Westmont Magazine Helping Women Find Their Voice
As a visiting fellow with the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, Anita Perez Ferguson ’71 speaks frequently at liberal arts colleges. Her topics include the changing face of U.S. politics, building leadership skills, and grassroots development and organization. She provides more than information; she encourages students to enlarge their thinking. “A lot of what will happen to them lies outside their imagination, so I advise them not to think too narrowly or too short-term about their future,” she says.
Anita draws on her own experience in making this statement. The former president (1995-1999) and vice president (1991-1995) of the National Women’s Political Caucus, she has served as White House liaison with the Department of Transportation (1994) and director of training for the Democratic National Committee (1993). Twice she ran for Congress unsuccessfully. The author of two books, she was a commentator for National Public Radio from 1996-1999. Hispanic Business Magazine has named her one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics in the United States.
A common thread runs throughout Anita’s resume: public speaking. Beginning with her position as director of admissions at Westmont 30 years ago, Anita has extensive speaking experience.
Empowering women to get involved in local and national politics has been a major focus of Anita’s work. Several years ago, she urged women in Santa Barbara to take just one idea and make it reality. After her talk, a member of the audience asked for Anita’s assistance in bringing her dream to life: a book to help women become more effective public speakers.
The result of their collaboration, “Women Seen and Heard: Lessons from Successful Speakers,” is a practical and readable guide for women who want to find their public voice. Lois Phillips, Anita’s co-author, earned a doctorate from UC Santa Barbara and studied gender differences in communication.
Based on research and interviews with prominent women, the book recognizes the challenges women face as speakers and explains how to overcome them. Each chapter ends with a lesson such as, “Feminine traits can enhance the speaker’s effectiveness.” The authors emphasize the importance of preparing thoroughly, thinking strategically and being yourself.
Stronger speaking skills serve women in many ways, Anita says. Those who work benefit professionally. Women involved in community organizations become better advocates. Even mothers who stay home to raise children find a stronger voice when presenting their families’ needs.
After earning master’s degrees in counseling (University of Santa Clara) and business management (Redlands University), Anita is working on a doctorate in organizational development at the Fielding Institute. She lives in Santa Barbara with her husband, Bill ’72, the administrator at Trinity Episcopal Church.
Despite her busy schedule, Anita is reaching out to women and the Hispanic community for the Kerry-Edwards campaign, keeping involved and adding her voice to the political debate.