In January, a record number of women will take their seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, driven by a need to make sure their voices and their concerns are heard at the national level.
It was an election of firsts: the first Native American women elected to Congress, the first Muslim American women elected, the youngest woman member of Congress — all from this election cycle.
We need more women in office, more people of color, more diverse perspectives, more points of view to consider. We need more women CEOs, business owners, community leaders. We need more women to take larger roles around the country, and in Colorado Springs.
As we close in on 2020, the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote, it’s time to celebrate women and encourage the next generation to take a strong interest in community service, public office and business operations.
This week, we honor 14 women who are trailblazers in their fields through our Women of Influence awards. These are women who are succeeding in male-dominated industries, women who took their own path and created the kind of jobs, communities and businesses they wanted to see in Colorado Springs.
Their stories should inspire us all, and should encourage women from all walks of life to become engaged in Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region. Servant leadership can take many forms, and a seat in the corner office isn’t required to be successful or to give back to the local community.
That’s one reason this year’s Women of Influence committee (made up of previous award honorees) spent hours combing through nomination forms. Out of 51 applications, we could only accept 13. And every woman deserved a chance to shine — women working in nonprofits, who own their own businesses, who are breaking barriers.
Consider Kristy Milligan, currently at Westside Cares, who has led a number of local nonprofits to greater success. Or Deborah Hendrix, a local activist now leading a nonprofit to advocate for low-income parents. Abigail Ortega is one of a handful of women in water management and she’s making waves at Colorado Springs Utilities. Jayme McConnellogue is the first woman battalion chief in the Colorado Springs Fire Department.
Katherine Gaulke of Sigma Metals forged her own path after military service, and Patricia Randle connects military families with the help they need from her office on Fort Carson. And Legacy winner Susan Edmondson is reshaping the face of downtown, turning it into a shopping/dining/culture destination.
Susan Davies is making sure our open spaces and trail systems are maintained and protected; Kimberly Hessler does the same thing for business cyber networks at SecureSet. Traci Marques of the Pikes Peak Workforce Center is working to bring jobs to the region; Rosana Ramponi started her own business to help close communication gaps with clients who do not speak English. Leah Davis Witherow shares Colorado Springs history through the Pioneers Museum, and Kristina Wright of Pins and Needles relies on her unique business sense and builds community in her spare time.
These women’s contributions are invaluable — but everyone can get involved and work together to make the Pikes Peak region a great place to live, work and play.
The Business Journal has honored women leaders since 2004 because we understand the value of diverse and individual efforts to better our neighborhoods and our region. And while not everyone gets to take home the award, everyone can find a place to make a difference. We salute these 14 women, and we encourage every woman to use her talents, skills and passion to become involved in southern Colorado’s efforts to create vibrant communities.