By: Tara Alves-Zontanos
Throughout my life, I have struggled to understand a deeply disturbing theme, one that has continued to weave in and out of my experience of being a woman in this culture. It is rarely spoken about, but no less known by anyone willing to simply look, this reality of women often behaving with intentional cruelty and harm to other women. I thought as I entered college, and later the professional world, it would change. Much to my dismay, and often to my wonder, it got worse. Now in my 40’s, tired and depleted from battling through innumerable said experiences, I find myself continually striving to eradicate females in my personal and professional circles who I see as consumed with degrading, criticizing, and being unsupportive of other women. I’m not talking about human nature of making a comment here or there, rather the type that are seemingly, “out to get you,” with little or no concern for how their words or actions could hurt you. In my opinion, life is already hard enough for females. Is it not enough that we have to deal with trying to understand the minds and motivations of men that we also have to try to understand those of the women around us too? We have children, we pay bills, we deal with hormones, we have jobs yet are still expected to come home and cook, clean, and take care of our family. The last thing I want to do is worry about why “Sally” from the office doesn’t like me!
As part of my life’s work, it has always seemed the best way to combat such negative nonsense, is with something positive, something inspiring and something uplifting. Over the last year, in collaboration with Breakthrough Thinking Broadcasting Network, we created the program “Empowering Women” to not only highlight women doing incredible things, but also share with other women what is good and wonderful about them, not what is wrong with them! Because, after all, what is beneath the competitively driven snarks and snares is without question a fundamental sense of dis-ease and even dislike of oneself.
In our research for the program, we found outstanding and exemplary women from all over the world. Women not just longing for, but actively cultivating, a greater peace amongst one another. Women living a life of inspiration through their actions and words!
One of our most recent discoveries was a woman right here in our home state of Arizona, Suzy Levenda. Suzy is currently the Business Development Manager with Bookspan Baker Team, a local mortgage group. Prior to this role, Suzy served for a number of years in different capacities of the real estate industry. As a single mother working to support her children, Suzy describes having experienced first hand how cruel some females can be, especially in a highly competitive industry. However, rather than allow herself to be disheartened or embittered, Suzy chose to use her negative career experiences as an inspiration for a now annual event, “Women of Strength: Cultivating Leadership in Real Estate.” Based on the foundation of four actions, Inspire, Encourage, Mentor, and Lead, Suzy set out to put on an event that would not only change her industry, but also extend to how women interact with one another in their personal lives.
Working as a Realtor myself, I fully understood this initiative and the need for women to grow in collaboration, authenticity, support and kindness. As females in what was once a “man’s world,” how precious and valuable it is to know we have a network of others who live and experience the same challenges on a daily basis, and to support one another in our commonness. I can say, attending Suzy’s event was as powerful, touching, and inspiring as the mission behind it! The energy in the room was contagious. It felt as if everyone were part of a larger purpose, and that was nothing short of powerful!
The guest speakers ranged from female empowerment poet, Natalie Patterson to Real Estate powerhouse Shivani Abrol Dallas, and also included the thoughtful female writer, Yvonne Watterson. Their messages were of encouragement, hope, laughter, and the grace of positivity. All with the bottom line of being fearless females, passionate, and compassionate. There were many a teary eye when various industry leaders were honored, including Torey Gannon, Bryan Choate, Shivani Abrol Dallas, Carin Nguyen, Angela Kieran, and Brenda Kohles-Provost.
What Suzy Levenda has created with this event is worthy of replication in every industry and community nationwide. The strength behind bringing women together is immeasurable, and so needed in our world today. Our gratitude to Suzy for taking the initiative and turning a negative into a positive! We look forward to watching her vision grow, and know that lives are being changed.