Female Role Models: Empowering Our Future

Continuing the International Women’s Day celebration conversation

Womens article 1

March 8 marked the 113th International Women’s Day, an annual celebration highlighting women’s achievements and continuing calls to action for gender equality and other pressing issues across the globe. The Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, and Calabasas Chamber of Commerce celebrated the prominent all-female powerhouse currently leading our local government, hosting an impactful panel discussion led by Calabasas Chamber’s CEO Lisa Clayden.

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Lindsey Horvath gave an inspirational keynote speech, emphasizing the importance and power of female leadership and sharing her journey in public service to her current position as part of the first all-women board in L.A. County. She stressed how important women’s voices are now and always, no matter their age or background. Horvath, who also happens to be the Board of Supervisors’ youngest chair ever, represents L.A. County’s Third District, which encompasses most of the Santa Monica Mountains and San Fernando Valley.

image 14

Joining Horvath on the distinguished panel were Calabasas Mayor Alicia Weintraub, Hidden Hills Mayor Eniko Gold, Westlake Village Mayor Pro Tem Kelly Honig, Agoura Hills Mayor Pro Tem Penny Sylvester, and Captain Jennifer Seetoo of the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station.

Calabasas Style Magazine took an opportunity to continue the conversation with some of the panelists, who shared empowering perspectives as modern women in leadership.

Q: What led you to pursue your leadership role?

Weintraub: I have always been involved in local government and have spent my entire career working in public policy. When the opportunity came to run for City Council, I felt the best thing I could do with my professional skills is give back to my community.

Sylvester: When I moved with my family to Agoura Hills, I had already decided to take a break from my work as a motion picture film editor. I knew that if I wanted to become part of our new community then I would have to get involved. My first step was to volunteer at our local schools. When our youngest child graduated high school, I formed a company that offered a summer school program for students in the Las Virgenes Unified School District. But there was still more I wanted to do. The Agoura Hills Calabasas Community Center came calling, and I was appointed as an alternate board member. Shortly thereafter, I was appointed to the City’s Planning Commission, prior to my present position.

Gold: I grew up [in Hungary] without the basic rights we, in the United States, have and perhaps take for granted. So, I possess a unique appreciation, both for our freedoms, and for Democracy. At the beginning of the pandemic, I questioned my purpose and if I had given back enough to my community. And then … there were the people! I can’t say enough about the people of Hidden Hills. The support and kindness I received continues to be humbling. I also knew that there had been very few women ever on council, and no mothers on the current council, thus a large portion of our city, with their distinctive point of view, was not represented.

Honig: Westlake Village is 43 years old, and during its entire history as a city, it has always had women as council members. The original incorporation of the city in 1981 was brought about in no small part by Berniece Bennett, who served on the first WLV council. Women leaders have been and will continue to be an expected, valuable, and important part of Westlake Village, and I am proudly but the most recent example.

Q: What challenges have you faced as a female leader? How have you navigated them?

Gold: If I encounter an obstacle that I cannot overcome, I seek alternative routes and persevere on my journey. Maintaining focus and positivity is key. Gratitude has helped me through the toughest challenges of my life — and as our Mayor. It stems from having perspective by being well-informed and worldly, and never forgetting I’m in my position specifically to be of service to others.

Sylvester: On the whole, I have been very fortunate. I have always had women mentors to guide me and show me what needed to be done and how to achieve it. I was also lucky that when I worked in film, I worked as a member of a guild union that guaranteed equal pay for equal work. I believe that being in a union empowered me and protected me from discrimination.

Weintraub: People have judged me for having children and working. I have navigated through this by having a strong support system and including my children in my work.

womens article 2

Q: Why is it important for women to be in leadership roles?

Gold: Allow me to reframe your question: Why is it crucial for half of the population to be represented in leadership positions? By reframing the question, I’ve already provided a partial answer. Additionally, both men and women possess unique strengths; therefore, in our efforts to enhance society, both must contribute and be represented across all levels of decision-making.

Weintraub: It is important for women to be represented and participate in decisions that impact them. It’s vital to show younger girls they can be leaders in any field they choose by seeing current women in those roles. 

Sylvester: Women are natural leaders; and while we are already in leadership roles in many sections of our society, we still need more female leaders in government. Each of us needs role models. The more visible women leaders become, the more they empower the generation coming behind them.

Q: What advice would you give the younger female generation aspiring to be leaders in their careers or communities?

Honig: The most important advice I can give you is to use your voice. Speak up! Share your opinion! What you think matters! Women who speak up are often labeled, “bossy” or “not nice.” These same labels are never applied to men when they voice their opinions. Do not let this double standard deter you. If someone calls you, “bossy,” that’s a compliment!

Weintraub: Ask questions, get involved, and build relationships with people who will support you professionally.

Sylvester: My grandmother gave me some advice that I would like to share: There’s nothing wrong with being strong and confident. She embodied that philosophy and followed her dreams. She encouraged her grandchildren to do the same. So, like my grandmother, I would say, believe in yourself, be prepared to work hard, and stand strong in whatever path you choose.

Gold: Dream big! The possibilities are truly endless. Ambition paired with a strong work ethic paves the way to success. Persevere relentlessly! Despite closed doors, persistence, courage, and self-belief will inevitably lead to new opportunities. Forge your support network. No one navigates their career and life solo. Authenticity is paramount in leadership roles, and especially in politics. People crave leaders who will listen and remain true to their campaign commitments.