Work Life

Share |
E-Mail ArticleE-Mail Article Printer-FriendlyPrinter-Friendly


Welcome to the third annual May Women Business Leaders issue—a celebration of successful, influential North Bay women. The following section features business leaders who are making an impact on the North Bay. We asked these women to speak out and answer two of the following three questions:

•What advice do you have for young women following your professional footsteps today?
•Do you believe women are still trying to make it in a man’s world?
•What changes would you like to see made for women in the workforce in the years ahead?

Nancy Aida

Aita & Associates Insurance Marketing, Inc.
Advice: One of the things I've learned through the years is to get involved. For example, join a couple of Chambers of Commerce, and use the venue to meet other business leaders in your community. That way you can see who's there and learn about what they do. And if you can connect with them on some level that would be good for both of you. When I say involved, it doesn't mean just showing up. Get really involved in a couple of different organizations, so you can meet others that way. Put yourself on an equal footing with others in your community.

Still making it in a man’s world: Based on what we've been seeing lately, you may think that despite all the "changes," things are basically the same. Equal pay is still not "equal." It's gotten closer, but not equal. Additionally, having women on boards of "importance" is not happening as much as it should, which also relates back to question 1. Women must do a lot more for both themselves, and other women. I don't think we can depend on the men—look at the Florida High School students who have gotten completely involved in the guns in schools issue—many of them are the young girls.

Lucia Azevedo Fincher

Café Lucia
Advice: Owning and operating a restaurant is tough, but very rewarding. I would not suggest opening a restaurant so that you can be self-employed, or because it sounds fun. While those things are true, the restaurant business is competitive with long hours and many moving parts.  Owning a restaurant is a passion project and a bit of a calling. Operating a restaurant requires having a thick skin, constantly thinking on your feet, and dealing with adversity.  There is never a dull moment, which is my favorite part!

 I would like our industry to overcome gender and cultural barriers and create an environment in which women  have the same opportunities for leadership positions in the back of the house as they do in the front of the house. This is something I’ve put into practice in my own restaurant.

Kim August

Senior Vice President & Senior Relationship Manager
Summit State Bank

Advice: It’s important to be true to yourself and align yourself with an organization that has the same values as you do. Carefully weigh short- and long-term objectives when considering whether to accept a position with an organization. Many companies are working on succession planning for employees who are about to retire, and opportunities will present themselves that we haven’t seen in years.

Some progressive companies have implemented flexible work schedules to accommodate working women who care for their children and/or elder parents. As companies compete for talent due to low unemployment rates, it would be an attractive employee benefit to offer flexible work hours, especially for working women.

Diane Bucher

Bucher Wines

Advice: There are three major facets of a winery: the vineyard, winemaking and sales. Very few people can do all three at the highest level that is needed. Know what should happen and how it should be best done, then figure out what you like to do best. That's probably the place that you should spend your time to grow your business.

I think that all of the workforce will benefit from management creating a workplace that respects the worker and understands that we all, men and women alike, want to lead balanced lives that focus on the needs of the employee. It can be different for everyone, some people may want a job that allows them to leave all of the job at the workplace, others want a job that allows them to focus more time on family, and others may want to gain as much knowledge and experience to take leadership positions. Understanding what the workforce wants, and tailoring the hours and expectations to them, will build the healthiest companies that can withstand external pressure. There would obviously be varying degrees of compensation, with the workers who have contributed the most would also be compensated differently than those who had not.

Letitia Hanke

ARS Roofing, Solar and Electric
Santa Rosa

Advice: When an opportunity arises, reach out and grab it. I was a struggling musician working as a receptionist at a roofing company. After a few years of moving up the ladder, my boss at that time offered me the opportunity of a buy his roofing company. I had no experience and no confidence to do something like that, but after 4 years of roofing, I realized that I could do anything and be anything I wanted to be. So when I got my contractors license, I started my own company instead. Sometimes you never know what life will deal to you.

Still making it in a man’s world:
Every day we are—especially in my field of construction. It's time for more women to prove that we can be just as successful as any man in any field. We just have to believe it.

Nicole Humber

Bravo Restoration & Construction

Advice: My biggest advice for young women is to not be discouraged when they feel the universe is going against them, and everything around them is failing. To succeed, you have to get uncomfortable and take risks, but whatever you do, don’t give up. You can accomplish anything you work hard for.

I don’t believe there’s a magic button that will be pushed and suddenly all men and women are treated equal. I believe as a woman you have to not be afraid to share your voice, fight for what you believe and continue to work hard to accomplish the things you want most. No one is going to make that change for you, we can only depend on our own actions and our own ability to empower other women to find that same strength to conquer.

