Women’s Inaugural Ball
What a year this has been!
More than 130 leaders from Western Washington joined the Center for Women & Democracy for its first annual women’s inaugural ball.
Held in the third week of November, the ball celebrates the advances of women in public and corporate life. After the 2016 election, some worried would we have anything to celebrate. But we did: Washington State elected 83 women to the Washington State Legislature, making one third of the Legislature women. Statewide Washington women make up 44% of elected offices, while our Washington Supreme Court remains one of the only courts in the world to be majority women.
After the election half of our Congressional Delegation became women, making Washington among the first states in the Union to make 50% of its delegation women.
But this isn’t just about politics.
We’ll celebrate women of accomplishment who made their mark in 2016 whether in business, in industry, in the law, in medicine, in pharmaceuticals, in real estate as well the women who won elected office in 2016.
Women of Distinction
At our 2016 Women’s Inaugural Ball: Our Night to Remember, the Center for Women & Democracy honored five women leaders from diverse fields who are making a difference in Washington State.
Read on to be truly inspired:
Captain Katharine Sweeney
Captain Katharine Sweeney can steer cargo ships and oil tankers as big as the Columbia Tower into our ports. She received the “Admiral of the Ocean Seas”—the highest marine award for a rescue at sea of a life raft full of Japanese fishermen whose boat had been sunk in a super typhoon.
Captain Sweeney was turned down for a marine pilot’s license in Washington State, even though her training program grades were as good as, and often better, than her male counterparts. The all-male license team had never issued a license to a woman—preferring to keep these six figure jobs for the men—often for men in their families.
Captain Sweeney took on the all-male system and went to court: the whole jury agreed with her, awarding her one of the top discrimination verdicts in Washington history. More important to the Captain, women are now on the state licensing board, more women are applying for marine pilot licenses, and the State’s appeal against her settlement has been withdrawn. Captain Sweeney started her own business while awaiting the outcome: “Compliance Maritime” provides safety auditing and consulting, and was recently named a Top 100 Marine Business in 2016.
Dr. Michelle Peak Andrasik
Seattle is home to many medical pioneers, but few of our prominent trailblazers focus on low income, African American, at-risk women living with HIV/AIDS. Dr. Michelle Peak Andrasik is the only African American faculty member at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Her career has been dedicated to fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic, with a focus on women. One in four people living with HIV is female but few programs in the country focus on women.
Dr. Andrasik’s global research projects about women living with HIV have received the highest award for Cognitive Behavioral Studies. Currently, she is the lead Behavioral Scientist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s (FHCRC) HVTN, Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington (UW), and Core Faculty in the FHCRC/UW Center for AIDS Research Socio-behavioral Prevention Research Core.
Dr. Andrasik has also worked to develop programs to bring African American women faculty together, from the local Seattle Colleges and Universities, to network and support each other in navigating the lonely world of the few women in higher education.
Sue Bird can light up a room by just storming in with that basketball in hand. The state’s most winning woman in professional sports and our State’s most gold medal-winning Olympian woman, Sue Bird is a legend on the gym floor, behind the microphone, in front of students, and in our hearts. The Seattle Storm selected Sue Bird was the first overall pick of the 2002 WNBA Draft.
Ms. Bird as the first overall pick of the 2002 WNBA Draft. Since then, Bird has won two WNBA championships in 2004 and 2010. She is the only basketball player to win Olympic gold medals in four Olympics including 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016. She is one of nine women to win an Olympic Gold Medal, an NCAA Championship, and a WNBA Championship. In 2011, she was voted in by fans as one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All Time.
Though she calls Connecticut home, she never really leaves Seattle where her fan base has made her one of the top-loved women’s basketball heroines of all time. Yet, she is known for her “sportswomanship,” her willingness to collaborate and her ability to mentor other women players.
Kim Martin is the longest reigning regional director for PhRMA, the world’s bio-pharmaceutical trade association famous for its longtime male leaders. Ms. Martin’s job has put her on the front lines for PhRMA as our state went through touchy tobacco settlement issues, college campus oxycodone epidemics, controversial “right to contraception” prescriptions issues and concerns about the astronomical drug price increases.
It isn’t easy to keep your client as “the good guy” saving lives and curing disease when the headlines are usually bad. Ms. Martin, undaunted by what happens elsewhere, has built a coalition of patient advocates that is second to none. Her 15 years at PhRMA and her prior 10 years involved in state political campaigns have helped to make Kim Martin a trusted source of information at the Capitol. She is the woman to see when people need accurate information, and she’s the reason many drug company guys listen to the woman at the top when it comes to strategy.
Margo Wheeler Willis is among the very best of Washington’s women realtors. A U.S. Army former veteran who retired at the rank of First Sergeant, Ms. Wheeler Willis has since risen to the top in sales, relocations, and getting real families their very first homes. Throughout Washington state, women realtors like her outnumber the men, outsell them, outlist them and outearn them — by dominating the first home market, especially in Margo Wheeler Willis’ case in helping military families to relocate.
A managing broker at John L. Scott Real Estate in University Place, Ms. Wheeler Willis is the incoming president of the Washington Realtors. She is also a past national president of the Women’s Council of the Realtors. Ms. Wheeler Willis is a stunning example of women’s leadership: from her own website offering the handy free information to perspective buyers or sellers, to her approach of being confident without being the pushy agent. She is a leading realtor who is helping our military and veteran families to achieve home ownership.
Ruth Perez was a national news anchor in Mexico who started three magazines. Determined to get the best education she could, Ms. Perez came to the States more than 20 years ago. She became a new rising star from the minute she arrived in the Seattle region. When Governor Gary Locke launched a trade mission to Mexico, he turned to Ms. Perez to make it meaningful and bring home business and that is what she did. Ms. Perez was appointed to the Renton City Council in 2014 — its first Hispanic and the region’s first appointed Hispanic woman. She won her election for the seat in her own right last year, in a year when eight other Hispanic women won their first local office.
Ms. Perez chairs the Transportation Committee and joined the Utilities Committee. As Sound Transit Chair, Pat McCarthy, reports, “Ruth Perez spoke for inclusion of more Renton projects — and got them.” She brings people together on projects, not race. She is polite but strong and has organized a network of our increasing Hispanic elected officials all over Washington.
Ms. Perez’s colleagues, her Mayor and her city department heads agree: her most valuable asset is that she has helped them define cultural inclusion differently, rather than patronizing or responding in stereotyped modes. Ruth Perez is living proof that rising stars can last forever.