From left are Michele Ruiz, Charlene Dimas-Peinado, Pamela Bakewell, and Maria Salinas.  (Cora J. Fossett/L.A. Sentinel)






By Cora Jackson-Fossett

Managing Editor


Pamela Bakewell captivated the crowd as the guest speaker for the Women in Leadership Series sponsored by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce’s Women’s Policy Council (WPC).

Audience reactions ranged from laughter, solemnity, surprise and applause as she recounted her journey to becoming the executive vice president and chief operating officer of The Bakewell Company and the L.A. Sentinel Newspaper.

More than 60 women and men came out to the session on March 15, which was held in the chamber’s headquarters in downtown L.A.  Bakewell’s appearance underscores the organization’s effort to expose members to inspiring women high achievers who have experienced success in the business community.

Maria Salinas, chamber president and CEO, and Michele Ruiz, WPC chair and CEO of BiasSync, delivered welcoming comments, and then Charlene Dimas-Peinado, CEO/president of Wellnest, introduced Bakewell to the audience.

Opening her remarks by acknowledging her family and co-workers in attendance, Bakewell went on to cite some of the lessons learned during her many years as an executive in the workforce.

“One lesson I learned is the power of the pivot – changing directions when your goals seem challenging. Sometimes we’re going in one direction in the newspaper, we also have a real estate development company, and we produce Taste of Soul, an event that attracts 350,000 people. So, I have to pivot a lot, change directions and not get frustrated,” explained Bakewell, who is known for her calm demeanor, a quality she attributed to being the mother of five children and five grandchildren.

Bakewell shares her career journey with the audience. (Courtesy photo).

“Another thing I’ve learned is how to manage my success with grace and humility. Sometimes my kids will say that I’m a little too humble, but that’s okay because I want them to be humble. I want them to understand that their faith and inner strength does not come from being boastful,” she noted.

Other truisms Bakewell shared were to “believe in yourself,” “be calm in the midst of a storm” and “learn to navigate the boardroom and the community” – philosophies that she learned and practiced as a working mother and divorcee.  Also, she credited her extended family with helping her endure and excel during difficult times in her life.

Bakewell reminded the audience that while professionals have both a working life and personal life, “we are one human being and sharing (your challenges) can help you and the other person.”  Offering her recommendation to the crowd, she said, “Don’t be so closed up.  It may help you stay out of depression,” adding that listeners should consider mental health counseling as a viable option if the need arises in life.

Before joining her brother, Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., in working for The Bakewell Company, she held internships in human resources at General Motors and Blue Cross Blue Shield, which covered all of her living expenses as well as provided extensive personnel training.

“That’s why I really pushed my kids to apply for internships. The internships exposed me to so much – how to dress, how to talk, how to see broader than what I had been exposed to,” she said.

After relocating to Los Angeles, Bakewell married and worked briefly for Motown and later resumed working for General Motors in the areas of safety, labor relations and workforce development. She moved on to a personnel job at 20th Century Fox when her brother, Danny, offered her a position with his company. Accepting that job greatly expanded her executive management skills as her brother assigned her to oversee a wide spectrum of projects.

Bakewell, center, poses with L.A. Area Chamber staff members. (Courtesy photo)

“Working for my brother was one of the biggest life lessons that I’ve learned. He was doing things that I, as part of his staff, had to support,” remembered Bakewell.  “One time he said, ‘You are now the director of administration and you will do payroll.’ Well, I didn’t know how to do payroll, but I learned that and other more. I’ve been his number two person for 40 years.”

Bakewell has worked closely with her brother in executive slots at the Brotherhood Crusade (a nonprofit social services organization where Danny Sr. serves as chairman of the board), at the Hawthorne shopping center that the family purchased, and at the L.A. Sentinel.

Looking back over her life, Bakewell said, “I love our community and I’ve enjoyed my journey in business. Now, I’m looking forward to repositioning– not retiring – my life to focus on other things I enjoy.”