Via: My Sweet Charity

By: Jeanne Prejean

While some organizations felt hamstrung by having to adjust to a virtual get-together, Texas Women’s Foundation saw it as an opportunity to expand its 42nd Annual Leadership Forum and Award Celebration beyond North Texas on Thursday, April 29. In addition to showcasing the presentation of three of its seven awards to non-North Texans, it made available the conversation between keynoter Adriana Gascoigne and moderator Marachel Knight, as well as the forum discussions via video recordings and a newly launched podcast, “Gender Matters™.” Here’s a report from the field:

Texas Women’s Foundation’s (TWF) 42nd Annual Leadership Forum and Award Celebration Event Co-Chair/T.D. Jakes Foundation President and CEO Hattie Hill and Event Co-Chair/ Capital One Financial Services Senior VP, Chief-of-Staff and Customer Office Jana Etheridge may have been wearing blue, but they weren’t blue about the funds raised at the fundraiser presented by AT&T. The virtual event netted $475,000, which came with a $25,000 T.D. Jakes Foundation match the day of the event (and full amount matched, thanks to generous attendees).

However, there was some news making them feel blue. Etheridge told the bad news about the pandemic casualty—working women. “We’ve seen more than 2.5 million women leave the American workforce – and that wiped out more than 50 years of workplace gains for women.” With that, both co-chairs encouraged everyone to open up their purses and wallets to give at least $50 to make up for the loss.

Prior to the presentation of the Maura Women Helping Women and Young Leader awards, a conversation got underway between AT&T Senior VP of Engineering and Operations/moderator Marachel Knight and Tech Boss Lady/Girls in Tech CEO/event keynoter Adriana Gascoigne, who recalled, “My mom came from Mexico when she was 19 years old without her family and opened a successful travel agency business. She is extremely resilient and embodies the values reflected in entrepreneurs – resiliency, making mistakes, and not being able to say no.”

From her mom, she learned the hard work it took to create a successful business. At eight years old, Gascoigne created and delivered flyers on her roller skates to help the family travel business. “It was a family affair. What you put into it is what you get out of it.”

Now an entrepreneur and founder of Girls in Tech, Gascoigne started out her career working for a dozen tech start-ups in Silicon Valley. She was often the only female and woman of color, and she used the word “exciting” as well as “toxic” to describe some of her early days. Little did she know that those workplaces and lessons learned would help her form her organization that now empowers women and girls in tech worldwide.

Her advice:

  • Leadership starts at the top: “We’re focused on changing the future for women.” Her firm penned a letter to tech leaders demanding gender parity in board rooms. By creating a more diverse workforce, the company environment will be safer.
  • Find your passion and purpose: Solve a problem for people. If needed, be open-minded and change, and pivot when needed.
  • Find the right partners and the right funding sources: Get your advocates. Partner with the right people and investors, and move forward. She talked about two female entrepreneurs that have become household names: Stella and Dot CEO and Founder Jessica Herrin and Rent the Runway CEO and Co-founder Jen Heiman. Both had a tough time finding venture capitalists to back their ventures, and both had to look for creative funding. “They took this negative energy and harnessed it to build better products and services. It’s inspiring to see them pick up their bootstraps and move forward.”
  • Don’t be afraid to take risks: “Every mistake, every failure is an opportunity to learn and grow.” Adapt and learn. She gave the example of Thomas Edison failing in creating 10,000 light bulbs that didn’t work until he finally succeeded.

Following the conversation, it was time to present the the prestigious Maura Women Helping Women Award named after the late Maura McNeil, who was a TWF founder.

For the first time in its 42-year history, three of the seven honorees lived outside Dallas/Fort Worth as Texas Women’s Foundation expands its statewide reach including: Maura recipients CCVI Ministries Executive Director Judy Treviño of San Antonio and Worldwide Oilfield Machine Co-Owner/Global CFO Rani Puranik of Houston and Young Leader Award recipient Lamik Beauty Founder/CEO Kim Roxie of Houston.

The other Maura Women Helping Women recipients included North Texas Food Bank President/CEO Trisha Cunningham, Break Bread Break Borders Founder Jin-Ya Huang and Soul Reborn/Cheryl Polote Williamson LLC Founder Cheryl Polote Williamson.

Receiving the other Young Leader Award was Nomi Network President Diana Mao.

TWF President/CEO Roslyn Dawson Thompson said, “We are thankful to Shonn Brown (TWF board chair), our co-chairs and sponsors, and honored to award seven women across Texas who are doing great things for women and girls.”

Following the event, attendees selected one of the breakout Leadership Forums featuring a moderated discussion with the award recipients about key issues and their own pathways to leadership.

In addition to the video recordings, TWF launched “Gender Matters™,” a podcast series sponsored by Kimberly-Clark Corp. that features in-depth interviews with each award recipient with Roslyn and Kimberly-Clark Corp. executives.

Thanks to the following the sponsors, the event was both informative and successful:

  • Presenting Sponsor: AT&T
  • Speaker Sponsor: Catherine M. Coughlin Endowment for Women’s Leadership at Texas Women’s Foundation
  • Podcast Sponsor: Kimberly-Clark Corp.
  • Leadership Forum Sponsors: Capital One, Comerica Bank, EY, Fossil Foundation, Kleinert Foundation, Texas Capital Bank and Thomson Reuters
  • Impact Sponsor: T.D. Jakes Foundation
  • Advocate Sponsors: Haynes and Boone, Nancy Ann and Ray Hunt, Mary Kay and Texas Instruments
  • Media Sponsors: D CEO, Local Profile and MySweetCharity

For additional sponsors and information, visit