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.” - Susan B. Anthony

August 26th marks the 90th anniversary of women’s right to vote. On Nov. 15, 1917 brave women like Alice Paul and others were tortured and imprisoned and only given spoiled food to eat in what is now known as the “Night of Terror” because they had picketed President Woodrow Wilson’s White House for the right to vote. But their efforts were not in vain – they attracted sufficient media attention to – almost 70 years after the inception of the women’s suffrage movement – drive President Wilson on January 9, 1918 to voice his support for women’s suffrage. 

Over two and a half years later, after the House of Representatives and then the Senate had supported women’s right to vote, Tennessee ratified the amendment – the 36th state to do so. This made it official – and women’s right to vote became the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
Besides the work of these great women, we must remember the efforts of Fannie Lou Hamer who, through her tireless advocacy, prepared 1,000 black voters in Winona, Mississippi to register and take the test to vote. She was arrested and beaten and not taken to the hospital. The injuries suffered from that bloody beating left Hamer with permanent damage for the rest of her life.
Today there are more women registered to vote than men -- with a wide berth of nearly 10 million women. But we know that being registered is not enough; our fight is not finished, we must get out and vote – we must raise our voices on issues of importance – and we must run for office.

Here in New York state 51 women state senators and assembly members serve on the Legislative Women’s Caucus, working to improve the participation of women in the political process and to address and draft public policy issues on cervical cancer, the rising tide of obesity, improving heart health and so on - all to benefit women and their families. Across the country, the California Commission on the Status of Women also works to address the needs of women statewide and to encourage women to run for office. We must support these initiatives, as they support us.
I plan to celebrate the 90 year anniversary of women’s right to vote with others at the Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester, New York, where she spent most of her life and is buried (SusanBAnthonyHouse.org), and by listening to peace troubadour Cecilia St. King perform a blend of American roots music and songs about the women’s movement. But more importantly, I will confidently make my own decisions on this November 2nd by choosing candidates that speak and fight for issues I feel strongly about. Gratefully honoring our right to vote, I wish to issue the clarion call to women to
Vote together sisters don't ya get weary.
Vote together sisters don’t ya get weary.
For there's a great camp meeting in the promised land.

Susan B. Anthony having tea with Frederick Douglass
Susan B. Anthony having tea with Frederick Douglass

Ernesta Walker is a community volunteer focusing on but not limited to girl's and women's issues. Presently, she is homeless and living in a women's shelter.

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Making Movies That Matter

  • Family and Friend

08/23/10 | Penelope Ann Miller | 2 Comments

Penelope Ann Miller 250x350
Penelope Ann Miller





I feel we need to support films that send powerful messages to kids about courage, values, and being true to yourself.

If we don’t get behind them and support them Hollywood won’t make them.

Last summer I had the incredible opportunity to be a part of Rob Reiner’s new film, Flipped. It’s a story about two 13 year-olds in the early 1960s  – Bryce and Juli – who live across the street from each other and how they find themselves and each other through the trials of love and friendship.

The story “flips” between the viewpoints of these young characters and, as they grow, their perceptions of each other “flip” as well.

I play Juli’s mom in the film, alongside a fantastic ensemble of actors: Madeleine Carol & Callan McAuliffe (the kids), Aidan Quinn, John Mahoney, Rebecca De Mornay, and Anthony Edwards.

Flipped is not just about first love, but about how a young girl teaches a young boy about what’s important in life.  It’s a movie about courage, character, and standing up for what you believe in. 

Juli comes from a warm, tight-knit family that’s low on money but rich on love while Bryce’s family is wealthy but repressed. Bryce learns over time from Juli that life is not about where you come from but what you do and the choices that you make define who you are. Bryce really starts to grow into a young man of character because of Juli and her family.

Based on the beautiful novel of the same title by Wendelin Van Draanen, the film stays true to the story, humor, morals, and life lessons that made the book such a huge hit with adolescents. While the book takes place in present day, Rob chose to set the movie in the early 60’s to capture that pre-Vietnam, pre-Twitter/Facebook time of innocence.  It makes the film a very nostalgic experience for those who grew up in that period, as Rob did, remembering your first love and how it changed your life. It’s also relatable to kids today who are experiencing that now.

Flipped was a real passion project for Rob and he was the perfect man to bring this story to the screen. He tells stories about human beings. You won’t find explosions, aliens, or vampires in this movie.

From my experience working with him and counting him as a friend, Rob is a man that really appreciates and respects women and values the immense impact they have on men’s lives.

I wanted to reach out through Maria’s amazing network to all the mothers and grandmothers who want to take their children and grandchildren to see a movie this summer with a message that will surely inspire.

And if you love it, tweet about it!
Flipped is playing now in Los Angeles, Austin and Sacramento. On August 27th it will open in New York, Chicago, Boston, Toronto, and San Francisco. And then, hopefully, in theaters across the country.

