"The program gave me a close-up view of political, business and social issues and trends, information that is invaluable to me as an entrepreneur and active participant in the success of our great state. The speakers were incredible� they inspired us and stretched our minds. The opportunity to connect with successful and dynamic California women leaders was a main highlight. Being part of Leadership California is like being part of a powerful sisterhood."

—Ursula C. Mentjes, M.S., ACC
President and Certified Business Coach
Potential Quest, Inc.
"I have enjoyed my involvement with Leadership California. Our trip to the state capitol was most enlightening. As a result I have gotten involved with the Los Angeles African American Women's Political Action Committee. Thank you, Leadership California, for sparking a genuine interest in the political process."

—Shawn Farrar
Director Corporate Diversity
Sempra Energy
"The CIT program brings together successful women from all over California, and gives them the opportunity to build a network with other successful women. It's a way to learn about the important issues in our state, and to get ready to take the next step in your professional life."

—Isela Vilchis Hoenigmann
"Leadership California has provided me a panoramic view of issues, challenges and opportunities for this lovely state that I live in. The program was my introduction to women of unbelievable talent, experience and passion who are set to make a difference. The feeling to want to be more, to accomplish more, is simply contagious. I hope to know these women for the rest of my life."

—Rosario Montes-Arena
Manager, IBM Software Executive Briefing Program
Silicon Valley & Worldwide Briefing Program
"As a young immigrant woman working in the nonprofit sector, it was inspiring to see women leaders in action, to be able to network with them, and talk about the issues that are relevant to our communities and our state. I feel honored and privileged for the opportunity to participate in such an awesome program that weaves women leaders from different sectors and geographies of California to engage in a conversation about the social, political, and economic fabric of California."

—Winnie Hui-Min Yu
Development Associate
Asian Law Caucus
San Francisco
"I've spent half of my work life in the corporate world, and the past ten years in the nonprofit world, but neither taught me how to be who I am at work�the whole pastiche of talent and spirit. I found role models who excited me, the true state of our state of California (which frustrated me), work partners continually learning like me, and friends."

—Peta G. Penson, Ed. D.
Oakland Unified School District
"Leadership California sessions feature influential speakers and lively discussion on timely issues shaping the economy and workforce. The session on work-life balance struck a chord with me, where key leaders advised us to map out a personal career plan. Networking with other women was invaluable. Leadership California is an engaging and downright fun experience."

—Roberta Tinajero-Frankel
Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit Dept.
Healthy Eating, Active Living Project Manager
"Simply put, Leadership California is time well spent that will benefit me personally and professionally for years to come. I've not only kept in contact with my fellow classmates on a social level, but have had opportunities to work with some of them on business projects as our professional paths crossed. The sessions gave in-depth looks at the critical social issues that many Californians face, inspiring me to get more involved in my community�s outreach programs."

—Teena Massingill
Manager of Corporate Public Affairs
Safeway Inc.


Leader Award

Monday, April 27, 2015


Faye Washington (holding scissors) cuts the ribbon at the dedication of The Faye Washington Youth Empowerment Center at the YWCA Greater Los Angeles Urban Campus on October 4, 2012, with (from left) YWCA GLA Board Chair Eleanor Beasley, LA City councilman Jose Huizar, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal Allard, former LA City councilwoman Jan Perry and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Faye will be honored with the Community Leader Award at Leadership California's Legacy of Leadership celebration on April 27, 2015 in Los Angeles.

Faye Washington:
Champion of Those Who Have Not


FAYE WASHINGTON is a rainmaker in the world of non-profit, with a 32-year record of management, personnel administration, strategic planning and legislative and budget policy development and implementation which led to her groundbreaking tenure at the YWCA Greater Los Angeles in its mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.

Washington has successfully orchestrated the establishment of three multi-million dollar facilities for the Los Angeles community: the landmark Job Corps Urban Campus, which serves as a home to 400 at-risk youth; the Union Pacific Empowerment Center in East Los Angeles, offering child development, senior programs, career transitional programs and California High School Exit Exam Preparation courses; and the Supervisor Gloria Molina Community Empowerment Center, serving an average of 300 participants a day ranging in age from preschool to seniors with classrooms, a playground, a computer center, a commercial kitchen and a child development center, a youth service program, senior program and women’s resource center.

