LadyDrinks Princeton High Tea January. Photo credit: Charles Phox


Joya Dass


Lessons on leadership from a long-ago women’s empowerment class

I remember the day my mother quietly said to me over the phone, “You’ve changed.”

I was living in New York City for a few years now. I left home at 18, and had spent the last few years forging the pathway to becoming a television anchor. College in PA. Grad school in Boston. Internship in Washington DC, Internship in New York City. First job in New Jersey. First on-air job in Wyoming (yes — -Wyoming) and finally — business news on air in New York.

So of course I had changed. Unknowingly, I had left behind the expectations, the demands of a girl from a traditional indian household, and put myself and my dreams first. Years later, I would get validation from an important teacher.

in 2010, I took a very powerful series of classes with a woman named Jennifer Macaluso Gilmore. I had come leaps and bounds professionally, but personally, I had a ways to go. Through her twelve-week course, I was given a blueprint for valuing myself for the first time. Not just as a young woman. But today, as a leader. Four of her kernels of wisdom I still practice today:

1) KEEP A LIST OF YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS HANDY. In the words of Sylvester Stallone, as said in “Rocky 3”: Nothing is ever going to hit you harder than life. But it’s not about getting hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. But, as women, sometimes life doles out the sucker punches faster than we can fend them off. One of the exercises Jen had us do in class was make a list of all the accomplishments we ever achieved. Even if it was ‘learned to ride a bicycle,’ we were asked to keep the list handy and read it when life throws a curveball. Re-reading the list when the chips are down is a good reminder that we are MORE than a moment.

2) One of her favorite phrases was to “FILL YOUR OWN TANK FIRST.” In other words, take inventory of the things you need to do during a typical week in order to fill yourself up, BEFORE you show up for all the other roles in life you play: mother, friend, daughter-in-law, girlfriend. I never miss my Saturday afternoon yoga class. The teacher plays dramatic movie soundtracks, making an otherwise ordinary class, rather epic. But its during this hour and a half that I get check in with myself. How am I feeling? Why is my nail polish on my toes chipped? Where are my priorities? What am I focusing on? What should I be focusing on? This time with myself is important. The weeks that I miss class, I notice it right away when I turn to face the camera. My concentration isn’t the same. The words flow out of my mouth differently. I’m more anxious. My decision making is impulsive.

3) GATHER INPUT ABOUT YOURSELF. This one takes some courage. But Jen asked us to poll our peers, friends, relatives, direct reports and ask them about their perceptions of us. What did we do well? What did we do poorly? What could we have done differently? In other words, how do we stay relevant and nimble as times are a changin’ without this input from those closest to us. How do we toggle and self correct? The answers really surprised me when I polled women about what kind of programming they wished to see from Ladydrinks in 2016. Not everyone wanted a workshop on how to forge a business plan. Networking via the arts, culture, and personal self development garnered more interest.

4) KEEP A GRATITUDE LIST. That class happened in 2010. 6 years later, the girls in the class still write 10 things to each other regarding things they are grateful for in their day and email it. I take 5 minutes and even write this to myself somedays, when time is tight. I remind myself I’m grateful for coming this far by myself. I’m grateful for a warm beautiful apartment on Central park West in this wintry cold. I’m grateful for my friends who have stood by me. Try it and see how it changes the tone of the day.

Jennifer is a mother and a big believer in “living life in chapters.” So these last few years, she has been on break and raising her young children. But now Jen is BACK from her hiatus and I can’t even begin to tell you how lucky I am to be in conversation with her at this event. After the raging success of the Mother Daughter party in New York City August 2015, we host the Princeton Mother Daughter High Tea Saturday May 7th 2016 at the home of Bani Suri Sarma, in honor of Mother’s Day. Buy tickets here.

The purchase of your ticket, includes your daughter. However, because of this event features a guest speaker, we ask that that daughters be between the ages of 11–18, so we can be respectful. If you don’t have a daughter, but just wish to attend, please come for her talk. At the end of the day, this event is about networking and meeting other like minded professional mothers and women.

If you have a topic you would like her to address, please email



Joya Dass

If you have a goal and want the steps to make it your reality, I have a solution.