Women of color build a diverse and promising future

Compiled by Staff
Northwest Asian Weekly


Race and ethnicity has been a key issue in this year’s elections, which is why the group of women designated as women of power are not just leaders, but ones who uphold and encourage diversity in their respective industries. Three times a year, the Women of Color luncheon recognizes female pioneers in different fields, and these women share personal stories and lessons gleaned from their respective careers.

The upcoming Women of Color Empowered luncheon will take place on September 20 at the New Hong Kong Restaurant, and the theme is “Women of Power: Future Builders.” The emcee, Barbie-Danielle DeCarlo, has been an on-air host for KBCS Community Radio. The honorees of this upcoming luncheon come from various fields — from education to law enforcement — fostering cultural understanding and equal opportunities for future communities.

The honorees in alphabetical order:

Patricia Akiyama

Patricia Akiyama, former chief of staff for U.S. Senator Patty Murray from 1995 to 1999, joined the Port of Seattle in 2010 as the Director of Public Affairs, where she leads the community engagement, business, and corporate communications, corporate and airport media, government relations, and tourism development teams. Akiyama has long managed political and civic responsibilities. She worked with Weyerhaeuser Company as a government and community affairs manager and was the director of government and community relations for Russell Investments. Currently, Akiyama is a member of the Community Development Roundtable and is on the Leadership Tomorrow Board of Directors.

Andrina Bigelow

Andrina Bigelow is the chief executive officer of Seattle’s beloved confections, Fran’s Chocolates. With a degree in economics, Bigelow worked for Mattel Toys before discovering her interest for brand management. Bigelow launched and managed several lines of businesses for the Disney and Nickelodeon franchises. She then earned her MBA at Cornell’s Johnson School of Management. Bigelow followed her passion for brand management, working at large companies like Johnson and Johnson and T-Mobile USA. In 2006, she joined her mother Fran and her brother Dylan in the family business, Fran’s Chocolates. On her off time, Andrina is a proud member of the Neighborhood House board of directors.

Toni Castro

As a first generation Latino college graduate, Toni Castro applies her personal experience to her work as a student affairs practitioner and administrator. As the vice president for student services at Highline Community College (HCC), she is dedicated to designing and managing programs that promote access, equity, and academic success.

Currently in her seventh year as vice president for student services at HCC, she helps oversee student services at the most diverse college out of all the two- and four-year institutions in Washington state. In 2007, Castro was a recipient of the Scott Goodnight Award for Outstanding Performance as a Dean.

She also serves on the Washington State Student Services Commission and Seattle University’s Master in Student Development Administration Advisory Board. Her years of experience as a counselor, mentor, supervisor, judicial officer, director, and dean has served to address the needs of the changing landscape of higher education administration, shifting student demographics, and economic challenges.

Dr. Charlotte Cote

Dr. Charlotte Cote is very active in the local Native community. Her research examines issues around Native governance, politics, law, and sovereignty. In 2010, Dr. Cote published her first book, “Spirits of Our Whaling Ancestors: Revitalizing Makah and Nuu-chah-nelth Traditions.” Now, working on an upcoming book, Dr. Cote finds time to coordinate a project for UW’s House of Knowledge Project Advisory Committee, which encourages Native faculty, staff, and students to build a longhouse-style facility on the UW’s Seattle campus.

Dr. Cote also serves on the UW’s Graduate Opportunities and Minorities Achievement Program board. Aside from education, Dr. Cote promotes Native culture through art as an executive member of the Seattle Art Museum Native Arts Council and a member of the Northwest Folklife Festival Cultural Committee. Dr. Cote currently teaches undergraduate courses at the UW on Native culture, and a graduate course that examines Indian sovereignty and public policy issues.

Sandra Jackson-Dumont

As the deputy director of education and public programs and adjunct curator at the Seattle Art Museum, Jackson-Dumont has been a visionary for unique outreach efforts and artistic experiences. Her experience, including some special programs, have drawn as many as 110,000 attendees, turning what some would assume are dowdy museum experiences into full-on cocktail parties and stimulating experiences. Formerly from New York and San Francisco,  Jackson-Dumont has established close ties with the community through supporting programs like the Community of Thinkers, which promotes arts and humanities education in the classroom through partnerships between schools and community groups.

