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JVS Women’s Leadership Network Conference Draws Over 500 Attendees and Raises $325,000

(LT to RT) 2018 WLN Conference speaker Michaela Mendelsohn, JVS Board Chair Harris Smith, 2018 WLN Conference co-chairs Debbie Powell and Judy Flesh Rosenberg, JVS client and speaker Lorie Williams, speaker Susan Feniger, WLN Empowerment Award recipient Rosaline L. Zukerman, Esq,, JVS CEO Alan Levey, co-chair Eileen Coskey Fracchia, JVS CFO Claudia Finkel and speaker Justine Siegal at the 6th annual JVS WLN Conference

Los Angeles — The WLN 6th Annual Woman to Woman Conference took place on Thursday, November 15, 2018 at the Skirball Cultural Center celebrating the theme Resilience: The Strength of Women. The outstanding speaker lineup included: Justine Siegal, the first woman to coach for a Major League Baseball team, Michaela Mendelsohn, trailblazing entrepreneur and transgender activist, Susan Feniger, master chef, restauranteur and best-selling author. These remarkable women shared their stories about breaking barriers, making advances in gender equality and achieving career success with an audience of more than 500 women

The conference was charied by WLN Leadership Council Co-Founders Debbie Powell, Judy Flesh Rosenberg and Eileen Coskey Fracchia and the Presenting Sponsors were Terri and Jerry Kohl and Brighton and former JVS Board Chair Susan W. Robertson. Award-winning actress Nikki Crawford returned to host the conference for the third year.

Justine Siegel, the first woman to coach for an MLB team, holds not only a Ph.D. but a spot in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. She is the founder of the nonprofit Baseball for All, an organization focused on gender equity in youth baseball encouraging and providing opportunities for girls to participate in the sport was the first to speak. “Girls can do anything and are never too young to be leaders,” said Siegel.

The presentation of the WLN Empowerment Award followed and was given to Rosaline L. Zukerman, a dedicated philanthropist, mentor and accomplished professional who enrolled in law school after raising her family. She began practicing law at the age of 51 and went on to build a successful firm of women attorneys dedicated to family law, bringing her unique philosophy to the work. Zukerman has remained a champion of women’s rights throughout her career. “Don’t let anyone tell you it’s too late in life to start another career,” said Zukerman.

JVS client speaker Lorrie Williams inspired the attendees with her life-changing story of going from the brink of homelessness to full-employment. She shared how she went through a period of addiction, incarceration and estrangement from her children, but with help from JVS SoCal and the West Los Angeles America’s Job Center (AJCC) she was able to get on a path back to sustainable employment. Williams received free career counseling and job training that led to her participation in the Maxine Waters MC3 Construction Course. She is now working fulltime for Skanska/Traylor as a Pile Driver on the $1.2 billion Metro Regional Connector Construction downtown subway project. “Thank you so much for helping me make a second chance for myself,” Williams said. “I’m happy to tell you that I’m no longer estranged from my children and that they are very proud of me. I tell everyone, when you want to reinvent yourself, this is the place to come.”  

Michaela Mendelsohn, a transgender activist, successful entrepreneur and CEO of Pollo West Corporation, shared her personal journey of transition. She is the founder of TransCanWork, a nonprofit organization that trains businesses in best practices for hiring transgender workers and empowers transgender people to have equal access to employment.  “All I can promise to anyone I hire is that they will get an equal footing and opportunity to shine in the workplace,” said Mendelsohn, who has been recognized for her leadership with a 2018 Faces of Diversity Award from the National Restaurant Association.

Dr. Maurice Garcia, Director of the Transgender Surgery Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, followed Mendelsohn, and made special guest remarks about his work and its cultural impact.

Award-winning chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, radio and TV personality Susan Feniger brought the afternoon to a rousing conclusion with her trademark exuberance. She is known for starring in the cooking show Too Hot Tamales on the Food Network, transforming LA’s restaurant landscape from City Restaurant to Ciudad to now four Border Grill restaurants, as well as food trucks and catering services.  She and her business partner Mary Sue Milliken became the first women duo to ever receive the Julia Child Award, created by the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts, recognizing individuals who have made a significant impact in the way America cooks, eat, and drinks. In sharing her colorful journey, the resilient Feniger emphasized the three powerful F’s of success, “Fail, Forward, Fast.”

The event raised $325,000 which will go directly to support JVS programs serving women in need, with clients ranging from single mothers and the working poor to female veterans transitioning to the civilian workplace, as well as those participating in WoMentoringWLN’s signature career mentoring program.

The WLN has raised nearly $2 million dollars since its inception in 2008, providing free career training and job placement to nearly 1,300 women in JVS SoCal’s award-winning JVS BankWorksHealthWorks and ApartmentWorks programs. Through the JVS Veterans First program, WLN has helped provide resources, peer support and career services to over 200 female veterans. JVS WoMentoring, has matched 475 mentees with 475 mentors for a total of 750 participants who have donated their time and expertise to assist another woman with her career journey.