Mujer Marcando La Diferencia

Debra Avila



Debra is a multi-faceted leader of corporate supply chain management with 25 years of comprehensive experience, expertise and successful results streamlining operations and logistics. Most recently she was appointed Chief Vendor/Contract Management Officer to lead LA Metro’s procurement department which includes Procurement, Supply Chain Management, Diversity & Economic Opportunity Department (DEOD), and Client Services.

Previously, she was the Sr. Supply Management Director at Southern California Edison, one of the largest utilities in the United States, where she oversaw the strategic direction and operations of an over $4B spend. Debra has extensive skills creating and deploying integrated supply models and high-efficiency processes that meet and exceed supply chain goals for the company. She has achieved $50M savings as a result of a Category Management renegotiation on a $600M spend category. Debra led an Ariba software implementation and achieved annual savings of $11M, and implemented an integrated supply model that increased the productivity of her team. She has held various Senior positions within Supply Management, overseeing strategic initiatives and managing spend. Debra’s cross-functional leadership and collaboration with team members and stakeholders of the supply chain consistently result in improving efficiency and/or reducing costs.

Debra is a champion of small business and diversity inclusion initiatives and is working to fulfill Metro’s mission to ensure that small and historically underutilized businesses are provided a level playing field on which to compete and be awarded contracts. At Metro she has already begun to support the vision of the CEO, making the culture of procurement customer focused and cutting edge. As Metro reshapes the way people travel to work and to play, she sets a measurable standard of excellence for the entire agency.

Debra was born and raised in Los Angeles County. She is committed to seeing all sectors of the County benefit from the major infrastructure boom that has resulted from the investment of public dollars into Metro’s transportation improvement initiatives. Under her leadership, the small business community has seen marked improvement in contracting opportunities and the Construction Career Policy that her department administers, has been responsible for a marked increase of minorities and women working on Metro construction projects. In addition, she oversees the Agency creation of pathways for young people who want a career in the vast transportation industry. Her passion for inclusion is one of her most notable professional and personal characteristics.

Debra’s early career experience includes the City of Los Angeles Council District 14 as an assistant to the Chief Legislative Deputy and Press Deputy. She grew up in Rosemead and went to high school in Montebello. Debra has a Bachelor of Science degree from California State University, Los Angeles, and has been a board member of the Utility Supply Management Alliance (USMA) and an advisory board member of the University of San Diego Supply Chain Management Institute.


Mujer Diamante

Virginia Gomez



Virginia Gomez is CEO, President of the Southern California Minority Supplier Development Council (SCMSDC), the largest nonprofit minority business advocacy organization in the region and one of 23 affiliate councils in the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC). The NMSDC is one of the nation’s leading corporate membership organization committed to advancing business opportunities for certified minority business enterprises (MBEs) and to connecting them to major national and global companies seeking to do business with diverse businesses and that support supplier diversity and inclusion. Appointed February 2012, Gomez is responsible for leading council activities and previously served as Vice President.

Prior to joining the council, Gomez held several management positions at the City of LA Department of Water and Power (DWP), the nation’s largest municipally owned utility. Responsible for directing and overseeing contracting policies, human resources, systems development/automation and budget, as DWP Contract Compliance Officer and Head of Purchasing Business Unit’s Administration Services, she directed and oversaw supplier diversity and inclusion initiatives, executed procurement-focused City ordinances, and was instrumental in the development/implementation of an e-procurement on-line system that leveled the playing field for diverse suppliers, specifically MBEs and women-owned enterprises.

Gomez holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management, earned 21st Century Leadership and Management certificates from USC and UCLA; led and facilitated Total Quality Management and Process Reengineering teams; is a Board member and chairs the Small Business Committee Task Force of the LA County Business Federation, is a member of the Institute of Supply Management and the Native American Advisory Board, and local heads of the Minority Business Development Council in Los Angeles, as well as in Pasadena.


Mujer Cambiando el Mundo

Teresa Samaniego


As Vice President of Diversity and Community Relations, Teresa has help grow the community affairs department and the Station’s involvement in the community for the past 38 years. As Vice President, she oversees community media initiatives and station partnerships. She works closely with many nonprofit organizations, corporations and advertising clients to develop and implement projects which benefit the viewers and the communities that the Station serves within the five county coverage area.

