Women in Conversation at the GMC: elevating female empowerment

The “Sonoma County Women in Conversation Experience,” presented by Summit State Bank along with The Press Democrat, was recently held on Wednesday, Sept. 18 at the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University. The Experience features daytime talks along with the showcasing of over fifty exhibitors, with tabling from local companies empowering women all along the venue’s Trione Courtyard and Weill Lawn. Among the speakers present were some of the top females within their industry, such as Annie Sherman, the Sustainability Coordinator at Oliver’s Market. From those within women-related businesses and services--to financial planning and home design--to personal style as well as health and wellness, there were plenty of entrepreneurs to speak with at the event. 

Sydney Adams, a student at Sonoma State University and attendee of the event, says, “well, definitely from simply just walking in, I really felt immediately supported--I mean, everyone was so welcoming and empowering. I think all of the tables hit different areas that we can all grow with, improve from, and continue to be inspired by.’’

Arriving at the event, attendees like Adams also notice the myriad of tasty food options from El Roy’s Mexican Grill, Gerard’s Paella, and Yatai Japanese Food Catering just before the entrance. In passing by the information booth thereafter, a pamphlet is given to lead the way and guide through all of the company tabling with awe-inspiring messages alike. 

Guests strolling along through the Trione Courtyard and heading toward Weill Lawn are witness to Safeguard Business Systems tabling: a company that serves all across Napa, Sonoma, and Marin County. While there are plenty of goodie bags and souvenirs offered at its table, the company’s owner and independent distributor, Sharen Papich, optimistically states, “we are really hoping to meet interesting women and to get to know them and ultimately have an opportunity to work with them.”   

The layout of the event was immaculate, with colorful couches and decorative sitting areas with tables spread all throughout the Lawn. Further down was the quaint arrangement of the “Daytime Talks” that showcases nine women, each speaking for 15 minutes between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. 

The strong voices of women speaking highly about their work in their respective industries allows for attendees to learn more about how being a female, no matter what background, is an identity better accentuated by the active feeling of inspiration that is drawn from those who have locally succeeded. For instance, Dr. Brittany Dashevsky, MD, DPHL, the Medical Director of Breast Imaging at St. Joseph Health, speaks about how to tailor breast screening to your level of risk, while answering additional questions about her journey within her field. The Experience for Sonoma County Women in Conversation ultimately lead up to the main event, “The Conversation with Cheryl Strayed and Tara Westover”: a sold-out experience. 

The numerous amount of companies at “The Experience” surely adds an all encompassing dynamic of relevance for women of different interests and passion types. Taking no exception to this, the Garden Society, a local cannabis company, and its Marketing Coordinator, Cristina Pavelka, reveals the meaning behind the cannabis company’s predominant demographic being women.

Pavelka’s statement, however, underscores an empowering sentiment on women that directly parallels that of many other companies at the event: rising together through supporting one another, even as competition from a business standpoint. Pavelka says, “we like to support other female run companies, of course. Our goal, mainly being here with women, is to help destigmatize cannabis to show that everyday women can use it and that it’s not something that's meant for a specific demographic or a type of person you know,” she continues, “we make it part of our business to support other female (cannabis) companies because we believe that when we rise, we rise together--we want to make sure that as women we are taking on this industry together and not alone.”