Her philosophy is for community programs that embrace the “whole family” approach, including child care, job training, supportive housing and individual empowerment. She leaves a brilliant legacy of making Los Angeles a better place for its citizens to live, learn and grow.

Faye Washington will be honored with a Community Leader Award Leadership California's Legacy of Leadership celebration on April 27, 2015 in Los Angeles.


by Carol Caley
January 22, 2015

Q: FAYE, YOU'RE THE FUNDRAISING MASTERMIND who directed efforts to bring in $70 million to the YWCA Greater Los Angeles (YWCA GLA) to build the remarkable Job Corps Urban Campus in downtown LA, which is now home to 400 at-risk youth. You envisioned it and had it built, finished in 2012: a LEED Silver certified seven story building with a health and wellness clinic, library, commercial kitchen and dining  hall, vocational training classrooms, 100 dormitory suites and offices for YWCA staff. This effort took you seven years. When you started out on this journey, you had little fundraising experience. Help us understand what it took to bring about such a monumental undertaking: was it special expertise, personal values like grit and determination, perhaps knowing the right people?

A:IT'S TRULY BEEN A LABOR OF LOVE. It took a long time, but it’s proof that if you want something for the right reasons, then it will happen. In The Alchemist, the wise King advises the shepherd boy about his Personal Legend, about pursuing a dream, he tells him “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” I feel this has absolutely been my experience. There have been challenges, but it certainly was worth seeing it through.

Q: WHAT DID IT TAKE to bring about something so monumental? How did you pull that out of yourself?

A: THERE WAS A NEED, AN INCREDIBLE NEED. We are in charge of implementing a program called Job Corps. When I took over as CEO, I realized that the program location was less than desirable. I come from a very large family—there were 13 of us. I grew up in a very small house with a lot of people, where I experienced that life can be pleasant, beautiful and safe and secure. You feel loved, and you feel hope in that environment. Well, that was not the environment that I felt when I took over as CEO. I saw youth who are at-risk, who in many cases had been homeless, who’d come from foster care systems, who had not had the best start in life, and yet here they were asked to do without, in many respects.

SO MY HEART WENT OUT TO THEM. I had completed a career less than a half-mile from this location, and I knew not that this place existed, just blocks from City Hall. I thought I knew everything when it came to grant programs for the City of LA. When I learned that the YWCA GLA owned the buildings in which this less-than-desirable program was taking place, I knew it was my responsibility as the new CEO to make something happen.

Q: TO RAISE THE PROFILE of the organization, because it was so beneath the radar?

A: I BELIEVE IT'S THE RESPONSIBILITY OF GOVERNMENT, of nonprofits, of for-profits, it’s the responsibility of us all, to make certain that folks have access to opportunities. That has been the driver for me. I wanted to give these young people an environment that provides a sense of hope, that says, “we care, we care what happens to you.” That can’t just be words, that has to be the deed. That has to be reflected in the surroundings we create for their learning and wellness and safety.

Q: SO YOU KNEW YOU HAD TO BUILD a new facility.

A: I CONVINCED MY BOARD THAT I WAS NOT CRAZY, that we were, in fact, going to build this location. They said, “If you can, Faye, go for it.”

FOR ME, HAVING BEEN NUMBER 12 of 13, that’s all I’ve been used to: being the scrapper. My experience in 32 years of sitting in some unique seats in LA City government really afforded me a knowledge base. I became expert in budget, expert in finance, expert in legislation, expert in identifying public and private grants and resources.

IF I HAVE SPENT 32 YEARS learning all this, what better opportunity would I have to utilize this skillset to the benefit of those who have not? So I came out of retirement for this. I embarked upon this quest to make this building happen.

  I wanted to give kids an environment that provides a sense of hope, that says,we care, we care what happens to you.’ That can’t just be words, that has to be the deed.

Q: OUR LEADERSHIP CALIFORNIA WOMEN might be surprised to learn about the YWCA’s mission. This is something many people don’t know: The YWCA is a completely different organization than the YMCA—they’re not connected in any way, except by having similar names. YWCA GLA’s mission is big and bold. It’s at the top of every page on the YWCA website. It’s ambitious. It’s earthshaking: “eliminating racism, empowering women.” How do you take these two issues on, issues that people struggle with on the streets all over our country, all over the world, every single day?