Teresa has been instrumental in the development of campaigns such as ABC7 and the Southland Firefighters Spark of Love Toy Drive, which helps collect toys for underserved children; PrepareSoCal, a year-round emergency preparedness initiative; and Feed SoCAL, a hunger initiative to address the regional banks food shortage during the summer months.

Teresa also oversees the partnerships with Susan G. Komen for the Cure Orange County Walk, AIDS Walk Los Angeles, “Autism Speaks Walks in L.A. and Orange County,” and The Los Angeles County Alliance for the Boys and Girls Clubs – “Youth of the Year Awards”.

Teresa’s commitment to the community extends beyond her career. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Community Coalition, the Glendale Chamber of Commerce and several advisory boards.

Throughout her career, Teresa has received many honors, awards and commendations for her dedication and commitment to the community. Some of her awards include: Woman of the Year from The Glendale Chamber of Commerce, the Life Saving Award from the American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles, the Public Service Spirit Award from the Southern California Broadcasters Association, the Ruben Salazar Award from the Community Coalition, All of the Love of Kids Award from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, and the Community Service Award from the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women. Teresa Samaniego joined ABC7 as part of the Sales Team in 1979, and in the summer of 1982, she established the Public Affairs Department at ABC7.


Mujer Comunidad

Julie Wichmann Huerta


Julie Wichmann Huerta has been a member of YWCA of the Harbor Area and South Bay for the over 12 years and is the current President of the Board of Directors. Previously Julie served one term as Vice President and served three previous terms as President. And 2018 will be the centennial celebration for the YWCA’s 100th year serving the San Pedro and South Bay, and continues to help hundreds of families every year.

YWCA operates Worldtots, the award winning childcare facilities which nurture children as young as six weeks old through kindergarten and prepare them for primary school. Parents can work or attend school knowing their most precious charges are not only cared-for but nurtured. The soon to open Julia Morgan Child Development Center will institute a focused STEM based program for toddler and preschool ages, introducing science, technology, engineering and math concepts to make our youngsters interested in those principles that will springboard them to success in their education.  Additionally, The YWCA also offers programs to the local community including Cradle Closet and Women’s Closet which provide diapers, and children’s clothing, clothes and supplies for women and young people who are trying to find a job or go to school and uses this platform to assist with referrals to other services. The YWCA is in the forefront with Women’s Health Services. The Encore Plus program provides free or low cost mammograms for uninsured or underinsured women in our community. In addition, the YWCA hosts low cost Zumba and Cardio classes to provide a healthy exercise option in the neighborhood. Also the Advocacy Program promotes community awareness series on Human Trafficking prevention, integrating youth empowering programs, partnering with local experts in the field that strengthens and protects our children. The YWCA Family Services Program is the community family safety net. Within this program suite we work with our clients to provide referrals for other services, parenting classes and to make sure that with our holiday programs that no family goes without.

Last year, very young vandals broke into the YWCA Worldtots Child Development Center and did $ 65,000 of damage to the facility and left 60 children and 14 teachers without a school. Julie was credited with rallying the parents, teachers, the community and with the help of the Port of Los Angeles supervised the clean-up and got the facility back up and running in a week.

Julie has also been involved with a number of local nonprofits in San Pedro and Wilmington for several years, and is the Softball Co-Commissioner for the Port of Los Angeles Employees Softball League. She was a founding Board Member of the South Bay Latino Chamber of Commerce and previous associations with North Torrance Girls Softball League, The Girl Scouts and West High Girls sports.

Professionally, Julie is a 32-year employee of the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro and is the current Los Angeles Harbor Commission Chief Administrative Officer. Previously Julie was assistant to the Executive Director for the Port of Los Angeles, and was the MBE/WBE/SBE administrator promoting opportunities for women, minorities and small business at the Port of Los Angeles.

Julie was born in the San Fernando Valley and has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the Cal State University at Long Beach. Julie resides in Torrance and is married to a retired Port Police Detective Sergeant and has two young adult daughters who are both in training to serve their community.


Mujer Inspiración

Mary Sophiea



Mary Sophiea has been a trailblazer in women-owned businesses in Long Beach. Her style is unique and thoroughly effective. She is tenacious, persistent and a fearless marketer of her three award-winning restaurants, Baja Sonora. Baja Sonora has been rated as the number one Mexican Restaurant in Long Beach and many times been awarded, “The Best Tacos” in Long Beach.

