04/21/2014 12:58 pm ET Updated Jun 21, 2014

Women in Business Q&A: Kathy Kinane, Kinane Events

Voted Race Director of the year by Competitor Magazine in 1999 and top 25 people making a difference in Orange County by OC Metro in 2000, Kathy Kinane has been marketing, managing and participating in running races, triathlons, bike tours, sports tournaments for over 30 years.

Kathy is strongly committed to raising the standards of the event industry by delivering outstanding and innovative services to her clients. Described as a "Firecracker" by those she meets, Kathy has an abundance of energy and passion for her work.

In 2007, while managing Kinane Events, Kathy and her visionary board members established the Move Your Feet Before You Eat! Foundation. As Executive Director, Kathy was awarded the Health Care Champion Award in 2010 for the foundation's contribution to incentivizing the community to adopt an active lifestyle.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
In my life I've had the opportunity to have some great mentors, both women and men. I think there's no doubt that women in business can benefit from men who are willing to offer a hand. There weren't as many women in power when I was coming up, and today there are more women in the ranks, but still not enough. I was mentored by some of the best people and through them I learned how important it is to mentor others. I think people have so much talent and they just need opportunity, just like I did. Coming from the world of sports, I've seen many changes over the years, particularly in women's sports at the collegiate level. Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, has been instrumental to the advancement of women's sports, but we still have a long way to go. Also, I grew up around people who wanted to start teams and try out new opportunities for women's sports. They were passionate, and didn't take 'No' for an answer. I was open to new, positive influences. People would say 'You should try this,' and I would say OK. I love the pure joy of mastering something.

How did your previous employment experience aid your position at Kinane Events?
When I was a Division 1 track and cross country coach at UC-Santa Barbara, I was a victim of discrimination. I was too young emotionally to handle some of the ethics issues at that top level but when I left I had it in my mind that I could help change things. I knew I enjoyed working with people, helping them reach their success. So I decided to put on events, in effect, creating a "carrot" -- or incentive -- for people to be healthy. I was voted "most inspirational" at West Torrance High School. I've just always wanted people to find their own happiness and enjoy physical activity outside and enjoy it. And I actually make money at this! But it's disturbing that women still get 25 percent less money that men make. Women like me who have 7 years of graduate work make 40 percent less than men with the same education and experience.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Fortunately, I love what I do, so my work is pretty much my life. And I surround myself with people who enjoy being physically active.

What have been the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Kinane Events?
A highlight has been the growth of Race for the Cure, which has grown to 28,000 runners. Surf City USA Marathon and Half Marathon has passed 20,000, and Oceanside Turkey Trot, hosted by a community that has a significant percentage of underserved residents, has grown to 10,000 from 2,500 only eight years ago. So, healthy living is finally catching on.

What advice can you offer women seeking to start their own business?
Do as many apprenticeships as you can. I had the good fortune in college working with two or three businesses at a time. The skills i learned in those jobs are what I use in business today.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Gender discrimination and lack of opportunity, and our willingness to accept it. When I was working on Race For The Cure, I was fortunate enough to work with a great board of directors who saw the value in enabling women to work on projects they love. Women-owned businesses is the fastest growing segment of the economy. We have to create our own economy.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
I was involved with Maria Shriver's Governor's Conference on Women, I think Maria is a visionary. She is out there inspiring these women small business owners who are not only running a business, but also raising a family and trying to stay healthy. For these women, it's even more difficult to network. As Sheryl Sandberg advocates, creating circles is extremely important. For instance, working on the Komen event for example, created a natural circle. Running groups create circles. We need people who are no-holds barred, who aren't going to bring cookies to the negotiations to hope that's what warms the guys up to us. We have to stop giving the men everything. We want them to do business with us.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I've been mentored by people and I have to say I've learned a lot from people who weren't as successful, as well as those who were true winners. I say that because from the people who weren't so successful, I would think "Maybe there's a better way to do this." My industry has been around only about 20 years but it is only in the last four or five years that it has brought sustainable incomes to people in the industry. I think I've provided the opportunity for many young people to learn. These people have successful careers today. Through working with us, they've gained key relationships, they've learned skills and they've been able to work with people who have same vision and high standards.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Barbara Bry, the founder of Run Women Run in San Diego, and the legendary Billie Jean King. I give Hillary credit for proposing the healthcare plan early on, and if they'd been more open to her ideas the whole country would have been better off. First Lady Obama started the "Let's Move" program, because she realizes a person's health is the number one priority. Michelle was savvy to go right into the schools teaching people to cook and teaching the value of health, and getting parents to commit to more active family lifestyles. She's making cultural change. Barbara Bry is the founder of Run Women Run, a dynamic organization that helps women to push for political office and I'm so excited to get to know someone who is into training women for leadership roles. Billie Jean King was so motivated at 30 when she started the Women's Tennis Association it was inspiring to me. I watched her during that "Battle of the Sexes" when she beat Bobby Riggs back in the early 1970s. I ran right out and bought blue suede Adidas. I've gotten to know Billie Jean over the years. And you know that during my project on Title IX , I had her sign those shoes for me.

What are your hopes for the future of Kinane Events?
I'd like to create more synergy in the community. trump, all the apprentice actives what's we do every day. We want to create one more event at least that will be focused on highlighting the need for leadership opportunities for women. My goal is to continue to be more involved with helping the next generation of women, and with the men who realize that women have so much to contribute to our country.