Santa Barbara, March 4th and 5th, 2011

“How can we be empowered females when we don’t have power over the thing that makes us female?” This was my mantra this weekend at the Women’s Festivals in Santa Barbara.

I loved this conference. First off, how can you not love something that takes place in Santa Barbara? Could there be more perfect weather and natural landscape? The Santa Barbarians (as I heard them call themselves) reflect this exactly: warm and friendly people with a naturally organic sophistication who are easy to be around. We wanted to stay and we’ll be back for sure.

The event itself was bustling. Patty DeDominic and Mary Schnack are the visionaries behind it, heading up this thing for 4 years now, and from what I can see, work their butts off to make it happen.  Not only that, but they underwrite practically the entire event themselves. My “in” was through Patty—I had been introduced to her virtually by my buddy and SEO coach, Ed Taylor (Ed is also our Santa Clause in Ashland, Oregon, where I live). Patty and Ed are both in the big leagues of speakers and seminar promotion and go way back.

Patty reminds me of Martha Stewart, only warm. Not that I don’t like Martha Stewart—I do! I think Martha is, for lack of a better term, awesome. I even bought some of her stock when she was in jail at the chagrin of my investment guy who felt she and her stock were done. Not me. Just because she was temporarily halted doesn’t mean her super x-ray visionary brain died. I knew she’d be back. I may admire Martha for many things, but she’s not necessarily someone I’d want to know personally. She scares the hell out of me. Patty on the other hand, is passionate about supporting women and it shows. Her eyes twinkle when she’s on stage and when she talks to you. Her soul shows through. Oh! And did I mention that my Martha Stewart stock tripled at one point? Too bad I didn’t put more money into that!

The hall itself at the Earl Warren Showgrounds is less to be desired though. Everything was in one large room and the ambient noise made it so that no one could hear a damn thing. There were a lot of speakers there, but the focus tended to be on the exhibitor booths. Keynote speakers had very few people listening, even though all of them were very good. Let’s just say it’s much easier for a speaker to be in their zone when there are people listening. The screen available for power points and videos was flat-out inadequate. I don’t have any solutions for these issues, except to find a different location, which is something I know the committee is actively working on for next year. I was a Roundtable Discussion Leader amongst many others. We had to speak loudly at our table to hear each other, our collective voices raising the roof a little higher.

I can’t say enough good things about the organizers, the booths, the speakers, the attendees, and the location (city) of the event. I could go on and on about the great connections I made in detail. My experience was so positive in this regard that I’d like to participate again in the future.

But here’s the real reason I’m writing: I’m bored.

I’m bored to death with the idea of women entrepreneurs. I mean, I’ve been doing this shtick for a long time. We were talking about women being the fastest growing segment of business owners back in 1988, yet, I heard speakers talking about it this weekend as if it’s a revelation. Even then, as a president of Women Entrepreneurs of Oregon, I was asking the question of “why” we still needed a woman’s business club. We did still need a woman’s business networking arena, but I’m one of those people who feel that if we don’t know why, then it’s all for not.

It’s not enough for me to put more women in higher places if we’re not going to address the personal challenges that are different for women than men, helping them to improve their circumstances so that they can do business. This means talking about the things no one wants to talk about: taking back ownership of our female cycles and reproductive challenges, sexual abuse at home, relationship teamwork with our partners, and balancing work with caring for our children and aging parents, all while trying to make a living. Thank goodness that at least cute, comfortable shoes have finally been created.

I would like to acknowledge Gutsy Gals, who were out there videotaping women and their stories to inspire girls, which was inspiring to me.

So here I am, sitting at my, yes, round table with not a soul who wants to come to my table to talk about this ongoing womb and female soul challenge of ours. As we speak, we’re about to lose affordable family planning clinics in this country and from what I can tell, women, timid or powerful don’t want to talk about it. Sleeping Beauties, one and all, who just wish it all would go away while little boys in high political places (who have never as much had a period in their life) put our bodies up for vote as if we’re not in the room. Perhaps we’re not.

Luckily for me, sister Red Web Foundation member, Barbara Hannalore, showed up to the festival (just for me!), as did my “birthday twin” friend-from-Ashland, Anne Herrick, who had her Orenda booth at the festival. Thank goodness for friends. This lured others to come to our table and we ended up with a handful of women and a powerful discussion. One woman who wasn’t sure she wanted to be there at first, ended up saying she was very, very happy she stayed. I knew I like her from the beginning.

Ann Doyle, author and one of the first women sportscasters to walk into a men’s locker-room, gave an outstanding motivational keynote. In it, encouraging women to step past their comfort zones, perhaps even run for office, mentioned the Spanish term, “Te toca”, meaning, “It’s your turn”.

I hear you, Ann, and thanks for the inspiration. Celebrating Women’s History Month, as well as International Women’s Day (tomorrow, March 8th and my daughter’s Sweet 16 birthday!) I’m vowing to take a stronger leadership position. I’ve been talking about this womb business for a long time now, so I guess it’s “my turn” to help women and supportive men talk about it without fear. We’ve been bullied long enough.