October 26, 2017
Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo (AALRR) held its first annual Leadership Forum for Women in Education on Wednesday, October 25. The event, co-sponsored by ACSA, CAAASA, and CALSA, brought together over seventy participants from school districts all across Southern California to discuss critical issues facing women educators seeking to fill leadership positions in their communities, listen to women who were able to reach top district posts despite the barriers in their way, and share stories with one another about their own personal journeys striving towards the next professional milestone.
The Forum featured 10 distinguished superintendents and assistant superintendents who spoke with one another in lively panel discussions that covered everything from how to push past female stereotypes to the importance of finding women who support and encourage your dreams and aspirations. Panelists included Dr. Ruth Perez of Paramount Unified School District, Dr. Mary Sieu of ABC Unified School District, Dr. Stefanie Phillips of Santa Ana Unified School District, and Norma Martinez of Centralia School District. Retired Superintendents Dr. Carmella Franco and Dr. Maria Ott also spoke, focusing their discussion on navigating the superintendent search and application process.
Dr. Debra Duardo, Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools, was the event’s keynote speaker. Touching upon many of the day’s big-picture themes, Dr. Duardo’s speech outlined her journey from high-school dropout to superintendent of the largest and most diverse county in the United States. Her advice to participants drew murmurs of praise: Be honest, build strong teams, always be willing to learn, and don’t let your fears guide your actions.
AALRR partner Elizabeth Zamora-Mejia spearheaded the forum as one of the first public initiatives of the firm’s newest diversity-focused committee, Women@AALRR. “At AALRR, we know firsthand how the intentional support of women via firm-wide initiatives benefits not just our company culture but the larger communities in which we operate,” Ms. Zamora-Mejia commented. “We wanted to create an opportunity for our clients in education to discuss how, when it comes to women leadership, they can be the change they want to see in their own professional environments.”
Cerritos Office Managing Partner, Irma Rodríguez-Moisa, who spoke at the event, called the Leadership Forum a space for women to come together to knowledge-share, network, and build relationships. “As women professionals, it’s too easy to feel isolated as we work towards a career milestone or goal. Forums like this create connections that can last a lifetime. More than anything, they help women realize they’re not alone in their struggle to find balance, to push boundaries, and to reach the top.”