A: WE'VE BEEN ON THE STREETS WITH THESE ISSUES at the YWCA Greater Los Angeles for 120 years. We might be on the streets for another 120 years.

ELIMINATING RACISM, EMPOWERING WOMEN. That’s why I wanted the job, because it is such a powerful statement. And based upon the broadness of that statement, it allowed me as a leader to focus our attention on specific approaches within the community of greater LA that we felt would respond to the challenge. It’s like having a blank sheet of paper put in front of you and saying, this is your mission, can you make it better? Well yes, we can make it better. I keep what we do very simple, but very responsive to the needs of the people, in accommodating and pushing forward the total mission.

Q: TELL US SOMETHING about your career trajectory. Your first job was to help out at your father’s church. What did you learn there? Much later, you had a career as an LA City executive. Can you tell us a little about that? You retired comfortably, but you weren’t done. Tell us why you came back.

A: I WAS RAISED BY A MINISTER in a community close to Los Angeles. His goal in life was to build as many churches as he possibly could. When he completed one, he would move on and build another one. For my father, this was not a job, this was a way of life. So I had his desire to serve the community in front of me.

Q: WASN'T IT EARLY LEADERSHIP TRAINING? You were the ushers and the choir.

A: WE DID EVERYTHING: you did it for the good of the mission and the church. That’s the basic principle that I was raised with: what has to be done, you will do it. That is the grounding I received from my mother and father. My mother taught me the faith, to believe in yourself, to know that you can accomplish anything you set out to do, provided that you’re listening to that small voice within yourself, and you’re letting the faith guide you. My father was out there doing for the people, taking care of the community.

THAT GROUNDING ALLOWED ME TO DEVELOP something that has been incredibly beneficial for me as a leader: the notion of servant leadership. I didn’t know what to call it until I attended classes taught by Peter Drucker, an early advocate of this concept. I listened to him talk about nonprofit organizations, business principles, leadership principles. I got a glimpse of who I was.

BEING A SERVANT LEADER is knowing you can’t be above everything, you must be able to see those who are in the greatest social and economic need. These are the jobs that I’ve been drawn to—in City government, I was head of the Department of Aging, taking care of the most destitute seniors in our community. With Meals on Wheels, a homebound delivery program, caring for those seniors with dementia. I worked with the homeless community, with the childcare community. I worked on writing the City’s childcare policy.

THESE ARE JOBS WHERE I GOT MY GREATEST JOY, my greatest satisfaction. In coming to the YWCA, I now realize why I am who I am, and why I was placed here at the Y: to be in a position of leadership, to carry forward principles and practices that are so deeply rooted in me that they have no choice but to come out, and in so doing, the community benefits. That is the most profound legacy that I could ever hope to leave.

Child development programs speak to our mission of empowering women. They enable women to go to work, to school, to better themselves, to become a positive role model for the family.  

Q: DOES THAT EXPLAIN WHY YOU CAME BACK after you did retire, that the Urban Campus project came up?

A: IT WASN'T THE PROJECT THAT I CAME FOR, IT WAS THE MISSION that I came to serve. I came in to find a number of things that needed to be done within the organization. It was a process where we put down our complacency, heightened our awareness of the community’s needs, and began to take our advocacy component seriously. We saw that we had a responsibility.

DURING THIS PROCESS, this whole opportunity to build came up. In seven years, we have put up three brand-new locations, with their estimated value well over $100 million. We’ve been on this quest—and I’m not certain that we’re done—of developing properties and projects that will allow the mission to grow in underserved communities. In addition to the Urban Campus, we’ve developed projects in East LA, covering a whole city block, the Union Pacific Community Empowerment Center, and in June of 2014, we opened a $12 million center in Walnut Park.

Q: SO THESE ARE THREE NEW EMPOWERMENT CENTERS, added to the four that the YWCA Greater Los Angeles had before, for a total of seven. Tell us what happens at these Empowerment Centers.