Michelle Gonzalez

Before serving as the assistant dean of the University of Washington School of Law, Gonzalez earned her law degree at UC Berkeley School of Law and worked in private and public sectors practicing employment civil rights law, general tort law, complex litigation, and disability law. She served as a trial attorney for the EEOC’s Seattle office. She has also taught civil rights courses as a part-time lecturer at UW School of Law and Seattle University School of Law.

Yemi Fleming-Jackson

As an attorney for the Microsoft Corporation, Fleming-Jackson advises Microsoft management and employees on a broad range of complex and strategic legal and business issues involving intellectual property, competition law, licensing, commercial transactions, marketing, compliance, and applicable regulatory matters. Prior to joining Microsoft, Fleming-Jackson was a litigator in private practice for 11 years before serving as corporate counsel at T-Mobile USA, Inc. as a lead Business-to-Business (B2B) attorney. Currently, she serves on the Washington State Minority and Justice Commission as a technical support member of the Workforce Diversity committee. She has been recognized as a Rising Star by “Washington Law and Politics” for five consecutive years.

Jeanette James

Jeanette James is the Director of Admission and Advancement at Seattle Girls’ School and provides leadership in the areas of admissions, financial aid, and advancement. Before taking up her position at Seattle Girls’ School, James’ background in volunteering and community building led her to work at the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity (OMAD) at the University of Washington with federally funded programs, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) and the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Scholars Program, both designed to create opportunity and access for underrepresented and disadvantaged students.

Mijo Lee

Mijo Lee graduated from New York University School of Law. She has been an activist and organizer in a variety of movements in the Seattle area, including domestic violence, advocacy, fair trade, and police accountability. Lee founded Sahngnoksoo, a politically progressive Korean American organization in the Northwest. She is a grantee of the Social Justice Fund, a foundation pushing for social change, and looks forward to enacting profound social change and addressing root causes of injustice. Lee most recently worked as a public defender on statewide appeals.

Marcie Maxwell

State representative Marcie Maxwell has served in the Washington State House of Representatives since January 2009. Her 41st Legislative District includes Bellevue, Beaux Arts, Issaquah, Mercer Island, Newcastle, Renton, and Sammamish. She is a small business owner who has held many local leadership positions. Maxwell is recognized for her legislative work focusing on good schools, jobs, and quality of life. In the State House, she serves as the Deputy Majority Leader for various education and learning efforts.

Lora-Ellen McKinney

Lora-Ellen McKinney, a daughter of a third-generation Baptist minister, is an advocate of community health, social service, social justice, and education. With the help of a Kellogg National Fellowship Award, she completed her dispute resolution training through the Harvard Negotiation Project and Eastern Mennonite University’s Conflict Analysis and Transformation. Her work as a psychologist has led her to confront issues around race and poverty. She has written many books on faith and self-help, including “Getting to Amen: 8 Strategies for Managing Conflict in the African American Church.” McKinney heads her own consulting firm, McKinney Consultations, in Seattle.

Julie Pham

Julie Pham did not stop at serving as managing editor of Nguoi Viet Tay Bac – the Northwest Vietnamese News. She founded Sea Beez, a capacity-building program for local ethnic media. Her work as the chair of the MLK Business Association helped support the small businesses on the Martin Luther King Jr. Way stretch affected by the Light Rail construction. The PR/Marketing chair for Seattle’s NAAAP, Pham led the organization’s PR/Marketing program to a first place finish in NAAAP National Convention. In 2011, Pham was named on the “40 under 40” business leaders list by Puget Sound Business Journal and voted as an innovator in Verizon Wireless Asian Pacific American Heritage Community Roast Awards.

Colleen Fukui-Sketchley

Colleen Fukui-Sketchley is the Corporate Center Diversity Affairs Director for Nordstrom, Inc., focused on developing and executing diversity initiatives that support corporate employees. Fukui-Sketchley’s work enhances Nordstrom’s efforts to recruit, hire, retain, and improve customer service by weaving diversity into the people, product, and service initiatives and Nordstrom. She is a fourth-generation Japanese American, and currently serves as past-president of the UW Alumni Association, and a boardmember of the Center for Asian Pacific American Women and the Washington State Business Network.

Susan Long-Walsh

Susan Long-Walsh has nearly 40 years of experience cultivating value in top corporations like Nordstrom, Microsoft, and Starbucks Coffee Company. Long-Walsh is active on the board for InfluenceHer, in alliance with the Boys and Girls Club. After many years of helping companies and professionals across all sectors enact positive, lasting change in its practices, she established Susan Long-Walsh and Associates (SLW). (end)

Staff can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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