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Special Women’s Issue

Special Women’s Issue

Empowering Women

San Diego Women’s Week puts a

spotlight on achievement

By Manny Cruz


The women are passionate, articulate, courageous.

Their messages are inspiring, electrifying, enlightening.

As a group, the women chosen by the San Diego North Chamber of Commerce to address attendees during the March 17-21 San Diego Women’s Week are remarkable for the events that have shaped their lives and the lessons learned from them.

Tanya Brown comes to mind.

“When people think of me and my family it is often in connection with the murder of my sister Nicole Brown Simpson,” says Brown. “What people do not know is that I suffered a mental breakdown 10 years after that experience. This breakdown placed me in an in-patient and out-patient program for many months. I use my own personal experiences to help others identify their despair and create coping skills necessary to manage their stress, depression and anxiety.”

Brown, the author of “Finding Peace Amid the Chaos: My Escape from Depression and Suicide,” will be one of the speakers at the March 21 Inspiration Conference, one of the events of San Diego Women’s Week.

Each woman speaking this year will have an empowering story, a journey or life experience that has had an impact on their lives and the lives of others.

Topics for this year’s events include career leadership, empowerment, finance, health, beauty, life balance, adversity, diversity, entrepreneurship and more.

Debra Rosen

Debra Rosen

“Each woman was invited to speak at the conference because of journeys they have experienced, how they faced the challenges and became empowered,” says Debra Rosen, president and CEO of the San Diego North Chamber of Commerce. “Their stories will empower and inspire women to face the challenges in their lives and become stronger and more empowered to go after what it is that they seek.”

San Diego Women’s Week is celebrating its fifth year and is produced by the San Diego North Chamber, which considers it important in the changing business environment of the country.

“Women are becoming more recognized in business and corporate America as strong leaders,” says Rosen. “Our focus for the week is to connect women, share stories and empower them to achieve what they want in their career or life. More companies today have implemented women’s leadership programs as a part of their diversity and women’s leadership initiatives.”

A Look at Some of the Speakers:

Elizabeth Smart is an example of the empowerment that Rosen talks about. Smart was 14 years old in 2002 when she was kidnapped from her home in Salt Lake City, Utah, and

Elizabeth Smart

Elizabeth Smart

held captive for nine months, before being rescued. Now nearing 30, Smart has created the Elizabeth Smart Foundation for predatory awareness, traveling the country and working to educate, inspire and foster change. She speaks out as an activist on behalf of kidnapping survivors and child victims of violence and sexual abuse.

In October 2013, Smart released a memoir, “My Story,” describing her kidnapping ordeal. She said she wrote the book as a form of closure. “I want people to know that I’m happy in my life right now,” said Smart, who was married in 2012 to Matthew Gilmour, who she met while on a church mission in France.

Piper Kerman

Piper Kerman

Ordinarily, being a convicted felon would hardly qualify someone for speaking at a women’s empowerment conference. But Piper Kerman isn’t your ordinary ex-convict. She is the author of “Orange is the New Black,” a memoir of the 15 months she spent in the federal correctional facility in Danbury, Conn., after being convicted of smuggling. A graduate of Smith College, Kerman was building a successful career in corporate communications when she was arrested for a crime she had committed 10 years earlier — carrying a bag stuffed with $10,000 in  undeclared cash from Chicago to Brussels for a drug dealer.

Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield, authors of a book on superachievers, met with Kerman and said they were surprised to discover that much of what she told them about surviving in jail could actually be applied to one’s career. “Think about it,” they said. “A prison is a lot like a workplace. Both are inhabited by a bunch of people who did not choose each other and are stuck in the same place for some specified duration of time. Both a prison and a workplace are human ecosystems with potential risks and rewards-to-be-reaped based on one’s ability to relate to others. Of course in prison, the stakes are higher, and the downside, starker — being beaten or dumped in solitary confinement for a careless comment as opposed to being left out of an important meeting or passed over for a promotion. But whether an inmate, employee or boss, people thrive (or not) based on their interpersonal skills.”

“Orange is the New Black” was made into a Netflix series, the second season launching on June 6.

Suzanne Somers

Suzanne Somers

Talk about reinventing your life and career after major life disappointments — that would be the story of Suzanne Somers. The actress will speak on how she overcame a turbulent childhood, the firing from the hit television comedy “Three’s Company” and most recently — breast cancer. Somers is the author of 25 books, the latest being “I’m Too Young for This! The Natural Hormone Solution to Enjoy Perimenopause.” In the book, Somers emphasizes a common-sense approach to health as the first line of defense in controlling hormonal changes.

Somers, who will turn 68 in October, published her first diet book, “Suzanne Somers’ Eat Great, Lose Weight,” in 1997. After her television series went off the air the following year, she continued building up her writing business, penning another autobiography, “After the Fall: How I Picked Myself Up, Dusted Myself Off, and Started All Over Again,” and more diet books.

Hannah Nancarrow

Hannah Nancarrow

Loren Nancarrow, longtime San Diego broadcaster, penned this blog two days before he died of brain cancer last year: “One of the lessons I’ve learned in life is that happiness lies in discovering your passions and exploring them fiercely.” One could say that Hannah Jane Nancarrow, Loren’s daughter, also a speaker at San Diego Women’s Week, is fiercely following her father’s lesson.

Hannah, a cum laude graduate of San Diego State University with a degree in journalism, started a blog with her father on that day on Jan. 28, 2013, when he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and given a year to live. “The Nancarrow Project” attracted nearly 40,000 followers, with Hanna working as co-author.