A: FIRST WE CREATE AN EMPOWERMENT COUNCIL, made up of grassroots members of that community. I meet with them. They tell us what they need and want at their facility. At that point, we embark upon providing our basic service, child development. We have this at all of our centers, serving ages 0-5. I say “child development” as opposed to “child care” because it is a curriculum-based program, which prepares children for kindergarten.

IT ALSO SPEAKS TO OUR MISSION of empowering women. Child development programs enable women to go to work, to school, to better themselves, to become a positive role model for the family. We also provide senior services at all of our facilities: a senior meal program, intergenerational programming with seniors, young kids and babies. By partnering with Edison International, we are able to have computer labs at each location. We’re teaching information technology. We’re teaching our seniors how to do email for the first time, how to journal, to catalog their family recipes. We teach introductory graphics in an after school program for young people, and support them in their homework. We make available the opportunity to learn in the on-campus tech lab. We also are providing sexual assault prevention training and support systems at all of our empowerment centers. We have two centers now providing ESL programming in partnership with the school district, four nights per week, and offer child care services as part of that program.

IT'S A BIG BOON to the community to have these services. It gives our community members a place to go, a sense of belonging. It places them squarely in the YWCA Greater Los Angeles mission, because we are responding to the needs of all kinds of people in the community, and we’re doing this one community at a time.

  Tom Bradley told me: Always have a dream. Never dream little, always dream big. Dream big, and dream in Technicolor.

Q: CAN YOU SHARE AN EXPERIENCE WITH US, a moment or milestone that really meant a lot to you?

A: THERE ARE TWO MOMENTS I treasure that set the stage for who I became. I have two incredible mentors in my life. One is the past mayor of the City of LA, Tom Bradley. I worked very closely with him while I was a legislative analyst and then assistant chief legislative analyst for the City. He told me: “Always have a dream. Never dream little, always dream big. Dream big, and dream in Technicolor.” I never forgot that. One of his dreams was to have a skyline in downtown Los Angeles. I’m sitting in my office at my desk at this moment, looking out an expansive circular window. I’m looking at that skyline he dreamed about. He saw it come true before he left us.

I HAVE ANOTHER GREAT MENTOR who gave me business sense and wisdom that will go a long way with the dream: Dick Riordan, who is also a past mayor of the City of LA. He said you can’t just be a dreamer, you’ve got to have a bottom line, and nonprofit management has more than one bottom line. It’s not just the financials, the profit and loss statements. It’s also the profit statement that you make in the community. Today, we have increased the economic value of our bottom line by well over 400 percent in the last seven years, because of the assets we’ve added. When I took this job, through our various programs and activities, we were touching around 35,000 persons. We’re now touching well over 100,000 persons.

MAYOR RIORDAN ALSO TAUGHT ME not to be satisfied with the status quo: you can always do better. He helped me define status quo: that’s the point at which you stand today. So if you acquired $100,000 to your bottom line, that just created a new status quo that you have to start building from. You can’t stop. Which is why we have several other projects that are coming to fruition.

OUR MOST RECENT INITIATIVE is the establishment of the Digital Learning Academy. The DLA is another of our workforce development programs addressing the lack of diversity in tech industries, by closing the Digital Divide—that vast chasm separating an eager population of potential employees from employers dependent on technology, who lament the fact that their demand for a technology-qualified labor force far exceeds supply. Significantly, these employers are explicitly seeking to diversify their employee base by increasing the numbers of women and people of color in their workforces. 

WE CAN'T BECOME COMPLACENT. I keep the organization moving forward, redefining how we get to where we want to be.

Q: Is there a question I should have asked or a message you would like to convey to our diverse group of over 2,000 women leaders?

A: I HAVE A FRAMED STATEMENT in my dressing room: “In the silence of not doing, we can begin to hear that inner voice. If we are still for a moment, it will guide us to our purpose.” Just listen. Be still sometimes, give that to yourself.

I HAD TO DO THAT, TO QUIET MYSELF DOWN, to prepare myself for what have been the most incredible days of my life. Listening to that little voice has allowed me to rise to where I think my father and mother would be proud to say I was their daughter, and Tom Bradley, rest his soul, would be proud of me. Dick Riordan tells me all the time: “you’re doing really really good, but whatcha gonna do next?” That’s why the job is never done.



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