It Takes a Woman

I had the honor last evening of attending the San Diego Athena, Pinnacle Awards. I was invited by my friend and colleague, Jennifer Crittenden, former CFO and author of now two career focused books, The Discreet Guide for Executive Women and her latest, You, not I: Exceptional Presence. Can’t wait to read my new signed copy! Jennifer is a Pinnacle award nominee and deservedly so.

Athena San Diego is a non-profit organization focused on mentoring and advancing women in technology through education and mentoring opportunities.

The first thing that struck me this evening as I walked into the networking portion of the event was the color. No drab, gray suit wearing, thinning haired, bespectacled network event, this. On the contrary, women of every color, hair shade, style and height were actively engaged in lively conversation, while sipping champagne and perusing the fantastic silent auction offerings. Scientists, Executives and students alike sharing in the stoke! The seemingly handful of men in the crowd appeared a little starry-eyed, surrounded by so much female talent and energy. And energy exuded up and down the aisle outside the main event ball room. Seeing old and new colleagues in one setting was a delight. Proudly congratulating nominees I’ve personally helped along their career path was not only fun, but thought-provoking.

I’ve attended many corporate events, but Athena is probably the only professional event where the majority in attendance are women. It’s such a different energy and contrast to the typical male dominated corporate function. The tables were literally turned with a ration of 10 to 1, women vs. men! With over 700 in attendance the event was a packed house.

What struck me most was how humble every recipient was, no matter if she belonged to an organization or founded it. Their delight and devotion to promoting other female professionals was apparent and touching. No egos apparent here, nor soft sell sisterly commiserating on how down trodden women are in the workplace. On the contrary, the message was strong and clear. Women are here, we’re viable, we have impact, we pay it forward.

For me, the most amazing part of the evening were the scholarship awards. The young women presented were already vastly accomplished in academics and have been accepted by some of the finest universities in the nation. Their energy, diversity and career focus will take the future of women in science and technology to new levels. It’s so exciting to see the future in the hands of such capable, dedicated and brilliant young talent.

I think Tina Nova (most recently CEO of Genoptix) embodied it all with her humorous, anecdotal opening statements. A pioneer in science, Tina is a serial entrepreneur with a colorful, successful and dynamic story. Yet, she came from humble beginnings and vividly recalled her “aha” moment on the farm and her father’s influence in guiding the decision that has shaped the ongoing journey she has boldly embarked upon.

So, a big thank you to all members, attendees and Pinnacle nominees and winners for a classy, fun and motivational evening. It’s a community I’m proud to be a part of.