Celebrating Powerful Women at Leading Ladies

The ladies who lunch took the concept up several notches with TheatreWorks Leading Ladies, held Feb. 7 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.

Sure, lunch happened, but so did a performance by the multitalented Vienna Teng, and so did speeches by three special guests — Leading Ladies all.

Some 400 people were in attendance for the event, which raises money for TheatreWorks programs to support new works and new voices, from developing productions for the stage, to education programs such as the Young Playwrights Project.

Event chair Jenny Dearborn welcomed special guest speakers tech leader-turned bestselling author Lalita Tademy (“Cane River”), Emmy-nominated writer/producer Margaret Nagle (“The Good Lie”), and U.S. Rep. Anna G. Eshoo.

According to a press release, “the theme of this year’s event was ‘Passion,’ exemplified by the dedication and drive of the incredible women honored at Leading Ladies. Bold, unapologetic dreaming allowed these dauntless women to succeed in their challenging and multi-faceted careers.”

The committee for Leading Ladies included Betsy Bechtel, Brenda Beck, Carla Befera, Jayne Booker, Ann Bowers, Catharine Garber, Sylvia Gerst, Barbara Gross, Leslie Murphy-Chutorian, Liana Nitsetskaia, Pamela Shames, Dianne Talbert and Holly Ward.

Originally from Saratoga, indie musician Teng described how she graduated from Stanford with a degree in computer science and went on to work for Cisco Systems in San Jose, but left the tech world to pursue her passion for music. Teng also recently completed a graduate degree in sustainability at the University of Michigan’s Erb Institute, a partnership between the School of Natural Resources and Environment and the Ross School of Business, which she described as “Tree-huggers joining forces with the capitalists.”

Tademy was recognized for her contributions to business by Fortune, Black Enterprise, Ebony, and others. She told the audience how, after spending more than a decade serving as vice president and general manager at various tech corporations, she quit her job to start a second career as a full-time writer. Her debut novel, “Cane River,”was chosen as Oprah’s Summer Book Pick and as the city of San Francisco’s choice for its “One City, One Book” award in 2007.

Nagle made her screenwriting debut with the HBO film “Warm Springs,” which won an Emmy for outstanding TV movie. She ‘s worked as a writer and producer on Martin Scorcese’s “Boardwalk Empire,” winning an Emmy for best written new series. But she was tearful when saying her most meaningful effort was the screenplay for “The Good Lie,” a recently released film about lost boys and girls of Sudan, starring Reese Witherspoon, that describes the struggles of these abandoned children and their efforts to find safety and eventually assimilate into a new life in the United States.

“I could never have dreamed my life would take this turn,” Nagle said, “Whatever you think might be your path, have the courage to follow it.”

Eshoo has represented California’s 18th district for two decades. Eshoo is ranking member of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee. She spoke of challenges and rewards in the life of public service, drawing laughter and nods from the audience as she recounted her parents exacting standards and the struggles of balancing home and career, as well as the rewards of professional triumphs.

Dearborn is chief learning officer and senior vice president at SAP, has been named one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology by the National Diversity Council, and was the recipient of the Silicon Valley Women of Influence Award in 2014. Her first book, “Data Driven: How Performance Analytics Delivers Extraordinary Sales Results,” is to be published by Wiley in March. She emceed the event, and described how her worst mistake had been staying too long in the wrong job, reiterating the day’s message to find and follow the heart’s passion.


Originally posted on mercurynews.com

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