High-Powered High Heels: A Women’s Roundtable Conversation

We are living in an exciting time for women. The recent mid-term elections were a victory for women. More than 100 women won their races for the House and at least 118 women will serve in the 116th Congress. South Dakota and Maine have their first female governors and Tennessee has its first female senator. It is a referendum on women.

Following on the heels of these historic wins, Hall Winery hosted a panel entitled “High-Powered High Heels.” Moderated by Academy Award and Golden Globe Winner and Goodwill Ambassador Mira Sorvino, four powerful and successful women shared their stories and discussed the road forward. The panel consisted of Former U.S. Ambassador & Vintner at Hall Family Wines Kathryn Walt Hall, Actress Annie Stark, Emmy Award-Winning Computer Engineer Leshelle May and Founder and CEO of the Maris Collection Lee Ann Sauter.

Each of the women on the panel has succeeded in their various careers but one common factor was the influence of their parents. Parents impact how we think of ourselves. Lee Ann Sauter stressed the powerful impact parents have on young children and how she was taught to think that anything is possible. Kathryn Hall recalled how her father, a pharmacist, “got it” and challenged her as a child when she picked a pink nurse kit over a blue doctor’s kit at the store. Leshelle May recalled her father’s words to “take a task and do it” which she heeded when she pursued studied the male-dominated electrical engineering. Annie Stark was influenced by the supportive men and strong women in her family.

How do we continue the forward momentum of the strides made by women? Two main ideas were set forth: mentorship and empowerment.


We, as women, work very independently and tend to focus on our selves. Many industries, especially entertainment, thrive on competition. But, with new vocal communities having risen up with the #metoo and #riseup movements, there has been a byproduct of solidarity and sisterhood, according to Mira Sorvino. This is the time to focus on mentoring. Kathryn Hall offered that we can only move ahead with support and mentorship, expressing that “it feels as good to be a mentor as to be mentored.”

Lee Ann Sauter’s Maris Collection is a company with 200 employees and of which 95 percent are women. For her personally, she wished she had more mentors when she was coming up in her career and knows how important it is to do in this age. Today she helps women create business plans and believes that “mentorship is the most important thing we can do for women.”


In addition to mentorship, the panel agreed that it is important to empower the people we work with. Success is a struggle and we need people to encourage us to “keep going”. Kathryn Hall explained that while we cannot give someone else confidence, we can give people situations to succeed, which builds confidence. And, as women, we instinctively want to help people find better ways to do things. Mira Sorvino agreed that we must teach with positivity. “When people care for you, you are empowered by their belief in you,” she explained.

The climate change in the world requires these skills. Lee Ann Sauter explained that “women have always been incredible thinkers and more open to change” and Kathryn Hall added that women “are more collaborative by nature.” New voices are now being heard more than ever before and these are the voices of women.