‘My Story’ event features successful women speakers

Aaron Lyons

About 400 mothers and daughters gathered in the Middle School’s Saperstein Theatre Feb. 8 to hear talks from 15 women offering words of wisdom and inspiration. Organized by the Harvard-Westlake Parents Association through President Becky Prange and Ways and Means VP Patty Dickman (Jessica Dickman ’17), tickets for the event were sold at $50 apiece.

The My Story team included Alessandra Marenzi ’14, Emma Graham ’15, Emma Kofman ’16, Jessica Dickman ’17, Danielle Spitz ’18 and Chloe Mueller ’19, many of whom became involved through their mothers. Beth Kleid, mother of Graham ’15, and Patty Dickman contacted the speakers.

Guest speakers ranged from actress Paula Jai Parker to Krys Bragg, a slam poet who vocalized her mother’s struggle with cancer, to “American Idol” singer/songwriter Haley Reinhart.

The event was led by Emily Greener and Alexis Jones, founders of “I am That Girl,” an inspirational program designed to turn girls’ self-doubt into self-love.

“The concept behind [the event] was mainly to bring together women of the Harvard-Westlake community and host an event in which girls can feel comfortable being themselves without worrying about being judged,” Graham said. “I think in today’s world there are so many more opportunities for women than ever before, but it is always a struggle to overcome judgment in order to achieve success, and I hope that My Story at least helped girls feel more comfortable about themselves.”

Stacey Snider, partner, CEO and Co-Chairman of DreamWorks Studios, (Katie Jones ’15, Natalie Jones ‘17) explained her career path after graduating from University of Pennsylvania and starting at UCLA Law School. Snider was not happy with her jobs working for various law firms and called a professor from Penn for advice, who told Snider to do what she loved.

“It was the first time in my life that I felt the rumbling of discontent,” Snider said. “I wasn’t happy in my summer jobs and it was so out of character for me to not be eager to work. It was a sign to me that I needed to expand my horizons and think about other things that I needed to pursue.”

Snider ultimately found a career in the movie industry to pursue her passion. She explained, “as soon as I would pick up the script, my fingers would tingle, and I thought this is what I want to do.”

In an interview with actress Lily Collins ’07, Dickman  asked, “How has being a woman changed your career and the choices you have made?”

“I think a woman’s voice can be extremely strong,” Collins responded. “With the roles at least that I like to choose, they’re ones that aren’t just the arm candy or the one that needs saving. It’s a character that goes through a growth and self-discovery and believing in herself—like Snow White—where it’s about a young girl who has been told all her life that she is less than, and then she realizes her potential, and she ends up succeeding.”

Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer of Space X, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, explained her journey becoming an engineer when she never saw it as a possible future for herself as a teenager. What she learned from her business partner, Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of Space X, CEO and head of product design at Tesla Motors and co-founder of PayPal, Shotwell explained, is that, “You need to push yourself. A little bit is never good enough. Make your goals audacious, and even if you fall short – and we always fall short – you’ll achieve something great.”