A quick look at the executive rosters at the Bay Area’s influential waterfront agencies and organizations reveals that women occupy many of the top spots.
A quick look at the executive rosters at the Bay Area’s influential waterfront agencies and organizations reveals that women occupy many of the top spots. While diversity in the workplace has become second nature to Bay Area employers both public and private, we’re still excited to see women "manning," so to speak, the helm of the historically male-dominated waterfront. So please join us in celebrating a small sample of the ever-growing number of outstanding women of today’s working waterfront.
Janet Reilly, Golden Gate Board President
By Bill Picture
Published: September, 2012
magine leading the agency responsible both for managing one of the world’s most famous bridges and ensuring the safe passage of the 120,000 vehicles that travel across it each day. Now add in overseeing bus and ferry services between San Francisco and its neighboring counties to the north, Marin and Sonoma. These items represent just part of Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District Board President Janet Reilly’s to-do list each day.
"I live in Seacliff, so I get to wake up every morning and see that big magnificent structure," said the Sacramento native. "I moved back to the Bay Area in 1995, and the Golden Gate Bridge still takes my breath away. It’s a big responsibility, because a lot of people feel some sense of ownership of it, and have an emotional connection to it."
The transportation component is where Reilly says she and her fellow board members log the most hours. The reason, according to Reilly, is that moving people back and forth across the Golden Gate strait is a complicated and ever-changing job.
"There are six different counties at the table, all with a vested interested in it and each with a unique perspective," she explained. "Plus, the variables are always changing on us. Demographics change. Commuting habits and work habits change. We have to adapt and do it quickly."
Reilly parlayed a background in journalism into a successful run in public relations. That experience, coupled with an impressive list of civic involvements, would eventually help nab Reilly an appointment to the Golden Gate board by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2003.
All of the stops along Reilly’s path to her current position involved a heavy communications element. And she reports that opportunities for women varied from job to job. "I think it’s safe to say that women’s talents are still being underutilized," she said. "Historically, that’s always been the case."
Reilly strongly dismisses the notion that any one gender is more suited to a particular job or industry than another gender. In fact, she says that every workforce stands to strengthen itself by ensuring that every viewpoint is recognized. Still, she does believe that women have something unique to offer.
"I think we’re natural consensus-builders," she says. "And that comes out of being good listeners." To that end, she commends Bay Area governments and employers for recognizing the role that inclusivity and diversity play in any organization’s success.
"It’s widely recognized that we all bring something important to the table, and women are recognized as making quite capable leaders."
Nina Rannells, WETA Executive Director
By Matt Larson
ver the past year, ferry commuters from Vallejo and Alameda areas may not have noticed much of a change in their daily commute, but control of the ferry system has left their respective cities and is now operated by the San Francisco Bay Ferry, a service of the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA). And one of the principal players in ensuring this smooth transition of service is WETA Executive Director Nina Rannells.
"I’m a big public transit advocate, that’s why I’m in the business," said Rannells. "I grew up in San Francisco riding MUNI all over the city. Public transportation is the only way to travel—especially in San Francisco."
With an undergraduate degree in economics from San Francisco State University, Rannells started her career with an internship in pavement management with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). "I was probably really hired to play on their softball team," she said. "Lucky me, though, as this started me down my career path in transportation."
She later became a transportation planner and analyst for MTC, a capital and grants program manager for the Golden Gate Bridge District, and a deputy director of finance and administration for WETA. She’s now been executive director of WETA for three and a half years.
Rannells’ favorite part of her job is when she’s out on the ferryboats. "I really envy the captains," she said. "I just love being out on the water and the sense of freedom you have out there." Now a San Rafael resident, she proudly commutes on the ferries herself. "I take the Larkspur ferry into work. It’s not our ferry, but I am a ferry commuter," she boasted. "It’s a refreshing way to travel to and from work. It sort of gives you a place to unwind."
With 22 years in public transportation, and now an M.B.A. from Dominican University, Rannells doesn’t take all the credit for getting to where she is now. "I feel very fortunate that there are so many other women—Carolyn Horgan, Marina Secchitano, Veronica Sanchez—in the ferry transportation business in particular," she said. "They were there before me and I think they really blazed the way for gender not to be an issue." She also credits the support of WETA’s Board of Directors. "I don’t think they looked at my gender, they looked at my qualifications and work experience; what I’ve done for the organization."
With the new Oyster Point commute, Rannells looks forward to further expansion in the Bay to places like Richmond and Berkeley. "We’ve basically started a new organization and have done quite a bit to further the vision that was laid out 10 years ago."