Josephine Kimani

CEO & Founder
Diverse Senior Care

Advice: Go for it! Fear always will slow you down but take the first step and the rest will follow.

My hope is that Women will be treated with equal respect as men and paid equal salaries. I urge other women in higher positions to continue mentoring and empowering other women.

Anita Maldonado

California Human Development
Santa Rosa

Advice:There is no free ride—it takes hard work, sacrifice, passion and dedication. Be prepared so when opportunity knocks at the door, you’re ready. Network and align yourself with people who you admire and who can open doors for you. Most importantly, never sacrifice your integrity as you climb the ladder to success. Once there, make it a professional obligation to pay it forward.

Current issues of equal pay, safe spaces, and gender equity have surfaced through political and social media realms and have created increased dialogue, regarding women in the workforce. Women-of-color managers and professionals describe barriers to their advancement as a “concrete ceiling.” More women need a seat at the decision-making table and an opportunity to be given that voice to build that pipeline for more individuals to come through just like them. One way to build the pipeline is through improved mentoring opportunities for women and other minorities. Impactful mentoring relationships have been proven to help women in their career development to get access to levels of leadership that they would not get otherwise. Increasing opportunities to mentor and sponsor other women and minorities who hit the “concrete ceiling,” will help them in changing their narrative.

Michelle Martin

Regional Vice President
Rohnert Park

Advice: Seek opportunities that offer unlimited income, that allow you to control your time. Consider owning your own business one day. Remove the word "can't" from your vocabulary. Read the book, "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill. Focus as early as possible on building your wealth, and work with a mentor that always reminds you that you can change the world for the better, and then, go prove them right! One of my closest mentors, Coletta, always coaches me that I am strong enough, smart enough, and capable of accomplishing whatever I set my mind to. I love proving her right!

Women today are strong, capable and confident. I would like to see more women choose to become entrepreneurs, to create new businesses, and to flourish in our North Bay communities. This will give them the freedom of time and money they deserve.

Lannie Medina

Founder, Tech Bay Area Advocates
Managing Director, Rotate2Black
Windsor and San Francisco

Advice: Surround yourself with positive people, both successful ones and those learning from recent mistakes. Their “learnings” can be yours and save you time in getting to where you want to be. Use visioning methods including vision boards and planting your goals solidly in your mind. Always stay on the high road—when the inevitable bullies act, remember they come from a place of fear and insecurity, and ignore them. Take time for yourself—go [within] and ponder, meditate or whatever place works for you where you can receive peaceful guidance.

Still making it in a man’s world:
I’ve spent most of my career in traditional men's positions—bond trader, institutional investment management for a university, product development in financial and tech services. As diversity and inclusion practices are more readily adopted, there is hope for full integration of women and diversity in the former 'man's world'. We aren't there yet, but I remain steadfast that we can make traction.

Renee Mengali

President & CPA
Mengali Accountancy
Still making it in a man’s world:
Yes, in my experience. As women, we still have to work harder than our male counterparts to gain respect, win a promotion or be considered a valuable employee. Over the last several decades, women have made great advances climbing the corporate ladder in a man’s world, but to this day, men still dominate the top few rungs. Women currently only hold 5.2 percent of chief executive officer positions at S&P 500 companies, and women only make up 20 percent of the total board seats in the Fortune 500. It would be incredible to see these numbers reach parity in my lifetime.

I would love to see the elimination of the gender pay gap and true parity between men and women in leadership roles. Diversity in leadership results in better business outcomes as numerous studies have confirmed.

Kristen Miller

Principal Planner
So Eventful

Still making it in a man’s world: I believe women have risen to the challenge of questioning and confronting the stigma that men are better, harder workers than females. However, I believe that there is still much work to be done before we are considered “equal”. I have worked hard to break down these walls and show that with the a positive attitude, persistence, and clear communication, anything is possible. As a successful woman within my industry at 28 years old, I want to continue my career growth while highlighting leadership qualities that help women achieve success in their professional lives.

For any changes to take place, there has to be a shift in the way society thinks as a whole – towards supporting our choice to grow professionally and providing us with a work environment that allows us to thrive. We need to praise women more on our successes and not scrutinize shortfalls. My overall sentiment is to applaud women who prove themselves as strong leaders and persevere over those that feel women cannot be as successful as men. We have the power together, when we support each other, to change that dynamic.