Penelope Ann Miller has shared the screen with some of the most notable and renowned leading men and directors in Hollywood. The list includes Al Pacino and Sean Penn in director Brian de Palma’s Carlito’s Way for which she received a Golden Globe nomination; Marlon Brando and Matthew Broderick in The Freshman directed by Andrew Bergman; Robert De Niro and Robin Williams in Penny Marshall’s Awakenings; Robert Downey Jr. in Sir Richard Attenborough’s Chaplin;  Danny DeVito and Gregory Peck in Norman Jewison’s Other People's Money; Matthew Broderick & Christopher Walken in Mike Nichols’ Biloxi Blues; and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Ivan Reitman’s Kindergarten Cop.

And now to add to that distinguished list, Rob Reiner in his latest film Flipped.  She can next be seen reprising her role as Ray Romano’s recently separated wife in the critically acclaimed drama Men of a Certain Age on TNT.

Share your story: How did you meet your first love?

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5 Steps to Buying Your First Home

  • Work and Money

08/19/10 | Sarah Smith | 0 Comments

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When buying your first home, there are two stages -- finding the right home, and then actually buying that home. In her earlier post, Sarah Smith gave 5 pointers on how to find a home -- here she focuses on the financials and process of buying the home.

Buying Your First Place:

  1. Have your credit checked. Michele Edelstein, realtor with Troop Real Estate, advises prospective homebuyers to have their credit checked six months before buying a place to make sure their FICO score is where it needs to be.  Your FICO score determines both your loan rate and approval. If you’re looking to improve your FICO score, Michele suggests not “buying a lot of things [on credit] prior to purchasing a home.”
  2. Know what you can afford. Michele insists that prospective homebuyers “contact a lender and be pre-approved so they know the price of the house they can afford and won’t be disappointed that they can’t go into the price range they were originally considering.” According to Michele, most people don’t get pre-approved, which usually winds up wasting time and causing problems down the line.
  3. Look into location. If you’re going to be in this home for any length of time, look into school districts and other things that may not matter to you yet, but could eventually. Also, find out what your city or county taxes would be, as well as if your community has Homeowners’ or Condo Association dues.
  4. Think twice before buying a home on your own. Buying a home requires real estate and legal savvy, as well as the confidence to negotiate the final price. “Yes, I’m a Realtor,” said Michele, “but there is a reason to use a Realtor, whether you’re buying or selling. They know the contracts. They are the ones who are going to represent you and make sure no one takes advantage of you.”
  5. Have the house inspected. Once you find a place, have a home inspection done to find out “what is wrong with the place. Even if the person isn’t going to fix it, you need to know that before you make the decision to buy the house.”

Sarah Smith is a recent graduate whose work has appeared in Pasadena Magazine, Vegetarian Times, California Garden, BOP, Tiger Beat and various other publications.

More tips for your home:

3 Bathroom Fixes You Can Do Yourself
How to Install a Smoke Detector & 2 More Household Tips
Hang a Picture - Perfectly & 3 More Household Fixes

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Announcing The Great July Giveaway Winner

  • Architects of Change

08/10/10 | The Women's Conference | 0 Comments

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As a woman, what personal freedom do you value most?

For our Great July Giveaway, in honor of Independence Day, we asked you to share the personal freedom you value most. You responded with creativity, humor, wisdom and a great deal of thought.

Responses ranged from the freedom to be feminine, to the freedom to choose – anything and everything that life has to offer, to the freedom to marry, to the freedom to work and raise a family, to the freedom to vote -- and more.

We’ve chosen our winning response (who will receive 2 tickets to the conference, the chance to interview Robert Redford, and a meet-and-greet with Maria Shriver) and three honorable mentions, below.


Estella Owoimaha, 20s:

I value my freedom to defy gravity and create change. I can do so because great women have set great examples. I can be black, female, mother, lesbian, warrior and poet if I wanted to because Audre Lorde has set such a great example. I can hold a public office and run for president because Hillary Clinton has. I can own a television network and build an entire school if I wanted to because Oprah Winfrey already has. Though they have set the bar pretty high, I can surpass Lorde, Clinton and Winfrey. They are just three of the many women that serve as inspiration, guidance and standards for success. However, even if there weren't great female examples to follow, I value my freedom to be the "first" at accomplishing some task.

My name is Estella Owoimaha. I am a Minerva Leader of 2009 and for the rest of my life. I am an African American woman and I am 21 years old. I’m a lot of things. Most importantly, I am capable; capable of greatness. When I became a Minerva Leader, I also accepted the responsibility of “architect of change”. I know limits are all mental. I have the ability to defy gravity, as so eloquently stated by the Elphaba of Wicked. As an African American woman, seems like most of my accomplishments defy the laws of gravity. I am okay with that because I embrace challenge with the intent of success and triumph.

