As moderator of the upcoming Palm Springs Life virtual event, “A Conversation With This Year’s Women Who Lead”, Valerie Powers Smith earned an up-close introduction to the three women honored for their leadership roles in the Coachella Valley — Lili Rodriguez, Kelly Steward, and Jill Golden.
The event, which runs noon to 1 p.m. Aug. 11, gives viewers a chance to hear from the honorees about a host of topics ranging from their role in the workplace to grappling with the current coronavirus pandemic.
To register for the event, click HERE.
Powers Smith, an attorney and partner with Slovak, Baron, Empey, Murphy and Pinkney in Palm Springs, had the unique opportunity to chat with each of the women, which will drive the conversation you will see in the virtual event. Palm Springs Life asked her to share some of her impressions.
• READ NEXT: Learn the Backgrounds of Each of the Honorees.
What did you discover about the three women?
I didn’t realize until I started to talk to Jill that we knew each other. We had met, I think, three years ago at the Empire Polo Grounds. The connection between us is my best friend. I had no idea that she had any connection to the (Loma Linda) medical center and all the work that she was doing there. That was all new to me. And I really learned that she is someone who really embodies a heightened social awareness of racial, socioeconomic, and gender equality. She's always just been living that way in trying to level the playing field. And I felt the connection with her because part of my law practice has been really focused on litigating to gain access for healthcare coverage for children with special needs.
Kelly is just a lovely personality. And I think what a great person to be in that kind of high level corporate position, because the way that she talks about the people who work for her, which she would say work with her, is amazing. She's exactly the type of person that should be in a position like that because she sees herself as in partnership, and willing to roll up her sleeves and do any of the jobs.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ETHAN KAMINSKY
Valerie Powers Smith
It's been interesting getting to know Lili because I would say there's almost been this growth within her during the time we spent talking as a result of her getting this award. And what I mean by that is, she's younger than the other two. I remember making some comment to her where I think that she didn't really think she was mentoring anyone, or maybe ‘I’m not at that level’. And she was telling stories. And I had made some sort of comment, "Sounds like you're already on the path to that you just don't realize." And that's the thought of a good mentor. So I think that she really came into her own in the process of getting this award.
Was there a particular answer to a question that viewers should look for?
Jill and I have a very similar approach to what COVID has done to us. I think that you can look at it, and rightfully so, certainly with nothing other than negative lenses. But I think everybody has to approach it differently, and Jill said that people should see it as a gift.
Who do you want to get to know better after talking with them?
Kelly has always remembered where she started, and everyone who got her there, and she wants to do the same for others. And she's really hungry for what that hospitality industry is, and to do it in a safe way so that people can still have experiences without being disrespectful of the awareness of what's going on. And so I think what I learned about her was she's somebody who I want to know more, and I want to spend time with, and I'm glad that she's in our community. She's an excellent addition. She's really spent time during the lockdown to connect with other people and make sure that they feel that they are thriving, and how can they adapt. And I respect that when people are not just all about themselves, trying to help their industry as a whole. And I think she definitely represents that.
Do you sense more women are getting involved and taking that role as leaders?
I don't think there is as many women getting involved as I would hope. And I'm not sure I have the exact answer for every organization as to why that is. It may just be the basic thing that is stereotypical — that women have more demands outside of the office when they get home than perhaps their male counterparts. I try to do both. But all I can say is I think there will continue to be an increase. I just think after we get through the other side of the pandemic that organizations will definitely have to reach out to more women to get involved. Because I think it's good to have crossover.
“A Conversation With This Year’s Women Who Lead” is presented by SBEMP Attorneys and sponsored by Blanke Schein Wealth Management - A Hightower Company, and The Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage. The event benefits Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital. To donate, visit lluh.org/giving.
• READ NEXT: How Employers Should Navigate the Coronavirus Pandemic.