Celebrating Women Leaders and Those Who Blazed the Trail


SALEM — For the first time in Oregon’s history, women have been voted into a majority of our statewide elected offices. Let’s take a moment to pause and celebrate this historic milestone.

We celebrate because women holding more leadership positions across our state means fresh voices and experiences are being brought to the table. Now more than ever, leadership in our state is reflective of Oregon’s people — and that’s a really good thing.

Oregon has a proud lineage of strong, bold women who have inspired and energized us both. Today we applaud the talented and committed women who are stepping forward to serve.

Strong Women Leaders

Earlier this year, Oregon’s new labor commissioner, Val Hoyle, was sworn into office by another amazing Oregonian woman, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. Oregon is now third in the nation for having the most women serving in a state Legislature. A more diverse and representative Legislature is a stronger one.

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

Oregon’s Air National Guard promoted its first woman to the rank of brigadier general, Donna Prigmore. And Oregon has no shortage of incredible women who are paving the way across multiple arenas: business, sports, education, medicine, and the arts.

As Oregon’s only two female elected governors, we know our successes are built from learning the history of the women who blazed the trails on which we now tread. We honor their legacy and hope today’s women leaders make them proud.

It’s been a long path, but every step taken has moved Oregon forward: From Oregon’s tribal women, who overcame extreme adversity; to Norma Paulus, the first woman elected to statewide public office in Oregon and whose recent death we mourn; to today’s activists who are fighting to ensure all women are paid equally and treated with respect in the workplace. They fight so all women, no matter where they come from, who they love, or how they identify, can access health care and reproductive health services. They advocate for a minimum wage that helps working mothers and families, for paid family leave, and quality, affordable child care.

Still, Challenges Ahead

We still face a number of challenges ahead. But we’re making progress. Women across our state are making their 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, who have first-hand experience with these issues and understand on a very personal level how they impact lives. Their voices and leadership are helping make these positive changes.

Our hope is that more women serving in leadership roles across our state will let young girls growing up know that these opportunities are within their reach. Their perspectives matter. They matter. And women can change the world.

By Governor Kate Brown and Governor Barbara Roberts — the only two women elected to the position of Governor in Oregon.

This original opinion piece appeared in The Oregonian.

About Author

Kate Brown, Oregon’s 38th Governor, has dedicated her life to standing up for Oregon’s families and ensuring every Oregonian has the chance to lead a good life. Under Governor Brown’s leadership, state government is committed to using every taxpayer dollar wisely, to creating a seamless system of education, to making Oregon a leader in meeting the challenge of climate change, and to making sure everyone has access to the health care.

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