Written by Melanie Fowler
Surrounded by lush vineyards and swirling dragonflies, Chill With Jill host, Jill Osur, sat down with Mona Pasquil over a bottle of Teneral Cellars Untamed Red Blend to talk about gratitude and women in politics.
Mona Pasquil was California's first Asian lieutenant governor, first Filipina lieutenant governor, and first female lieutenant governor, just to name a few titles. Currently President of California Women Lead, a non-partisan 501c3 committed to supporting women involved in public policy and fighting for gender parity, Mona is a strong advocate for building up a community of mentors and training women for roles in government. “In every corner, in every level of government, our voices should be there,” Mona said.
When asked by Jill if she had a memory surrounding women and wine, Mona immediately recalled a story. She was visiting a winery with a group of women that she was mentoring. Mona recounted that two of the younger girls at the table remarked they had never been to a “place like this” as they had both come from families whose parents were farm workers and the parents’ role had been to pick the grapes. Jill was struck by just how grateful that made her feel, for what they enjoyed as they gathered is due to all the people hard-at-work behind the scenes.
“That day, that was a marker for me, about how we enjoy, how we come together but always thinking about and asking people their stories,” Mona remarked. “We sometimes don’t give it a second thought”.
Her tender heart towards the women she had the privilege of mentoring is the same heart that she carries into all aspects of her work and family life. Through every story she shared there was a strength that was present, even in the midst of self-doubt and even though she confessed that her self-care during the current crisis is challenging. She admitted with a smile that she struggles to find time to meditate, nonetheless manages to pursue a few minutes daily to ground herself in the still of her home garden.
“As women we take on the emotional wellness of our families,” Jill noted. “We need to take care of ourselves so we can take care of others.”
Mona attributed her opportunities to strong mentors in her own life, and she wants to pay that forward. For instance, she planned to recommend others to the role as acting lieutenant governor but when asked what she wanted, she jumped at the opportunity to step into the role herself. However, she noticed later as appointment secretary, to then Governor Brown, how women in general were quick to discount themselves even if they were as qualified as men being considered for the same positions.
She set out to “find the heroes within the community” and then realized that women needed mentors and support so that they felt confident in the attributes they already had to tackle these opportunities. “That’s a sign for all sisters, in the sisterhood, to think about how we support each other.”
Mona’s advice for those moments when doubt strikes was to power through the self-doubt because it will never go away entirely. Her mom told her to go in the bathroom, look in a mirror, and speak the doubts out loud. “I don’t know what I am doing.” “I am super nervous.” “I don’t think I am qualified.” Whatever the doubts are, she advised saying them to the mirror, and then leaving that room and that baggage behind. She said that two things happen - you laugh at yourself and it levels the emotion.
Politics was not Mona’s first path. Her love of Dante and Chaucer had her heart set on being an English literature teacher, but after volunteering for local political campaigns, a mentor in the form of John Garamendi encouraged her to take a chance and come work for him. She was struck by the lack of women in leadership roles outside Garamendi’s office, and it energized her to not only seize the opportunities that came her way but also, to pay it forward. “If you get opportunity, bring others along,” she stated.
Mona’s enthusiasm for creating a culture of empowering women is inspiring. “In every corner, in every level of government, our voices should be there… we are stronger as a community and as a society if we are helping all women.”
Jill agreed with Mona, “If we are certainly creating legislation and policies around women, whether they are Republican or Democrat or Independent, I would rather have ten women around the table than ten men making those decisions.”
Young Women Lead is the newest project to match young women with mentor leaders, so they have a safe place to learn, ask questions, and be inspired. “Children don’t know what they can become, unless they see it,” Mona shared.
Jill asked her to chat about her time in the White House. As the Western political director under the Clinton Administration, she reminisced about the great experiences she had. Her family was hesitant to encourage her to accept the position, which made her doubt herself. Then her best friend’s mom, who was struggling with terminal cancer, told her she needed to go or it would lead to regret. Mona was so thankful for that encouragement.
Mona then recounted her first White House party. Tapped on the shoulder, she turned to find one of the valets from the event asking her if she is Filipino and how proud they all were that she was on the “other side of the curtain.” Mona added, “You know, we get these great opportunities, but they are not just for us. We share them.”
Next, the ladies called attention to the upcoming election and how to convey the importance of voting. For those that doubt, whether their voice will be heard, Mona asked, “Are you okay with someone speaking for you or are you going to speak up for yourself?” We need women to be a part of the process, so that we have a voice!
Cheers to you Mona! It was an honor to have you visit.
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Teneral Cellars was born out of the need for a more equitable and inclusive company in the wine industry, and one that wasn’t afraid to take a position on social issues. As I created Teneral Cellars, and thinking about diversity and inclusion, I saw a beautiful colorful rainbow.