Softer Side Seminars, Woman to Woman Empowerment Symposiums offer women tools for entering a softer, more loving relationship with themselves. This year’s event left participants feeling uplifted and empowered.

During the Nov. 3, “Streaming Self Esteem From One Woman to the Other” program, participants used journaling exercises, tips on health, financial stability information, and advise on healing from toxic relationships, in order to move forward and find purpose in their lives.

WORKING TOGETHER—Akia Williams, Brandi Fisher and Monye’ Holiday decorate their journals. (Photos by Gail Manker)

The program opened with a dramatic reading titled “Five Women.” Kim El, Cheryl El-Walker, Tia Baker, and Deborah Starling-Pollard, and Softer Side Seminars founder, Renee P. Aldrich, took part reading interpretations of what five different women took away from the first five Woman to Woman seminars. The piece was written by Aldrich.

Other segments of the program included “Being Purposeful about my Health,” with a presentation on women and heart disease. American Heart Association volunteer, and “Being Purposeful about my Finances,” with a presentation by Tammy Thompson housing counselor and educator with Neighbor Works Pennsylvania.

Aldrich delivered a motivational presentation “Living Life on Purpose and Not on Accident,” which moved participants to live life with meaning and real purpose. She shared thoughts about the importance of identifying purpose in life, and moving in that direction.

“It was my hope that the information would provide a pathway to connecting with purpose, and avoid pitfalls of getting off track.” Aldrich said. “Being on purpose is an indicator and supported by having a high sense of self. The more you recognize your worth, the more likely you are to get connected to your purpose and move your life in that direction.”

The highlight of the event was the “Being purposeful about my Relationships” segment that featured a panel discussion defining an empowered woman. The dialogue was facilitated by Marcus Flournoy, LSW, with a panel including Marcus Poindexter, MSW, LSW HSV, practice-based social worker, UPMC Health Plan, Andre Scott, case manager for Independent Living at the Hill House Association, and Sam Louthard, Praise team at Macedonia Baptist Church. The panel entertained additional topics including what an empowered woman brings to a relationship, and what low self-esteem in a woman looks like, and what is a man’s reaction when low self-esteem presents itself. Each panel member lent his own independent perspective to the conversation, but there was a collective voice validating how important it was for women and girls to understand their value and to have a high sense of self worth. The audience was held captive by this discussion, and many of the evaluations referred to the men’s panel as a favorite of the day, says Aldrich.

In conjunction with the “Living life on Purpose, not on Accident” theme, the audience was guided through a journaling process by Tia Baker, manager of the Ujamaa Collective boutique. Baker, prompted participants to share places that started out as accidents, but led to divine purposes. This is Baker’s second year facilitating this segment of the seminar. “Having this opportunity last year and this year ironically enough led me straight to my personal purpose,” Baker says. “Working with women, helping them write out their issues and encouraging them to share does as much for me as it seems to do for them; for me it just feels like a natural fit.”

Aldrich is ready to take the program to other parts of the community in and outside of the city. “I believe there is an audience in places like McKeesport, Clairton, and even Duquesne for what we do through Softer Side Seminars, and the Woman to Woman event.” Aldrich said addressing the matter of low self esteem in women and girls never gets old.

Maryln Overton, from Chartiers, said the seminar was awesome. “I came last year and I am sharing this information with other women at my school—some have already expressed interest attending next year. I think Renee should do this more often.”

Lois M. Cain, MSW, retired from the Board of Education says “This was on of the best programs I’ve been a part of down through the years, and the conversation from these young men were superlative. I definitely intend in returning.”

Aldrich said she began the program after realizing through observation and personal experience, how a poor sense of self worth in women and girls was directly responsible for many of the poor choices, bad judgment calls, and indecisiveness that block them from taking their lives to the next level. “I’ve met many women with anger and resentment issues, which they wear like badges of honor,” she said. “And who stayed in jobs they hated or with men who treated them badly because they subconsciously did not feel they were worthy of more.” Aldrich said she knows it will take more than a two or three hour event to make a complete change. “My hope is that the time spent will provide participants with some tools that will help them recreate the way they see themselves.”

The Woman to Woman Empowerment Symposium is held each year in November.

(For more information on Softerside Seminars email Aldrich at

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