On Thursday, July 28, LA City Controller Wendy Greuel hosted the fourth of what she calls her Women’s Dialogues. This “Dialogue” took place downtown in the City Council chambers, and involved a bunch of surprisingly forthright (and often funny) conversation.
Each one of these women’s gatherings is themed. Last Thursday the theme was Women and the Law, and it featured Attorney General Kamala Harris, along with Rachel Moran, the Dean of the UCLA School of Law (who was reportedly on Jerry Brown’s short list for the California Supreme Court), Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Teresa Sanchez-Gordon, plus three heavy hitter women attorneys—Carla Christofferson of O’Melveny & Myers, Los Angeles office, Kaylynn L. Kim, Terra Imperium Global Advisors, and Areva Martin of Martin & Martin.
The whole notion of organizing these women’s chat sessions is not unique to Greuel. Former Controller Laura Chick began the practice with her own similar gender-specific events.
But Greuel has continued it with gusto, reaching out to women in various professions for get-togethers in which a panel of powerhouse females from a particular profession answer questions lobbed by Wendy, and by the wide variety of women who have come to participate as audience members.
The women in last Thursday’s audience included lawyers (of course), LAPD officers, staffers from the mayor’s and the city attorney’s offices, a gaggle of couple of extremely bright pre-law undergrads from USC, and at least one other judge.
indeed, the women leaders in the room were, by no means, limited to the panel; I ran into former LAPD Inspector General Nicole Bershon (recently turned Court Commissioner) who told me how really glad she was to able to make it to the event, a sentiment that most I talked to echoed.
A big part of the appeal was the candidness of the Q’s and A’s, a process that Greuel was unusually skilled at facilitating. For example, in addition to the expected “How did you get where you are and what obstacles did you face?” questions, at some point she asked the panelists how they dealt with the “are you tough enough” issue—noting (and I am paraphrasing here) that if a woman was perceived as being the wrong kind of tough she got labeled…..the B- word.
When necessary Greuel pushed her panelists until she got good answers. Yet very little pushing was required. The panelists themselves worked hard to be candid. Carla Christofferson the very pregnant, 44-year old bombshell blond who is the managing partner from O’Melveny said with a deadpan expression that when men begin questioning her toughness, “…the fact that can tell them I bow hunt and kill things, gives me an advantage.” Then Christofferson added in a more serious tone, “We all have things in our personal narrative that we can use, that can help us.”
At one point the exchange got informatively girly as the women talked about the intricacies of their wardrobe and accessory choices. Most advocated for less tamped down styles that flaunted some kind of personal expression. For example, Ariva Martin wore a blazingly yellow dress and said she favored red footwear. UCLA dean Rachel Moran, had on large, very pretty and decidedly unbusiness-y rhinestone earrings and Judge Sanchez-Gordon wore platform heels that were on the refreshingly racy side.
“And see,” said one woman afterward, “what you should or shouldn’t wear to be taken seriously is the kind of thing that every woman I know thinks about but nobody ever talks about.”
Another thing that no one mentioned overtly was the fact that, since Wendy Greuel has declared herself to running for mayor when Villaraigosa terms out, the good will that she is gathering by organizing women’s events like this one cannot help but be to her advantage.
Yet watching Controller Wendy Greuel’s delight in getting smart women to talk to each other about the some of the rarely mentioned textures of their respective lives strongly suggested that any political advantages Greuel happens to gain from these sessions is very well earned.
You can watch the Women in Law dialogue at City View here. (Look to your right and choose the top Women’s Dialogue Series.)