Cheryl Berman, Erin Clifford, Zoe Elton, Nurit Raphael, Kathy Roeser — What We Can Learn From These Women on the Rise

Several years ago, on International Women’s Day, former First Lady Michelle Obama famously said, “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.”

There’s also another saying that behind every successful man is a great woman— but it’s not always true the other way around. Sometimes it’s a great woman behind, or even in front of, another great woman. When women support other women as mentors,  friends, or simply as role models who have worked hard to get where they are, they unblock obstacles and create paths for other women to follow.

Make It Better Media Group founder Susan Noyes underscored that point when she recently led a Celebrating Women on the Rise panel discussion with a group of women who are shining examples of success, determination and innovation. The diverse panel included a successful wealth advisor, an innovator in the cannabis space, a film festival founder, a creative branding guru and a lawyer and wellness coach.

The online event was kicked off by nationally recognized comedian Megan Gailey, who established a festive mood with her jokes about Zoom family meetings, pandemic weight gain and the benefits of working in a retirement home.

Each panelist shared a little on her background as well as ideas on how other women can be happier, healthier, more successful and stand apart from the crowd.

Secure a Healthy Financial Life 

Kathy Roeser Women on the rise 2021

Kathy Roeser, Morgan Stanley Wealth Advisor 

“Knowledge is power,” says award-winning financial advisor Kathy Roeser. She points out that an estimated $68 trillion in wealth will change hands by 2042, with a lot of that money going to widows and children. Half of women age 65 will outlive their husbands by 15 years, but 75% of wealthy widows and divorcees say they don’t feel knowledgeable about investing, Roeser said.

That’s why having professional help in the form of a financial advisor can help women manage their money wisely, says Roeser, adding that finding your right-size advisor “is a lot like finding the pair of perfect jeans.” What is the most important question women can ask a current or potential advisor? “Do I have a compelling reason to believe that if I work with you, I will have the future I want — and am I likely to get that?,” she said, underscoring that women should not be afraid to unabashedly ask for what they want when it comes to money management.

Invest in Yourself 

Erin Clifford women on the rise 2021

Erin Clifford, lawyer and holistic wellness coach 

“Self-care is about setting your priorities and establishing boundaries based on what’s important to you,” says Erin Clifford, who is a successful lawyer and a wellness coach.

Clifford said women should follow the “oxygen mask rule,” alluding to the pre-flight safety talk on commercial flights. “Flight attendants always tell you in case of emergency, to put on your own oxygen mask first so that you can better assist those around you,” she said. “But taking care of yourself is how you should approach your life every day.”

She offered three self-care steps to help women feel happier and more self-invested: 1) refrain from arguing about trivial things with your spouse and others; 2) practice mindfulness and gratitude; 3) strive to get back to doing what you love, as doing what you love can be de-stressing and a mediation activity within itself.

She also shared these wise words by Jerry Posner — “one of the best times to count your blessings is when you don’t feel like it.”

Be a Door Opener for Other Women

Zoe Elton Women on the rise 2021

Zoe Elton, Director of Programming, Mill Valley Film Festival 

Zoe Elton, program director for the Mill Valley Film Festival, believes passionately that women need to help other women.

“One of the things that I have learned in the 40 years of being a film festival director is that you have to be a door opener,” says Elton. “Seeing and recognizing the potential of others, including women in movies and storytelling, is very exciting.”

About eight years ago, Elton was part of a panel on how to elevate women within the film industry, during which the panel’s moderator shared that only 7% percent of film directors in the industry were women. That statistic was an impetus for Elton to create an initiative called Mind the Gap, designed to elevate female film directors and give them an equal share of space in the Mill Valley Film Festival lineup.

Elton is excited to see how things are shifting in the industry as a whole. “At the last Academy Awards, two of the nominated directors were women, and one of them (Chloe Zhao) won the Best Director title, making her the second woman in history to do so. That is pretty cool.”

Find Your Own Differentiator 

Cheryl Berman women on the rise 2021

Cheryl Berman, founder and CEO of Unbundled Creative

“The future is FEMALE,” says Cheryl Berman, a creative branding guru and the Chief Creative Officer for the Make it Better Media Group. “Not only do women drive 90 percent of all purchases, they are also driving the trend toward cause-related purchases.”

Berman used these facts to drive home the point that companies need to pay close and careful attention to their female audiences, and make sure their brands are relevant, authentic and differentiated — as well as communicated in truthful and human ways, something she refers to as “digital humanity.”

She urged the audience to “find your differentiator, whether it’s within your own business or just for yourself. Find that one thing that really sets you apart, and tell the world your story.”

Believe in Yourself and Don’t Give Up

Nurit Raphael Women on the Rise 2021

Nurit Raphael, Cannabis Entrepreneur, OnaLife 

Nurit Raphael realized the potential of cannabis after the state of Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2014. Despite coming from a conservative family and being warned by others repeatedly that she would “ruin” her reputation, she listened to her gut and found her inner power and voice to advocate for three years to get approval for a medical cannabis license program in Marin, as well as change negative stigmas within the cannabis industry.

Raphael was guided by a female mentor who encouraged her along the way to building her cannabis courier service, OnaLife.

“I’ve had a female mentor throughout my entire life, and there’s nothing better than having a woman behind you,” she said.

She pays it forward by recruiting and hiring female staff, and today her business is operated by all women with the exception of her brother, who is her business partner. She said believing in yourself and being persistent are the keys to realizing your own dreams.


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Donna Berry Glass

Donna Berry Glass is a freelance writer in Marin County who writes mostly about family and kid-oriented topics. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family exploring the natural beauty of Marin, snuggling with her Cavalier King Charles spaniel while reading a good book or whipping up something delicious in her space-challenged kitchen. Donna is a supporter of the California Academy of Sciences, a world class science museum and research institution, and the Institute on Aging which provides much needed services to seniors and disabled individuals.