Media Room

REMARKS AS PREPARED

Women of Influence Luncheon
April 20, 2017


Thank you.

I am thrilled for this opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of Oregon women – women who lead inside and outside the boardroom, women who build and create, and women who are catalysts and shepherds of positive change.

Since the last time I was here with you a year ago, we know that the great progress we have made in Oregon and nationally is on fragile ground.

But, as I marched among my fellow rain-soaked nasty women and girls in Salem in January, our voices came together and lifted my spirits and the spirits of millions of women across the country. Together, our voices are strong and powerful.

It is strong and powerful because we are UNITED regardless of race, LGBTQ status, disability, age, and religion.

We are black, Latina, trans, queer and gay. Some of us live with a disability. We are immigrants, single, married, childless, mothers, grandmothers, and aunties.

When working to elevate women we must think more broadly and inclusively

We know that women of color, LGBTQ women, and women with disabilities face additional barriers to thriving. Their wage gap is greater. They’re at higher risk of becoming victims of violence. And they face greater challenges accessing health care. These barriers start in childhood, when they are more likely to be bullied by classmates and dismissed by educators.

It is no wonder why diverse women are so scarce in our corporate boardrooms, capitol buildings and city halls. While many of us have benefited from the feminist movement, many more of us have been left behind.

Now, more than ever, we must be intentional about including women of all backgrounds in our collective voice.

We are seeing some exciting signs of progress.

In the last election, Oregonians elected Teresa Alonso Leon, the first Latina immigrant elected to the Oregon House of Representatives.

They also elected an all-woman Multnomah County Commission. Jessica Vega Pederson, a Latina, and Lori Stegmann, the first Asian American woman commissioner, joined Loretta Smith, the second African American woman to serve on the board, to comprise the most diverse commission in Multnomah County history.

I am proud to serve alongside House Speaker Tina Kotek, the nation’s first openly lesbian House Speaker of any state Legislature.

But, in the private sector, only one of Oregon’s publicly traded companies has a woman CEO: Tamara Lundgren of Schnitzer Steel. Women make up just 17 percent of the boards of those companies. (As of September 2016, when the Count Her In report was published)

We can do better. We must do better.

Many of us have worked hard in the policy arena to fight for justice and equity. Policies are helpful and necessary, but we also need to change our culture.

Many of us in this room have been influenced and mentored by other successful women. It is time to think about who we’re helping to take our places at the leadership table. It is time to think about who can open doors to opportunities for diverse women.

Those of us who have been relatively privileged in our educations, resources, and connections must make space for different and new voices. Different and new perspectives. Different and new ideas of what it means to be a feminist.

Making sure the voices at the top represents the voices of our communities is not only fair, it’s good business.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote in her book, We Should all be Feminists, “Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.”

So as we celebrate this year’s Women of Influence, let us all think about our influence on the next generation. The women we interview for internships, jobs, and promotions. Those we take to coffee or lunch, or meet at a reception.

Let us change our culture one encounter at a time.

Thank you. Now, I’ll ask Portland Business Journal publisher Craig Wessel to join me back on the stage.