There’s no secret to Rannells’ success. For any young professional, woman or man, "only you can hold yourself back," she said. "Over the years, at all my places of employment, I volunteered and took on extra jobs that were a little outside of my area of expertise to get the experience, and basically have proven myself to take on different things, to learn and to grow. If you’re interested in growth—ask for it. Take it on. And own it."
Monique Moyer, Port of San Francisco Executive Director
By Bill Picture
aying that running the Port of San Francisco is a big job is like calling San Francisco a "fun town." It just doesn’t do it justice.
Overseeing the port’s 7.5 miles and 600 acres of real estate, along with its 200-plus employees—an additional 10,000 people are employed by port tenants—requires a strong-but-flexible management style, planning and development knowhow, serious political savvy, business and finance expertise, and some chutzpah. And that’s exactly what Port of San Francisco Executive Director Monique Moyer brings to the table—a table whose other chairs are still occupied almost exclusively by men.
"I tend to forget how few of us there are until I walk into a room and realize I’m the only one," she joked. "I don’t feel like there’s an old boys’ network anymore, but the reality is that the ports are still run predominantly by men."
Though two other U.S. ports currently have female executive directors (out of 85 ports total), San Francisco is the only U.S. port also to have a female CFO, a female commission president and a female commission vice-president on staff. "And women are definitely permeating throughout the other levels as well," said Moyer.
To varying degrees, gender is still a challenge that women in certain industries must overcome. And there’s no doubt that industries like the maritime industry could benefit from more diversity, as studies have shown that a more diverse workforce is a stronger workforce.
That said, Moyer insists it wasn’t necessarily a "woman’s touch" that the port needed in 2004 when she was appointed to her position by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom. What it needed at that time was an executive director with a solid background in business.
Roughly 500 businesses lease property from the Port of San Francisco. Prior to her appointment, Moyer had served as director of the Mayor’s Office of Public Finance & Business Affairs, a position to which she was appointed by Newsom’s predecessor, Willie Brown. Her experience in that office made Moyer the obvious candidate for the job at the port.
In the end, Moyer doesn’t believe that being a woman played much of a factor in her appointment. "I think it had a lot more to do with my strengths and talents," she said. "I brought a strong financial background at a time when the port desperately needed it."
Still, Moyer says she’s reminded from time to time how unusual it is for a woman to hold her title. "One time, we had a visiting vessel flying a French flag, and they invited me onboard to have lunch. I accepted and we had a lovely meal. During lunch, the captain, who was a fairly young guy, outright asked me my age. Then as I was leaving, he nervously asked me if it’s common in this country to have a woman port director."
"That shows you how out of the ordinary it is," she laughed. "He felt more comfortable asking me my age, which as we all know you never ask a woman, than he did commenting on a woman in a position of power."
Carolyn Horgan, Blue & Gold Fleet President
By Matt Larson
ince 1973, when she began working for Red & White Fleet, Carolyn Horgan has been a part of the maritime workforce in the San Francisco Bay. "I started answering the phone," she said. "That was my first job." After a few years, Horgan worked her way into the operations side of the business and became a dispatcher.
"Before I got my job as a dispatcher in 1976, there had not been any woman dispatchers," Horgan said. "So I was the first, at least in the Bay Area. I think there was some reluctance there to have women in what was considered a man’s job, but I came along in the seventies and things were changing for women." It wasn’t long before she earned the title of dispatch supervisor.
When Crowley Maritime sold Red & White Fleet, Blue & Gold Fleet acquired most of the assets, including Horgan. She became the vice president of operations for Blue & Gold Fleet in 1997. "You have to be adaptable to change," Horgan said. "I embraced the company and embraced my job; they knew I was interested in doing something more."
Born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Horgan graduated from the University of Denver with a B.A. in mass communications. While working for Crowley Maritime, the company paid for her schooling to earn an M.B.A. from Golden Gate University with an emphasis in marketing.
After nearly 40 years in the business with all the right education, Horgan found herself prepared for the top spot at the company when opportunity struck. "I felt like I knew the company very well and could be a positive influence," she said. "We just got the WETA contract in January, I worked hard on that, and I wanted to be in a position where I could help them expand ferry service to the Bay Area."
Horgan worked with a Blue & Gold team that was dedicated to responding to WETA’s request for proposal for ferry service. "The contract was important to Blue & Gold and our employees as it not only included new services, but also two of the services that were then operated by Blue & Gold," she explained. "If we had not won the contract it would have been a financial blow to the company and possible loss of employment for our crews." Fortunately for Horgan it was a grand success and the Blue & Gold/WETA partnership has continued to grow.
She didn’t expect to be in the position she has today, and credits Blue & Gold for being the type of company that provides a possible future for all its employees. "Captain Dushan Crawford started out as a photographer," she said. "As far as people starting at the bottom and working their way up, there’s lots of opportunities with Blue & Gold."