Women leaders from Anaheim and throughout Orange County gathered in Irvine on July 18 to discuss the challenges facing businesswomen, during the Ford Working Woman Project hosted at Ford Motor Company’s design center. Presented by Ford and the eWomenNetwork, the Ford Working Woman Project brought women leaders, business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs together to share ideas and tips on how to start, grow, and foster their businesses and brands.

“Our goal is to support women-owned and women-run businesses in connecting with local women leaders and contributing to our community,” said Celeste Castaneda, Ford’s Customer Service Division (FCSD) zone manager. “While the automotive industry is often thought of as a male-dominated industry, we have women strategists, designers, engineers and dealers who are behind every mobility solution. We created the Ford Working Woman Project because we understand firsthand the importance of bringing professional women together in a collaborative space.”

The Ford Working Woman Project consisted of a panel discussion with women leaders from a variety of backgrounds: in addition to Castaneda, panelists included Mediha DiMartino, reporter for the Orange County Business Journal, Joanna McFarland, founder and president of HopSkipDrive, and Robin Richter, president and CEO of Wearable Imaging and author of “The Golf Course Millionaire.”

“I had high expectations for this event and those expectations were surpassed,” said Bianca Salter, events coordinator, Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. “The panelists’ insight left me, and the other attendees, feeling empowered, emboldened and inspired.”

The panelists discussed personal experiences and pieces of wisdom they’ve gained throughout their professional journey.

“Learn to get comfortable with the uncomfortable,” Richter said. “You have to push yourself if you want to grow, whether you like it or not. It’s important to be vulnerable and be yourself.”

Attendees participated in a question and answer session after the formal panel discussion to ask personal questions and specific advice. When asked about how to cope with rejection in the workplace DiMartino advised “believe in luck, do good to others, and surround yourself with a circle of honest and supportive women.”

Attendees walked away from the event with new insight on how to succeed in their personal and professional lives.

“I’m glad the women of Anaheim and all of Orange County were able to come together for the Ford Working Woman Project,” Salter said. “The advice given was absolutely applicable to our day-to-day challenges as businesswomen in our area.”