SANTA CRUZ -- Elizabeth Cady Stanton, born in 1815, spent decades working to get women the right to vote, outliving her husband and exhausting her allies.Madame C.J. Walker, born after the Civil War, developed hair products for women of color and became the first self-made female millionaire in America. Dilma Rousseff grew up in Brazil, becoming that country's first female president two years ago.
This year, Debbie Sterling, a recent Stanford University graduate, founded Goldie Blox, a engineering toy company for girls, securing launch funds on Kickstarter.
What they have in common is innovation, creativity and leadership, according to consultant and best-selling author Nancy K. Austin, speaking to 95 people Thursday at the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce Women in Business holiday luncheon at the Cocoanut Grove.
"Women are redesigning what it means to be a leader," said Austin, encouraging women in attendance to pursue their dreams, even if it means being a nonconformist, a rebel or unruly.
She pointed to a 2006 headline from the Economist: Forget China, India and the Internet: economic growth is driven by women.
"Any woman in advancing age is unstoppable by any earthly force," she added, quoting Dorothy Sayers. "If not now, then when are you going to do it?"
Austin's encouragement prompted wellness coach Lana Sumati of Energized Living Solutions to ask for advice on how to launch a project to mentor young women in business."I wouldn't let anything stop you," Austin said, suggesting many of the women in the room would be willing to help.
Afterward, Sumati, 43, of Santa Cruz, was surrounded.
"I am so excited you were here today," said Jessica Moore, 28, of Santa Cruz Core Fitness, who was looking for a mentor.
"Call me and we'll talk," said Frances Greenberg, vice president and business development officer at Wells Fargo.
"Kickstarter is a fabulous place to get started," said Pam Falke-Krueger, marketing teacher at Harbor High School, noting her son, Frank Scott Krueger, 23, raised $2,000 and got a camera from Kickstarter supporters to film a documentary in Colombia on displaced people.
Harbor High senior Kayla Zoliniak, who plans to study business, was honored as student of the quarter.
Falke-Krueger nominated Zoliniak, citing her involvement in designing a remotely operated vehicle for a team competition, mock trial, teen peer court, the Walk to End Alzheimer's and Camp Attitude for children with special needs. She also enjoys photography and has traveled to Mexico, Denmark, Greece, Italy and Vietnam.