The Women Give Advocacy Committee gathered on June 28th for a special conversation with Rebecca Smith the Vice President at San Diego Workforce Partnership.
To open the meeting, our committee chair, Jennifer Dryer, engaged us in a special activity that connected the commonalities in the group and identified the unique characteristics. There were many commonalities and it became clear: where there is wine, women will gather.
Our guest speaker, Rebecca Smith has worked as a career coach at organizations such as Qualcomm and the University of San Diego as well as speaking on Career Advantage, a TV show that helps people prepare to enter the workforce.
Rebecca spoke about one of her mentors, Dr. Tina Nova, one of a few female CEO’s at a biotech company, Genoptix. Rebecca recalls working with her on a project where she met with a group of low-income girls. Not only would Dr. Nova put together gift bags filled with goodies from Nordstrom to give to the girls but she would share fun insights with them engaging them in what their futures could look like. Once, Dr. Nova showed up in jeans, a leopard shirt and leather boots. She shared with the girls that once you have built your credibility in business you could where whatever you want. Dr. Nova’s advice isn’t just about fashion, she and Rebecca both speak to the importance of working hard.
“You have to do what it takes and then some.”
Rebecca’s time at San Diego Workforce Partnership has been challenging and offers her the opportunity to work hard at overcoming obstacles like shifting industry words to a more feminine way of doing business. She also spoke to the importance of picking your battles as a woman in business -- knowing which ones you can fight, which ones are worth fighting for and which ones to let go of.
San Diego Workforce Partnership funds job training programs that enable eligible adults to develop the skills and knowledge needed for emerging career opportunities within such fields as green jobs, healthcare, and clean technology. The organization is federally funded from the Department of Labor and then disperses the funds to County and City organizations that are striving to aid the workforce and its employees.
Currently they have three main divisions to allocate funds to:
1. Adult Funding
2. Youth Funding
Since the Partnership serves mostly males, there was quite a bit of discussion about how we can close the gap to get women and children access to these programs. Rebecca suggested ways that we could continue to advocate for a bill that is being sent to legislation called the Workforce Investment Act; an act to consolidate, coordinate, and improve employment, training, literacy, and vocational rehabilitation programs in the United States, and for other purposes. Another suggestion Rebecca had was to consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a context for looking at our outlets of giving.
Does Women Give San Diego give on all levels?
This topic became the focus of our conversation and spurred an overwhelming amount of ideas and insights to a new perspective of giving. The group began to think about what the different levels of this pyramid are and which levels we currently serve and those we do not. The idea of not only serving these various populations but then also how to bring them together began to turn the wheels in all of our minds. I tapped into this notion by sharing that often we look at women in groups or categories and focus our efforts on serving the individual needs, which is vital but also causes segregation in giving and of the groups in general. What about having an unemployed female that has aged out of foster care connect with a girl who is going through a development program at the Jenna Druck Center? The thought of WGSD being a connector, an organization that unifies the levels of giving and support by not just funding all levels but then by bringing the groups together for mutual support seems profound. I think all of the women in the room were convinced that we were on to something, that we have a lot of work ahead of us and most important that we are all excited to roll up our sleeves and get to work.
As the meeting came to an end we realized the conversation could have continued for hours but wrapped things up with a promise to keep in touch and to find ways that we as WGSD could continue to advocate for women and girls in all areas of life, especially in the workforce.