An Evening of Extraordinary Women 
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An Evening of Extraordinary Women 

Three inspiring authors appeared at the Book Festival of the MJCCA with surprise guests, narrated by Nadia Bilchik.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

An evening of extraordinary women featured (from left) Robyn Spizman, Roseann Sunwoo, Andi Simon, Edie Fraser, Nadia Bilchik, Tena Clark, Laurie Kirkegaard.
An evening of extraordinary women featured (from left) Robyn Spizman, Roseann Sunwoo, Andi Simon, Edie Fraser, Nadia Bilchik, Tena Clark, Laurie Kirkegaard.

The evening of Oct. 23 featured three charismatic authors and their new book, “Women Mean Business: Over 500 Insights from Extraordinary Leaders to Spark Your Success,” which catapulted the start of the Book Festival of the MJCCA into an inspirational and relatable atmosphere and high bar.

Written by Edie Fraser, an Atlanta native and first Jewish president of the Westminster Schools, Robyn Freedman Spizman, New York Times bestselling author and veteran media personality, and Andi Simon, PhD, corporate anthropologist, the book’s presentation was a spark driven collaborative energy moderated by Nadia Bilchik, former CNN producer, training expert and speaker.

The night’s theme was women uplifting other women with both personal and professional wisdoms from 102 outstanding women who were represented in the book.

With special ties to Atlanta, co-author Fraser, now residing in Washington, D.C., recounted her childhood where her father operated the Casual Corner Mall fashion chain. It wasn’t so easy for Fraser, functioning at the Westminster School, and later Duke University, where she was “not in the top sorority.”

Tena Clark shares her wisdom to young girls to dream.

As the cream rises, Fraser was back as the first Jewish woman president of the Westminster student body.  Known for illuminating wisdom, and winning more than 70 awards, Fraser counseled in two areas, “Get rid of the negative people in your life,” and, “You can’t take it with you, so serve as a role model, leave a legacy, give back and connect/collaborate with five women a day.”

Also a native Atlantan, Spizman spoke of her own beloved mother’s role-modeling, “Phyllis Freedman was a determined visionary and an ambassador of positive ideas who left this world with her requested gravestone headed, “She tried.” Spizman shared the value in that meaningful message and her mother’s devoted legacy of community volunteerism. It was a powerful reminder to give every day your best effort, keep learning and make a difference to others.

Dr. Simon shared her childhood of being raised in a family where business was dinnertime conversation and developing a desire to share and uplift others. She stated, “Women are now doing better serving in the boardroom, but there is still room for improvement — 102 women could be 1,000. Sometimes it’s lonely being the only woman.”

Fraser added that “Only 10.6 percent of CEOs are female, and more – 30 percent in C suites are women.” Simon cautioned, “I tell my grandchildren, ‘Don’t be the best woman CEO, be the best CEO.’”

Surprise appearances were made by women who were featured in the book. Tena Clark, female music producer who worked with stars like Patti LaBelle, Dionne Warwick, and Natalie Cole, came from a wealthy family in rural Mississippi. She spoke of Melinda Gates who thought the world could be changed by underserved young women; thus, Clark’s goal was to bring those dreams to fruition. “Get those young girls exposed to higher goals, noting ‘I can do that!’”

“Women Mean Business: Over 500 Insights from Extraordinary Leaders to Spark Your Success” features the top five lessons learned from individual contributors, which includes leaders, entrepreneurs, activists, philanthropists.

Gayle Evans, retired CNN executive, cautioned about not so easily accepting “no,” which could only be a starting point of what’s possible. Bilchik quipped, “That could actually save some marriages.”

Next up was Roseann Sunwoo, of the popular mother/daughter fashion brand, Clara Sunwoo, whose liquid leather designs made it as one of Oprah’s “favorite things.” Roseann spoke of small seeds that grow into tress “like starting our own business as Chinese immigrants in New York.”

Then came local CEO Laurie Kirkegaard whose charitable giving business pairs with solid companies like Coca-Cola and National Geographic. She shared the trauma of her middle-aged heart attack which reframed her life after her surgeon cautioned her to slow down, have more fun and less stress.

Ever poised and well “put together,” Bilchik, who had just returned from a job in Indiana, then shared her anecdote for being nervous before an appearance whether “in Dallas, Dubai, or Durban” — lead the audience in “1, 2, 3 deep breathing” and exhaling with a deep “huh” sound. She also suggested reframing thoughts like from, “What do I have to do today” to “What do I get to do today?”

The always gracious Spizman closed by recognizing Kaylene Ladinsky, editor and managing publisher of The Atlanta Jewish Times, who sponsored the evening which received rave reviews. She then thanked her sister-in-law, octogenarian Esther Levine, “without whom there would be no Book Festival” and the dedicated Pam Morton who has made the MJCCA Book festival a local and nationally acclaimed success.

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