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Empowerment panel spotlights leadership barriers, successes for women

Four local women who've experienced success in a variety of male-dominated professions took part in a discussion Wednesday as part of the inaugural "EmpowHER" panel for women's leadership and networking at the Brand Library and Art Center.

The panelists were Clare Ceplecha, senior fiduciary adviser with Wells Fargo, Taline Saad, executive vice president of Opulent Modeling & Construction, Sona Tatiyants, attorney with Lyn Law, and Melissa Estrada, a financial advisor with Edward Jones.

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The panel's moderator, Tamar Sadd, is economic development coordinator with the city of Glendale.

When asked about mentorship, Taline Saad said she reached out to her sister, for help when she transitioned from "homemaker" to a leadership role at a construction and development company.

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"[My sister] invested about an hour a day for a year with me, just guiding me," Saad said. "I did not know how to deal with clients who told me my work was not good enough. She taught me how to take it on and be tough."

The panelists where asked about some of the significant barriers to female leadership. Ceplecha said women should take more risks, recommending Sheryl Sandberg's book "Lean In" as a resource.

Tatiyants said many women struggle with balancing a leadership role with the expectations of being "the nice lady."

The biggest barriers are often "our own minds," Estrada added.

"It's the fear that we harvest inside," she said. "Whether it's fear of criticism, success or failure… I think this is energy that gets trapped within us. … I try and focus on getting rid of that energy."

Each panelist was asked about how they define success.

Saad said contentment with her family's well-being when the day is done is success. Estrada said success is the ability to set goals and achieve them. Tatiyants shared similar sentiments and said success is control over her own destiny.

For Ceplecha, success is defined by time and flexibility.

"I could be making a million-billion dollars and not be any happier," she said. "It's really important when I negotiate with an employer … that we do talk about compensation … not because money is important to buy things, but compensation allows you to have the flexibility and time off to do the things with your family and for yourself."

The city of Glendale's Commission on the Status of Women teamed up with the YWCA Glendale and Exchange LA to present the panel.

Ticket proceeds were donated toward the YWCA Glendale's program to end domestic violence.

Twitter: @JeffLanda

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