Honorable Mentions

Susie Wittering, 50s:

As American women we literally swim in an endless sea of personal freedoms, our lives limited only by the shorelines we create in our own minds.  Trying to pick one freedom to value most seemed like trying to pick a favorite child - until I saw an outrageous photographic image on the newsstand.  A young Afghani woman who’s nose had been cut off by the Taliban, leapt from the cover of a magazine, her defiant eyes broadcasting the true state of freedom for women worldwide:  What happens to one of us can happen to all of us.  The voices of hate and oppression can overrun elected governments, stomp down freedoms, terrorize all people and spread in a nano-second on our planet made small by technology.  But so can the voices of logic, tolerance and respect for human rights.  With the freedom to seek political change, to assemble with others, to speak out against the government or other groups that violate basic human rights, we can make sure that those who did this to our sister can never hide from our scrutiny.  Our voice is our strength and our best tool if we are to be true agents of change.

Erica Marie, 20s:

To be an emotional being, is for me, the personal freedom that I value the most. For many people, this seems like such a basic expression and freedom, something that is instinctual and not controlled or suppressed. As a young woman, 23, I look out to the world and see so many of us filing away our feelings, holding our laughter and burying our grief. I see a mother months after her daughter’s death, tell herself to not cry-that it’s not ok. That she needs to be moving on, pushing forward and suppress her feelings so others view her as strong. I see a man after loosing his job of 35 years, hide his emotions and become distant and closed to his loved ones. 
So many people restrain their emotions. They fail to be themselves and what they feel at that moment and as a result, become numb to their true self. They become numb to life…to living. 
I want to be emotional. I want to laugh, cry and love so hard that after I die, the Earth will still feel the vibrations of all of the pains and joys I have experienced-it is this freedom which I value most.

shesthefirst, 20s:

I value the freedom to tweet. Whatever I want to say, I can do it in 140 characters or less and it's broadcast to 1,200+ followers. I can inspire action among those I may never meet face-to-face. I can shape my own personal brand. I am not defined by the family I come from, the degree or job I have, or where I live (though I love and am proud of all those things!). I brand myself with my passions for learning, technology, friendship, and design. These passions are tied together in the mission of the nonprofit campaign I founded, She's the First, which leverages our online and offline networks and our creativity, so we can power sponsorships for a girl's education in a country where she does NOT receive it for free.

My dream as a 24-year-old entrepreneur is to open the channels for young women globally to have the same access to an education and technology, so they not only learn from the books, but also through their peers worldwide. When Twitter asks us, ‘What’s happening?,’ we have the freedom to determine that. Use your tweets wisely to change the world, 140 characters at a time.

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My First Mini-Van

  • Family and Friend

08/3/10 | Liberty Bradford | 5 Comments

Liberty Bradford 270x2
Liberty Bradford





The time had come.  My beloved VW Passat, the car I’d bought with the last vestiges of my trust fund, was dead.  After nine years, her charming Windsor Blue exterior (with just a hint of eggplant) belied the fact that she was no longer a smooth ride. And with two kids, a persistent influx of visiting relatives to ferry about, not to mention play dates, I simply needed a bigger vehicle.

My husband released his inner price-gouger along with our neighbor who worked for a dealership and trawled for a screamin’ deal to meet our family-of-four-plus needs. He returned with a sardonic glint in his Irish eyes.

“You’re getting a mini-van.” I gasped. No! Never! Mini-vans are just so… Un-sexy. Boorishly maternal. Fat. Not that the Passat was all that cool, but getting a mini-van felt akin to a form of female castration. A talisman that my disco shoes would be hung up forever.  Let’s slap on some wood paneling and get me a polyester pantsuit while we’re at it.

In the end, the fact that I didn’t have a working car rendered my protests lackluster.  If a mini-van was my destiny, then I wanted it fully loaded – leather interior (to help with the inevitable food and drink spill clean-up) and a DVD player for long journeys (family bonding could wait until the rest stops). And it was a screamin’ deal. Thus, I surrendered.

The borderline hostile reaction from my bourgeois formerly punker-than-thou mommy friends surprised me.  A self-righteous, “I’m sorry,” was quipped repeatedly. This even came from my friend Mieke, who rolls in a Subaru wagon (hot!). When I wanted to get a studded license plate holder as an ironic joke, my friend Elizabeth peered at me from behind her Betty Page bangs and sniffed, “That’d just be pathetic.” Don’t hate me because I drive a mini-van, ladies. You know they all lined up to pile into the grocery-getter when it was time to hit the pumpkin patch.

A couple weeks after I lost my mini-van virginity, some rocker buddies from my Seattle days had a reunion gig at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip. Defiantly I pulled the White Whale into the valet, grabbed my backstage pass and headed up to the Foundation Room like I owned it. Mini-van neutering stigma be damned.

Liberty Bradford is many things, including a grateful member of The Women's Conference team.

Read Liberty Bradford's earlier post Mommy's Dreams

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