Today, Hannah teams with the San Diego Brain Tumor Foundation and the American Cancer Society in raising funds to help other cancer patients. The Nancarrow family also is partnering with Scripps Health in hopes of creating The Loren Nancarrow Healing Garden at Torrey Pines.

Kristen Kavanaugh

Kristen Kavanaugh

In a recent talk titled “Acceptance,” Kristen Kavanaugh shared her personal story about the consequences of being a lesbian serving under the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, which prevented lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members from serving openly. Kavanaugh is a former Marine captain who served for five years, including one combat deployment to Iraq. During the nationwide effort to repeal the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy in 2010, Kavanaugh came out, co-founding the Military Acceptance Project, a social justice nonprofit that promotes acceptance of LGBT service members, veterans and their families. In speeches and appearances, the San Diego resident stresses the importance of acceptance becoming an integral part of the community and military culture. “We believe the true strength of our community, especially the military, depends on the physical, mental and emotional health of every person and their connections to one another,” says Kavanaugh.


San Diego Women’s Week Events

Monday, March 17: Women & Wine

Bernardo Winery, 13330 Paseo del Verano Norte, San Diego

5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

• Wine and food tasting, networking, inspirational speakers

• Speakers: Mimi Kirk, Tina Mickelson and Hannah Nancarrow.

$45 in advance and $60 at the door

Wednesday, March 19: Health, Beauty, Fashion and Fitness

Sharp Rees-Stealy at Scripps Ranch, 10670 Wexford St., San Diego

5:30 to 8 p.m.

• Skincare tips by Sharp Rees-Stealy

• Hair and makeup advice from Quattra Via Salon

• Exercise tips from the YMCA

• Vintage fashion show by Studio 158

• Operation Ball Gown

$35 in advance and $50 at the door

Thursday, March 20: Femme Finance: Having It All

Hewlett-Packard, 16399 W. Bernardo Drive, San Diego

6 to 8:30 p.m.

• Financially fatal choices that keep us in debt

• Taking control of financial decisions

• Smart women, smart investments

• Demystifying the credit score

Speakers: Jan Allen, Wanda Brackins, Patricia Reno, Helen Robbins Meyer

$ 49 in advance and $60 at the door

Friday, March 21: Inspiration Conference

Harrah’s Rincon Casino & Resort, 777 Harrah’s Rincon Way, Valley Center

8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Speakers: Janet Beronio, Tanya Brown, Kim Coles, Candy Cumming, Cynthia Curiel, Kimberly Dozier, Bonnie Dumanis, Melissa Hayden-Cook, Daphne Hearn, Kathy Hutchens, Kristen Kavanaugh, Piper Kerman, Marianne Kushi, Patricia McArdle, Wilma Owens, Susan Salka, Elizabeth Smart, Lori Ann Stevens, Suzanne Somers, Sue Zwinger.

$125 in advance and $175 at the door

For additional information, visit

San Diego Women’s Week Speakers

Mimi Kirk: health expert and author

Tina Mickelson: PGA Golf Professional

Hannah Nancarrow: Freelance Writer

Jan Allen: Partner in Allen Barron Inc.

Wanda Brackins: Head of Global Diversity, RBC Wealth Management

Patricia Reno: Senior V.P., Financial Adviser, McGinnis Reno Group -RBC Wealth Management

Helen Robbins-Meyer: Chief Administrative Officer, County of San Diego

Tanya Brown: Advocate, Author, Life Coach

Kim Coles: Actress, Comedienne, Author, Playwright

Candy Cumming: Wellness Education Specialist, Sharp Healthcare

Kimberly Dozier: Reporter, Best-Selling Author

Kristen Kavanaugh: Co-Founder and Executive Director, Military Acceptance Project

Piper Kerman: Best-Selling Author, Prison Reform Activist

Patricia McArdle: Author of “Farishta,” retired Foreign Service Officer

Elizabeth Smart: Founder, Elizabeth Smart Foundation

Suzanne Somers: Actress, Author, Cancer Survivor

Panels — Friday, March 21:

• High Heels Through the Glass Ceiling

Cynthia Curiel: Sector V.P. Communications, Northrop Grumman

Kathy Hutchens: V.P. Business Development and Patient Engagement, Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers

Wilma Owens: Dean, Palomar College

Lori Ann Stevens: Manager, Business Development, Turner Construction

Sue Zwinger: V.P. Global Tech, Oracle Corp.

• Coffee With the Corner Office

Janet Beronio: Regional President for Caesars Entertainment, Harrah’s Rincon Casino & Resort

Bonnie Dumanis: District Attorney, County of San Diego

Melissa Hayden-Cook: President and CEO, Sharp Health Plan

Daphne Hearn: Special Agent in Charge, FBI, San Diego

Susan Salka: CEO, President and Director, AMN Healthcare Services Inc.

Marianne Kushi: Anchor, NBC7 News Today — moderator

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We Want Your Opinions on San Diego’s Big Issues In the coming months, Probosky Research (one of California’s leading opinion research firms) will continue its partnership with SD METRO to survey San Diego residents about topics of interest to our readers. We’d like to throw open the door for suggestions for topics. What do you want to know? What do you think you know, but aren’t sure? What are you certain you know, but want to prove it beyond doubt? Ideally, we’d like to see questions that have to do with public policy.

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