Created out of a need for a forum for strong professional women, a Sacramento nonprofit gives women the opportunity to learn from each other through the sharing of stories and a networking of support.
Founded in 2012, She Shares is a quarterly conversation series that spotlights women leaders who share their personal and professional stories while offering insight to the next generation.
A number of founding sponsors were involved in Maria Shriver’s women’s conferences, which served as a forum for women from 2003 to 2010.
Former Newsweek correspondent, Karen Breslau, moderates the conversations that, at their heart, build off the momentum of strong women connecting on a level that transcends political, racial and class lines.
“We just felt there was a void in terms of women telling each other’s stories and learning from each other,” said Breslau. “That’s why we started this program. And we deliberately incorporated young women from the very beginning, so we could pay it forward and bring along the next generation of women leaders.”
Presented by Dewey Square Group, Lucas Public Affairs and Thomas Law Group, She Shares also partners with the California Center for Civic Participation to offer a mentorship program that aims to strengthen the next generation of female leaders. Every year, six young women from the Capital region are paired with professional women in Sacramento who provide them with guidance and support as they begin their budding careers.
“It’s a tight knit community,” said Nathalie Nguyen, a 2015 mentee. She hopes her mentor will provide guidance as she explores a potential career in lobbying.
Previous She Shares speakers include California Chief Justice, Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye, California Attorney General, Kamala Harris, UC Davis Chancellor, Linda Katehi, and journalist, author, and former First Lady of California, Maria Shriver.
At the most recent She Shares event on February 11th, Speaker of the California Assembly, Toni Atkins, and Assembly Republican Leader, Kristin Olsen, answered questions by Breslau as well as some of the new mentees. They discussed female participation in the political process and the delicate balancing act between personal and professional success.
The two currently occupy powerful political positions in different parties, but like so many women, they have encountered the same types of challenges making their way to the tops of their careers.
Atkins shared an anecdote about a school basketball fundraiser.
“I found out they were only giving the money to the men’s sports team,” Atkins said. “I collected all the money and held it hostage, until they agreed to split it with the women’s team.”
That culture of inequity can reach far past grade school.
“You just have to be willing to work ten times as hard,” pointed out Olsen, whose male colleagues called her ‘kiddo’ when she was first starting out. “At some point it’s just better to accept it, acknowledge it, move forward, and prove yourself.”
Their advice for women who have more on their to-do list than hours in the day?
“It’s taken me decades to figure out that there’s really no such thing as balance,” said Olsen. “There’s just doing the best you can do and being willing to give yourself enough grace to get through the days when you don’t get it right.”
Above all, the speakers reiterated the importance of women supporting each other in the face of these challenges, through whatever means necessary.
“We’ve got to get behind each other and support each other because that’s what will make the difference,” said Atkins.
The next She Shares conversation will take place in summer. Professional development workshops, hosted by sponsors and community leaders, are hosted in between events and are open to young women.
To learn more about She Shares and how to get involved, visit sheshares.net.