In 2016, Adrenna Alkhas brought the empowHER Lounge to the Stanislaus County Fair, giving thousands of young women the chance to harness their leadership skills, navigate their relationship with technology and gain confidence to be themselves and empower others before they enter the professional realm.
Now, Alkhas is stepping outside of her role as the fair’s marketing and communications director, hoping to share the message with an even broader audience thanks to her new book, “emPOWher.”
“When I created the empowHER Lounge, it was to get young girls educated on working together and really having each other’s backs instead,” Alkhas said. “This is that in book form, showing women how to work together and be each other’s advocates.”
Alkhas used her own experience working in corporate America to walk girls through the dos and don’ts of handling a toxic workplace environment, with chapter titles like “The Villainous Authority,” “Be Empowered” and “The Battlefield.”
“The Battlefield” chapter tells the story of Alkhas’ great grandmother, who survived the Assyrian Genocide in 1915. After fleeing the genocide in Iran and arriving in Iraq, her great grandmother lived in refugee camps where it was the fortitude of women that ensured her race’s survival.
“It was the women that did all this; they put together things to teach children, they prepared food. They did all of that and worked together to survive,” Alkhas said. “When she told me this, in my head I thought, ‘Corporate America is like a battlefield, or the survival of the fittest, and if women survived a battle the way my great grandmother did, there’s no reason women these days shouldn’t be able to work together and make it better for each other.”
It was anecdotes both like her great grandmother’s and encounters of her own that made Alkhas want to write a book that taught women to not only value themselves, but each other.
“I don’t understand why some women don’t embrace each other – especially the younger ones. We need to make sure that they’re taken under our wings and educated properly with no reason for competition,” she said.
Alkhas touches on other topics important to women in the workplace, like the need for longer maternity leave, office gossip and difficult decisions that often come with being a driven female, like deciding whether or not to have children and how it will affect their goals.
“I’ve learned to now speak up, because I was very passive when I first started in the corporate world. If I knew then what I know now, there are a lot of things that wouldn’t have happened,” Alkhas said.
Standing up for oneself is important for girls entering the work force, but Alkhas also emphasizes the value of kindness in her book.
“It’s good to be ambitious and it’s good to have goals, but don’t step on people to get ahead. Kindness is power,” she said. “Don’t be somebody you’re not just to make it to the top, because once you climb that ladder and step on people, you’re going to have to climb back down someday and see those people again.”
One topic in Alkhas’ book is how girls can successfully navigate social media and its dangers – something that Alkhas didn’t have to deal with growing up but understands the magnitude of now.
Young girls often compare themselves to others on social media, she said, whether it be how far they are in their careers or how good they look in a dress, and many end up posting things that could cost them a job in the future, unaware of the repercussions. The online world has created an almost toxic space for many, and she hopes to help women avoid the trap.
“With social media, it’s easy to fall into posting photos that are inappropriate. It’s all about branding yourself through social media, because employers are looking at what you post,” Alkhas said. “And, you can’t compare yourself to what others are doing. You don’t know what’s going on behind that screen when they’re posting; they could be dealing with demons themselves.”
Alkhas hopes that her first published book can bring a sense of comfort to girls who may be unsure about their next step in life. No matter where they go, she hopes they do it with confidence and compassion.
“I hope they become good leaders themselves and also learn to speak up if they see something wrong or are being treated unfairly,” she said. “This is nerve-wracking because I’m a very private person, and having my stories out there, I feel raw. But, I want to educate young girls and that’s the whole premise of this book.”
Alkhas will hold a book signing for “emPOWher” at noon June 23 at Barnes & Noble in Modesto, 3501 McHenry Ave. Suite E.