Christine L. Mueller

Wine Women, Sonoma/Napa

Still making it in a man’s world: Yes. I’m sad to say the women’s equality success is moving at a snail’s pace. What has changed is an environment of women supporting women to move forward in the industry. I feel growing confidence with women college graduation stats, and hope it helps with more women in ownership and executive management positions in the wine industry. One example specific to the wine business: the number of associate/assistant winemakers coming up through the ranks is increasing and we may see the dial move up from 10 percent women winemakers in coming years. (NOTE: In the early days of women in the workforce, this support was lacking in the initial movement, as many women were afraid to have other women to compete with them over the few opportunities. Reference: I was the first woman line Vice President in a company of 2000 in the mid-80’s. For my entire career in corporate America, I was the only (or one of two) females on the executive team—whether tech, advertising or media.)

The simplest concept—an even/fair playing field. Accept women (and other minorities) on their merits and accomplishments, not on their gender or race. Qualified women need to ask for all that their qualified male counterparts ask for (or accomplish without asking): fair, competitive salary and potential bonuses, vacation time, title; be prepared for public speaking and ability to articulate their views and needs in a conversational manner. Never give up!

Solina Walton

Perfect Timing Personnel Services, Larkspur

Advice: As in any profession, you need to be truly passionate about what you do, and that’s especially true in the staffing industry. We work with living, breathing people looking to be successful in their jobs/careers. My passion has always been helping others achieve their goals!

Still making it in a man’s world:
I think that depends on the industry. Our staffing/agency industry seems to be heavily women-driven, women-owned. My experience has been that when we send candidates to interview, they are the best and brightest for that position, and usually the best fit wins regardless of gender.



Pat Kerrigan

New Director
1350 KSRO
Santa Rosa

Advice: Don't just exude confidence–– learn it! Put yourself in uncomfortable circumstances as often as you can. Prepare for the unthinkable. Exercise trust in yourself and others. When it comes time to lead, you'll be ready.

Change: I'd love to see every business realize the one thing we all have in common: the need to seen and heard. When we use every opportunity to do that in the workplace, the changes we seek will come as a matter of course. Much can be accomplished by incorporating respect into every exchange.

Jennifer Wiltermood

Realtor, CRP School Board Trustee
Re/Max Marketplace
Cotati/Rohnert Park

Advice: Follow your passion and do what you love. Be consistent in your daily activities, a good communicator, continually take educational courses and be involved in your community.

In the real estate market, opportunities are always out there. Women need to get past the idea that everything needs to be perfect, trust in your instincts and put yourself out there.

Teresa Lopez

Community Marketing Specialist
Western Health Advantage

Still making it in a man’s world: To a certain extent, Yes! Women don’t have as many peer connections in their fields as men do. However, I believe we as women are making progress in the corporate world and society in general. I believe more than ever that we are affirming ourselves in the workplace, in our personal lives and relationships as well as in the civic roles that we play in our communities. It is also clear to see how these days women are working together towards bringing down gender-driven roles and obstacles and it is also nice to see that this is taking place to an certain extent with the support of our male counterparts.

The change I wish to see is the acknowledgement of women’s everyday talents and contributions that are brought to the workplace. Where collaborative problem solving happens, real innovation emerges. The strategic question is, “Who can I work with to succeed?” I wish for all of us to do our part in creating opportunities for ourselves and other women in our respective industries. This sentiment is captured in the following quote from Bill Gates, which I love: “If you give people tools, and they use their natural abilities and their curiosity, they will develop things in ways that will surprise you very much beyond what you might have expected.”

Judy K. Sakaki

Sonoma State University

Advice: Reach high, work hard, take some risks and hang on to your dreams. Consider continuing your education and going after that next degree. As you advance and work on your own professional development, don’t forget to reach back into your community and “lift as you climb.” Find strong mentors, and be a strong mentor. You are already a role model for someone else!

It’s going to take all of us—men and women—to create a more equitable workforce. Women are well-represented in entry- and mid-level positions, but we remain underrepresented at the leadership level. Only 30 percent of college and university presidents are women. I’d like to see: more gender and ethnic diversity among executives; more professional development opportunities for women; accessible and affordable childcare; and greater encouragement and support for girls and women in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math]. Ultimately, our companies, institutions, and society will all stand stronger with more women in positions of influence and leadership.



In this Issue

Boss Lady

While more and more women at the executive level are cracking—and shattering—the glass ceiling, there’s still room for improvement. Witness the Fortune 500 list. In 2018, only 24 ...

Working With Women

The annual Northbay biz “Women in Business” issue celebrates women in the workforce. Traditionally, we’ve devoted pages in this issue for women to speak out about what it’s l...

High Heels In Hard Hats

The sight of women in hard hats on construction sites or kneeling on rooftops was once unthinkable. Not so long ago, their position in the building trades was strictly limited to the office, while h...

See all...