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In the Mix – with Colette Greenstein

This week it’s all about highlighting women who rock, from the Simmons Leadership Conference to The Links, Inc. organization to one very inspirational woman. Women of Influence…

Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein has been a contributing arts & entertainment writer for the Banner since 2009. VIEW BIO

Women of Influence…

The annual 2013 Simmons Leadership Conference was an amazing day from beginning to end, with a whopping 3,300 individuals attending the day-long event. The conference featured dynamic women in the fields of finance, business, communications, marketing and social media. The opening keynote kicked off with Sallie Krawcheck, who is widely regarded as one of the most powerful women on Wall Street for more than a decade. Her topic was on Leadership Lessons for Women in Business. Intelligent and very funny, Krawcheck spoke about lessons she learned when she “leaned in” but received a “palm out” on Wall Street. Translation: she was fired twice and bounced back. Of her experiences she said “one road leads to another even if you can’t see where it’s going.”

Next up was the fabulous Judy Smith (the inspiration behind ABC’s hit TV show “Scandal”), who has run a crisis communications firm for the last 25 years. Smith was engaging, funny and down-to-earth as she spoke about her experiences running her company and working for some powerful clients. Smith worked her magic on the crowd as she weaved between the rows and captivated the women in the audience. One of the similarities between her and her TV alter ego Olivia Pope is that she trusts her gut before taking on new clients and that “life requires action.”

The day only got better with the afternoon keynote by Anna Deavere Smith, who touched on the concept of winning and the concept of grace. She was followed by a signature dialogue with fashion designer Josie Natori, who was charming and very graceful. Natori spoke about growing up in a close-knit Filipino family in Manila and how she “prepared for the dips and the peaks” in her career in Manhattan and eventually launched the global company that bears her name. She said having a vision is a must and that evolution is key, because if you stand still it’s the same as moving backwards.

The day ended with the absolutely fabulous Viola Davis, who gave the closing keynote “On Becoming A Woman of Influence.” She touched upon her life growing up in poverty in Rhode Island and how that shaped her into becoming an actor, and discussed her breakout role in “The Help.” Her honesty and openness about her experiences was raw, real and refreshing.

Sip, Shop and Socialize…

It was a journey through spring as The Links Inc., put on a festive and bold fashion show and makeup and fragrance demonstrations at Saks Fifth Avenue to benefit The Links Foundation. There were splashes of cobalt blue, yellow and orange on the runway, as a sea of women of color and all ages (300 strong to be exact) held court on the second floor of Saks. The evening event was part of the national organization’s Eastern area conference, where over 500 women were in attendance.

Bright Lights, Big City…

Oneta Bobbett’s passion for “her girls” as she refers to them is so genuine and is born out of her own personal circumstance. Bobbett, a survivor of domestic violence, is the founder of the non-profit organization Jaden’s Ladder that assists domestic violence survivors with life-enhancing, post-shelter programs and support that builds confidence and fosters self-reliance.

Oneta took time out of her schedule to chat over the phone about Jaden’s Ladder and her upcoming annual Boston fundraiser.

Since the founding of Jaden’s Ladder, how many families have you helped?

We’ve helped over 200 families on the Eastern seacoast and Atlanta. We put them through a two-year program where they can become self-sufficient and we pride ourselves on personalizing the program. There are certain things you can’t scrimp on. The women do individual therapy. We pay full price for licensed therapists for the women and children, and we don’t ask for attorney fees or therapy as discounts. The message is we don’t cookie-cutter them [the women]. The women feel we make a difference. We help them to continue this progress, and our donors realize what we do and how important it is.

You’ve been very open about your experience in an abusive relationship. Who and what helped you in your healing process?

My friends and family helped me. My family never gave up on me. I knew I had to make a change.

It’s been almost 10 years now since Jaden’s Ladder was founded. What keeps you motivated to continue this work?

The progress keeps me motivated. Every day I see these women make progress for themselves.

How can someone support Jaden’s Ladder?

By supporting the fundraisers. By donating to the families. By giving whatever you can. The money goes towards the families, towards their education.

Jaden’s Ladder has chapters in Atlanta and in Boston. Any plans to expand to other cities?

We’ve had the opportunity to be in Dallas and in Los Angeles. I didn’t want to grow too fast. I know every one of our families, and I don’t want to lose the grassroots feeling. I don’t want to dilute the program.

What can we expect from this year’s Bright Lights, Big City Gala on April 20?

Beautiful stories from survivors. We do really, really big things. We provide education, housing, cars. All of these people donate their time. It’s all from their heart and you can feel it. It’s good energy.

Bright Lights, Big City Gala is presented by JoJo and Debbie White and takes place this Saturday, April 20 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Boston. Individual tickets are still available and can be purchased at

If you would like me to cover or write about your event, email me at