Media Room


Governor Kate Brown
Portland Business Journal Women of Influence Awards
Thursday, April 11, 2019

Thank you, Craig, for that kind introduction. I’m so honored to be here today in the company of so many amazing women. Thank you to our hosts from the Business Journal, especially Craig and Suzanne. Thank you all for the opportunity to celebrate.

It’s 2019. One hundred years ago, women won the right to vote in the United States of America. I say won because it was a battle, requiring years of activism, advocacy, and bucking authority.

It was a victory, but still only partial. Women of color didn’t get the right to vote until years later. We’re still seeing battles for access to the ballot in states like Georgia, Kansas, and Texas.

The last century brought a lot of positive change in terms of equity and progress—like Title IX, the Equal Pay Act, and many female firsts in elected office, the military, and all kinds of traditionally male occupations.

We are at a high point in women’s rights in America, which is something I’d love to say with pride.

But, we can go higher.

And, if recent rollbacks on reproductive health and the #MeToo movement have taught us anything, it’s that we cannot be complacent.

We still need to fight for each other.

Just two of our largest publicly-traded Oregon companies have female CEOs. And white women still face a pay gap of roughly 80 cents to a man’s dollar. For African-American women, it’s 61 cents.

For Latina women, it’s 53 cents. A little over half.

Oregon is a small business state, and it provides a critical path to economic prosperity. Yet, as the PBJ reports, women received only eighteen percent of Small Business Administration loans last year. Loans to African-American businesses are down by ninety-six percent.

Nationally, in 2017 women founders only received two percent of venture capital investment. That’s down from four percent a decade ago.

That said, we are making progress. Women across the state are making our voices heard to advance policies that expand opportunities for future generations, making Oregon a better place to live, work, and raise a family.

The progress being made on many of these fronts is in part because of the leadership of women like you. Women who have first-hand experience with these issues and understand on a very personal level how these impact our lives. Your voices and your leadership are helping make these positive changes, and the changes are happening fast.

According to the PBJ, there has been a fifty-two percent increase from five years ago in the number of women on corporate boards in Oregon & Southwest Washington’s twenty-five largest public companies, a sharper increase than the national average.

Chief Justice Martha Walters became the first woman to lead Oregon’s Supreme Court, which for the first time in Oregon’s history, has a majority of justices that are women. This includes Justice Adrienne Nelson — the first African-American woman — and Justice Lynn Nakamoto — the first-ever Asian-Pacific American — to sit on our highest court.

Portland recently elected its very first African-American woman city councilor.

As of one week ago — after my appointment of Bev Clarno as Secretary of State — four out of five statewide offices in Oregon are now held by women. The most in Oregon history.

And as if that isn’t enough, Oregon is now third in the nation for having the most women serving in our state Legislature.
While we are still a far cry from Nevada — which has more than half women in its legislature — now, more than ever, leadership in our state is more reflective of Oregon’s people. And that’s a really good thing.

Today, we celebrate CEOs and directors. Movers and shakers. You work everywhere from finance to tech, health care to humanitarianism, government to nonprofits — all women.

Because representation matters. You can’t be what you can’t see. And it’s so important that the girls and young women of today see themselves reflected in you.

Policies also matter.

My vision is of an Oregon where we increase economic prosperity, and do it in a way that ensures that prosperity is inclusive. An Oregon where everyone is given the same fair shot at building a better life for themselves and their children.

Women should be paid equally and treated with respect in the workplace.

All women, no matter where they come from, who they love, or how they identify, should have access to a full complement of health care services.

No one — no one — should have to worry about making a choice between paying rent and staying home with their newborn.

In Oregon, we’re working to take those worries off the table.

Because if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.

I’m so very proud to be with you today to honor all of you who are writing Oregon’s history as we speak. Thank you for all that you do to make Oregon a better place for everyone.