On this International Women's Day I want to give recognition to a few women in the Central Valley who have made a huge difference in our communities, and who I'm very inspired by.
Dorothy Thomas: In 2020, Dorothy Thomas was named Coleman's SBA Main Street Lender of the year for the positive impact she has had in our community throughout her career. In her role as Senior Vice President and Small Business Administration Department Manager at Central Valley Community Bank she provided capital to many people who struggled to get small business loans. In 30 years Dorothy was responsible for more than $600 million in Small Business Administration funded projects and 8,000 jobs created or retained in the Central Valley. Throughout her career she paid special attention in guiding women, and people of color in getting their SBA loans approved. She looked out for the underserved communities of the Central Valley, and although she retired from her position in January she still sits on many boards and is part of many organizations with the same goal of helping the people in our community. Please read more about Dorothy's storied career here: ABC30 February 2021
Irma Olguin Jr.: The co-founder of Bitwise Industries has made Fresno a part of the California tech conversation, and has created an entryway into tech careers for people who may have otherwise been shut out. Their accelerated training program has seen over 4,500 graduates, removing barriers to tech education by offering affordable and accessible classes. Irma Olguin grew up in the Central Valley, in a family of farm laborers, and finding her own passion for the technology industry inspired her to help open that door for others. Bitwise is built on diversity and a drive for community betterment. During the pandemic, Bitwise has really stepped up by first creating a program to get groceries to those who are high-risk, then shortly after by creating a state-wide website where those who were suddenly out of a job could look for work new opportunities. Bitwise is now expanding to many other cities including Bakersfield, Merced, and Oakland - brining new opportunities in tech to so many others, thanks to Irma Olguin's underlying mission of creating diversity in tech and giving people pathways out of systemic poverty. Please read more about Irma, her incredible story, and the success of Bitwise: Forbes June 2020, The Atlantic March 2015 & April 2020, Forbes February 2021. Read more about Bitwise, and each sector of their success, on their website https://bitwiseindustries.com/
Aileen Rizo: In 2014, Aileen Rizo filed a wage-discrimination lawsuit under the Equal Pay Act and California’s sex-discrimination statutes, after she found out she was being paid far less than some of her male counterparts in the Fresno County Office of Education, based only on their past salaries at previous jobs. Her case moved through the judicial system for many years, and in Febraury 2020 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of Rizo, determining that using prior salary alone cannot justify a wage differential between men and women under the Equal Pay Act. Judge Morgan Christen wrote that “setting wages based on prior pay risks perpetuating the history of sex-based wage discrimination.” Had Aileen Rizo not been brave enough to stand up for herself, and stand up for the Equal Pay Act when she knew it was being violated, many more women may have fallen victim to this course of reason in pay inequity in their jobs. Think of Aileen on March 24, which is Equal Pay Day 2021, representing how far into the year a woman must work to match what a man earned the year prior. This day moves each year because, thankfully, that gap is shortening and progress is being made, and Aileen Rizo will forever be a part of that progress. Please read more Aileen here: CSUSB 2019. And about the course of her Equal Pay fight here: Weil 2020