Women Taking the Lead
Women Leaders in Seattle Southside
Sisters are doin' it for themselves! Women are making history - or should we say herstory - every single day.
Women have been making a difference from the beginning of time. But for too long, the stories of women in leadership have been sidelined, their work denigrated as being lesser despite the fact that they have contributed just as much as their male counterparts. Here are just a few of the moves and shakers from around the Seattle Southside region who are making a big difference in our community.
Sandra Largaespada at Food Innovation Network
The program director at the Food Innovation Network (FIN), Sandra Largaespada, does more than simply lead - her work uplifts women, immigrants, and people of color who are seeking to grow as entrepreneurs. The FIN's Spice Bridge Global Food Hall serves as an incubator for restaurants and catering businesses looking to get their start. FIN helps these small business owners with paperwork, mentorship, and a discounted kitchen space to work out of to help these new restauranteurs get up and running. Plus, we all benefit from the delicious international cuisine on offer on a rotating basis at Spice Bridge before these restaurants start up their standalone locations. Talk about a win-win-win!
Sandra just started in the role at the beginning of March 2023, and hopes to use her new position to uplift and empower. She says, "My favorite part about working with a team is embracing that we all bring diverse skills and expertise. My goal is to work together to develop program goals and build alignment with our work and vision while always supporting them through their professional development."
Barbara McMichael of SoCo Culture
Arts, culture, and history are deeply important and help make any region a more vibrant and compelling place to be. That's why the work the Barbara McMichael does with South King County Culture (also known as SoCoCulture) is so important. She connects community theater, arts, cultural, and historical organizations with much-needed resources, collective advocacy, and networking opportunities to develop and encourage the growth of culture in the region. With each individual arts organization spending so much time focused on their specific missions, it can be hard for these groups to carve out time to network and work together for arts advocacy, funding, and other issues that affect multiple organizations. That's what makes Barbara's role at SoCo Culture so critical: by facilitating these interconnected relationships, Barbara helps to ensure that arts and culture organizations can advocate as a unified front for the funding and policy matters that they rely on to survive and thrive. More than that, Barbara has a wealth of knowledge about the fascinating history of Seattle Southside arts, architecture, and beyond. Her leadership and stewardship help to make our community a more interesting and beautiful place to live, work, and visit.
Karen Dove at ANEW
ANEW (Apprenticeship & Non-traditional Employment for Women) was founded in 1980 in Tukwila with the aim of improving access and advancement of women in traditionally male-dominated career pathways such as construction and manufacturing. Today, ANEW is the oldest continuously running pre-apprenticeship program in the United States that trains people to enter the construction industry. They recently received a grant from workwear giant Carhartt to help support their work. But not only does ANEW work to support women in construction, they themselves are led by a strong woman, showing by example the incredible work that women can do. In 2020 Karen was the recipient of the lumenomics Susan B. Anthony award to recognize her contributions towards the advancement of women.
Auburn Fire Chief Dawn Judkins
The first woman to serve as a fire chief in King County, Dawn Judkins got her start in firefighting in Tukwila, right here in Seattle Southside. Her leadership is an inspiration to everyone, male or female. "I wasn't trying to be the best female firefighter, I really wanted to be the best teammate for all of the folks that I worked with and with all their support, I've gotten to the position I am now," says Chief Judkins. "I just want everyone to know, girls, teenagers, once you set your mind on something you can do anything you want to do.”
Jean Thompson of Seattle Chocolate
The owner and CEO of Seattle Chocolate isn't just making sweets, she's making the future sweet for the girls and women who come after her. Ten percent of the net profits from Seattle Chocolate go to support Girls, Inc., a charity which works to empower young women. Jean says, "As a mother and a female entrepreneur, uplifting and inspiring young girls is so important to me, and we're thrilled to now be supporting Girls Inc. with every single Seattle Chocolate purchase." The work that Girls, Inc. does is vitally important, as they have an emphasis on supporting girls who face intersectional challenges, such as those based on sex, race, religion, ethnicity, immigration status, and gender identity. So go ahead, grab another chocolate bar. You're helping out the next generation of girls when you do so!
Aside from her charitable work, Jean runs what she calls a "woman-powered" business. According to Seattle Chocolate's VP of Operations Marie McNally, "The thoughtfulness and creativity that goes into every product we make, every message we send, and every flavor we create is all about bringing joy to others. Who better to do that than a bunch of mothers, sisters, and friends?"
Amy Cook of the Des Moines Burning Boat Festival
Amy Cook saw a need in her local community and stepped forward to help make things better for everyone. Rather than simply standing on the sidelines as she watched community members struggle with addiction and mental health crisis, she decided to step in and start a fun new annual tradition that would help raise money for those in need. In their first year, the Des Moines Burning Boat Festival was able to raise over $22,000 for Valley Cities, a local mental health and substance abuse clinic. The decision was made to rotate the charity benefitting from the fundraiser every year, and planning has begun on the next iteration of the Burning Boat Festival.
Nancy Salguero McKay of the Highline Heritage Museum
The Highline Heritage Museum is more than just a museum, it's a cultural center that reflects the people, heritage, and languages of the communities that make up the Highline area. Nancy Salguero McKay, executive director of the museum, has worked for the museum for almost 20 years, first as a volunteer before working her way to her current position. Her focus on diversity and inclusion ensures that all people can see themselves reflected in the exhibits on display, rather than reducing history to stereotypes and biases. She makes sure that oral histories, artifacts, and stories are carefully preserved so that the lessons of our past and present can inform our future. Nancy's work at the museum led her to be recognized as Burien's Citizen of the Year in 2022!