Women to Watch
We’ll be honest. It was tough to come up with the names of five East Bay women to celebrate as Diablo’s 2006 Women to Watch. That’s because there are so many great women to choose from. We ended up selecting these five because they represent the diverse ways that local women are shaking things up in business, law, culture, science, and community activism. The particular accomplishments of these five leave us inspired, and we can’t wait to see what they’re going to do next.
57, Oakland, Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court
When Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Carol Corrigan, a moderate Republican, to the California Supreme Court this past December, some assumed that he wanted to appease his conservative base. But Schwarzenegger says Corrigan’s excellent qualifications, not her politics, guided his choice. And legal eagles on both sides of the center agree that she has not only the brains but also the gift for crisp and lively argument needed for the state’s highest bench. She honed her legal skills while serving as an Alameda County prosecutor, superior court judge, and state appeals-court judge. She also spent four years on the Judicial Council of California and eight years on the Jury Instruction Task Force to translate jury instructions into plain English (winning the council’s 2003 Jurist of the Year award). The first in her family to attend college and only the fifth woman to be appointed to the state Supreme Court, Corrigan regards this appointment as “a chance to be squarely on the firing line, because we see some of the most challenging and pressing legal questions of our day.” Challenging as in the case involving the disputed $3 billion tax-funded stem cell research initiative that could eventually land on the court’s docket. So would she ever consider moving up to higher courts on the federal level, even the U.S. Supreme Court, should the opportunity arise? That, she’s not saying. “I’m just very humbled and honored to be where I am,” she says.
44, Diablo, Fashion Designer
Melissa Hopkes loves her job. Who wouldn’t? As the designer for the I.N.C. clothing line at Macy’s, she spends much of her time jet-setting to the hottest fashion spots in Europe. “The greatest reward for me is to go sample shopping all over the world, put a line together from my findings, ship it to the stores, and watch it fly off the shelves,” she says. And fly off the shelves it does. Hopkes took on I.N.C. (which stands for International Concepts) 14 years ago, when it was just a fledgling idea for a jeans-and-T-shirt line. Today, she has transformed it into a hugely successful brand of affordable casual and party clothes. She’s responsible for designing and developing garments for 22 different collections a year. Hopkes doesn’t expect to be slowing down anytime soon. Thanks to a company merger, I.N.C. will be available at a slew of new Macy’s stores throughout Southwest and Midwest states this fall. “I am very excited because not only will Macy’s be a national department store, but I.N.C. will become a national brand,” says Hopkes.
THE FARMERS' ADVOCATE
51, Walnut Creek, Farming Consultant
If there is one person responsible for reminding the East Bay of its rich agricultural heritage, it’s Gail Wadsworth. For the past five years, Wadsworth has worked tirelessly to win recognition for the delicious fruits and vegetables that farmers grow in east Contra Costa County. She established Eat Outside the Box, a program in which families in the 925 buy organic produce directly from farmers each week. And for the past two years, she’s worked with the Brentwood Agricultural Land Trust to promote a local agricultural economy. “Gail is committed to helping farmers succeed,” says Kristie Knoll of the famed Knoll Farms in Brentwood. Wadsworth has helped the trust win some $115,000 in grants, including one to create a marketing campaign designed to raise demand for Brentwood fruits and veggies in markets, stores, and restaurants throughout the Bay Area. And that’s not all. She’s working to promote school gardens and healthful school lunch programs, and sits on a Kaiser Permanente committee that oversees farmers markets and healthy meals at its hospitals. “There’s nothing I like more than helping farmers make connections within the community,” she says.
58, Dublin, Mayor of Dublin
When Janet Lockhart moved to Dublin 33 years ago, it had one stoplight. And for years, this town of strip malls and a county jail offered little to lure passersby off the freeway. But that’s changing, thanks to Lockhart’s perseverance. She has spent the past year fighting to make Dublin the permanent home of the Valley Children’s Museum, a cultural and educational resource currently in development for the East Bay. With the help of other Tri-Valley leaders, Lockhart convinced the Camp Parks army base, which is converting 187 acres for development, to donate several of those acres for the museum. For Lockhart, bringing the children’s museum to Dublin is part of her long-held dream to transform her town into a diverse and booming community where its 40,000 residents can live, work, and play. Other projects under her helm: building thousands of affordable apartments and homes, and creating hiking and biking trails as well as a spectacular community park with international food stalls, gardens, and a carousel. But the museum remains the jewel in the crown. “A community with a children’s museum describes a community that really cares about the family—and Dublin does,” she says.
51, Danville, President and CEO, Integrated Science Solutions
Cecelia McCloy became passionate about science as a teen. More than 30 years later, this Stanford-trained geologist has transformed her passion into a multimillion-dollar corporation that helps the U.S. government and private companies make their work sites safe for employees and the environment. McCloy’s Integrated Science Solutions investigates potential problems at hazardous waste sites, trains government employees how to respond to terrorist attacks, and is now assessing the environmental impact of NASA’s Robotic Exploration Program, which uses robots to prepare for future human exploration of the moon. Applying cutting-edge science to real-world applications makes the Walnut Creek business a cool place to work. So does McCloy’s collegial style, which includes giving employees paid time off to volunteer in their communities. Her management savvy has put her at the top of local and national magazine lists heralding companies that are small, fast-growing, and owned by women. The mother of three also speaks at schools about the value of science education. “I ask students if they would like to go to Mars someday,” McCloy says. “It could happen in [their] lifetime, and a science education could provide them with a round-trip ticket.”