Women’s History Month

Meet some of our talented team members & a philanthropist at Seattle Foundation and Seattle International Foundation, who are unwavering in their pursuit to disrupt the status quo and fight for gender equality in the Seattle region and abroad.

March is Women’s History Month, a time to honor the contributions of women throughout history and society. At Seattle Foundation, we seek to honor the impact of women, those who identify as women, trans women, and other gender identities, by continuing to fund, support, and advocate for equity while disrupting sexist policies and practices. As Seattle Foundation centers equity in our mission to make greater Seattle a stronger, more vibrant community for all, we believe gender equality is essential to achieve our mission.

It is important to recognize that the experiences of women vary based on other identities, such as race and ethnicity, ability and disability, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, class, and more. Women’s History Month would not be complete without acknowledging the historical role and ongoing advocacy of all womxn* in our diversity.

Senior Advisor on Equity, Alice Ito, finds joy in “creating things that don’t exist, but should.” As a volunteer, she co-founded organizations to advance justice and combat inequities. In Seattle, these included API Chaya and Communities Rise, two of Seattle Foundation’s nonprofit partners. Alice grew up in Bellevue where her father and his family had farmed, before they were incarcerated by the U.S. federal government during World War II. They were one of only 12 Japanese American families able to return to Bellevue. “I learned early on that what happened to my community was only one instance of terrible injustices perpetrated in the U.S. over the centuries—many of which are ongoing. And so, our work for change must be relentless,” says Alice.

As an undergrad, Alice co-founded the first Asian American women’s organization at Stanford University to address interconnected challenges of racism and sexism on campus and beyond. She later co-created a multiracial women’s network to advocate for policy change and anti-racist domestic violence programs in California, as well as co-founded the Asian Women’s Shelter in San Francisco—one of the first such multi-lingual, culturally competent and anti-heterosexist organizations in the country.

When she returned to Seattle in the 1980s, Alice was shocked to find that no similar program existed in the region, so she worked with others to organize the Asian Pacific Islander Women & Children Safety Center, which later merged with Chaya to form API Chaya. She believes that, “At the core of domestic violence and other forms of oppression is the abuse of power, enabled and supported by systems and policies, which are created by people and therefore, can be dismantled by people. This is our collective responsibility—to create a better world.”

Senior Philanthropic Advisor, Elaine Chu, currently serves on the Green River College Board of Trustees, appointed by Governor Jay Inslee. This is the first all-female Board of Trustees for a community college in Washington State. The Board is working to add more women of color, with a goal of remaining an all-female board, in order to better reflect the college’s goals and diversity.

“Education matters because it interconnects everything else when you think about it,” says Elaine. “Educational opportunities can lead to a more livable wage job, circumventing homelessness, and affording proper healthcare leading to stronger health and wellness.”

Elaine is slated to be Board Chair in September 2021. The core values of Green River College focus on student success, global awareness, and equity. Similar to the work of Seattle Foundation, the college comes together in partnership with other institutions to advocate for legislative priorities, centering equity in these areas: housing insecurity, access to education, and vocational opportunities.

“I was born in New York City and raised in South Seattle, living in low-income and diverse community where there were no resources to succeed,” says Elaine. “I want to help provide better than what I had for kids and students.”

For many years Cherlyn Cloy, Advisor, Gift Planning, supported people battling cancer. In fact, she was all too familiar with the devastating effects of the disease having lost her mother, Delores, to breast cancer at age 46. Cherlyn learned early on that awareness and early detection was key and swiftly put into practice regular mammography checkups.

In her mid-thirties, Cherlyn requested mammography screenings, and was advised by doctors to follow guidelines to begin testing at age 40. She refused to back down and provided a long list of at-risk factors based on family history. Soon after getting a mammogram, doctors discovered a benign tumor, proving that self-advocacy is critical. In the years following, she maintained regular screenings. However, in April 2019, Cherlyn was now facing a breast cancer diagnosis of her own. “I would not have been prepared if it weren’t for my earlier experiences,” she reflects,

True to who she is, Cherlyn has openly shared her journey with Seattle Foundation team members and remains a supporter and mentor to others. To support women and men experiencing cancer, Cherlyn willingly shares information and resources to help them navigate their journey.

On March 6, after four chemo treatments and 34 radiation sessions, Cherlyn was declared cancer-free. “A beautiful gift in honor of my mother and Women’s History Month.”

Community investor Martha Wyckoff has been a philanthropic partner at Seattle Foundation since establishing a fund in 2013 (advised by Elizabeth List, Senior Philanthropic Advisor). Wyckoff is a passionate supporter of and advocate for expanding access to the outdoors and the protection of land through The Trust for Public Land (TPL), where she served on the board from 1996-2009 and is currently an emeritus board member. In addition, she is active in nurturing and empowering the next generation of female nonprofit leaders.

In partnership with The Cairn Project, Wyckoff hosted a group of female nonprofit leaders on a two-night backpacking trip in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona. Included in this group of remarkable women was Sally Jewel (former Secretary of Interior under the Obama Administration and current Interim Chief Executive Officer of the Nature Conservancy). This unique experience created the space for female leaders to explore, plan, and take action in pursuit of their purpose. Most importantly, these women were able to form bonds with other strong leaders from across the country who have the shared vision of introducing more women to the benefit of the outdoors. Listen to their stories about Purpose and Perspective in the Superstition Mountains: The Cairn Project from She Explores on Apple Podcasts.

Anna Pickett, Communications and Programs Assistant at Seattle International Foundation, works to improve inclusion and access for all, especially young girls with disabilities who frequently face social and physical barriers to accessibility and accommodations, social stigma, and mental health services.

Myths and preconceived notions of disability contribute to the vulnerability of young people with disabilities, especially young women and girls. Growing up with a disability, Anna has always been aware people perceived her as different. It was in the way people stared, the way her soccer opponents would avoid her handshake, the way strangers frowned on the sidewalk.

Ending the stigma and discrimination against young people with disabilities is vital to achieving their full inclusion in society. Anna believes one key strategy in that fight is diverse representation, sharing, “It wasn’t until I was an adult and mentored for youth with limb differences that I realized the power of looking up to someone who looks like you, not just for the youth but for their parents too. It can be hard to imagine something you’ve never experienced before.”

Now, Anna works to shed the stigma around disability through mentorship, consulting, public speaking, and creating content. Anna hopes to live in a world where all young girls with disabilities are reflected in their favorite movies and books, their role models, and in positions of power; and she is working hard to make that world a reality. Read more in her blog, Anna Living Differently.

Learn how Seattle Foundation & Seattle International Foundation (SIF) are equipping and supporting womxn and girls.

*The word “womxn” is a more inclusive term that promotes intersectionality. “Womxn” is designed to be more inclusive of people that identify within the gender of women and the ‘x’ allows space for individuals who identify as gender fluid, gender queer, gender non-conforming, or non-binary.