How does she do so well as a woman restaurateur in a business dominated by men? She gets involved in the community and by doing so, weaving the Best Tacos in town with the likes and dislikes of her customers, friends, nonprofit leaders, elected officials, and business executives.
She has been eligible for the Woman of the Year Award for years, but this year has set Mary heads and shoulders above the others not only because she is a woman in what has been a man’s career, but because she did not let anyone or any circumstance hold her back from saving a restaurant she built and loved.

She was blind-sided when she found out that the new owner of her building decided to do something without discussion about revenue loss for her business. Her Clark restaurant has been closed since December 2016 while the new owner of the building remodels and upgrades the entire site. The closure of all of the businesses for the remodel, permanently shut down all but one other business (a liquor store) in the complex. Not wanting to let go of any of her employees, she did something that has never been done before. She opened a Baja Sonora Food Truck on the curb in front of the Clark restaurant saving the jobs of all of her employees. They are all bilingual and all specialists in their area of expertise.

She went to every civic leader, nonprofit, LBCC and CSULB and City Departments to tell them about the Baja Sonora situation and let them all know, the Clark store has a food truck in the street in front of it everyday. She joined Rotary, helped with Camp JUSTIN became a Principal For A Day and told her story every day to everyone she came in contact with.
​ ​What appeared to be a tragic business closing to a unique success story that others will model in the future.

Mary is the proud mother of Kristen Elyse Sophiea


Mujer Diversidad

Sophia Cavalli



As Sr. Inclusion & Diversity Director for Balfour Beatty, Ms. Cavalli provides leadership and direction for the company’s diversity and small business inclusion initiatives across California. Ms. Cavalli’s background includes more than 20 years’ experience leading diversity, small business, and local worker inclusion programs in the public and private sectors. Her experience spans construction projects ranging from $3-million to over $2 billion and has led nationally recognized programs for large public agencies. She serves on numerous Committees that support the advancement of Minority, Women, Disadvantaged and Veteran Businesses and workers. Her involvement on the Women in Non-traditional Employment Roles (W.I.N.T.E.R.), Women Construction Coalition, and Women Construction Owners & Executives (WCOE) Board of Directors is further evidence of her determination to share best practices gleaned from her work on behalf of those who have traditionally been under-represented in the world of construction and beyond.


Mujer Excelencia

Renita Mollman



Renita Mollman is a vice president at Burns & McDonnell, a full-service engineering, architecture, construction, environmental and consulting solutions firm that plans, designs, permits, builds and manages facilities all over the world with one goal in mind: to make clients successful.

She manages the Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego offices for the employee-owned firm, which is among the top 16 employers on Fortune magazine’s 2017 list of “Best Companies to Work For.” Under her leadership, the offices have expanded work in renewable energy technologies, environmental studies and permitting, facilities design, environmental remediation and electrical transmission and distribution.

Mollman, PE, LEED AP, has over 25 years of experience in design and construction of commercial, industrial, military and aviation projects. She joined Burns & McDonnell in 1988 upon receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. She is a licensed professional engineer in ten states.


Mujer Ejemplar

Julia Svetlana Juarez



Julia Svetlana Juarez serves as District Director for State Senator Ricardo Lara. A true believer of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words, that success is found when you know that a person has breathed easier because you existed; Ms. Juarez has dedicated her career of service working with elected officials and nonprofit organizations throughout the State of California. A graduate of the Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) Leadership Institute, she knows first-hand the power of collaboration and servant leadership.

Whether it’s ensuring that constituents receive services through extended business hours or raising funds through state and local resources for parks or community centers through public/private partnerships, Julia is fully committed to improving her community. Prior to becoming District Director for State Senator Ricardo Lara, she was Director of the Southern California Region of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, where she raised more than $2 million new funds for scholarships for local students pursuing a higher education. She found her calling while working as Press Secretary for Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, where she worked on Spanish language media outreach as well as working with local nonprofit organizations to fill the service gap of in the 46thAssembly District. Ms. Juarez’s community service has included serving as a board member of the Lynwood Education Foundation where she helps to raise funds to improve access to quality educational opportunities for he students in the district.

She is also a committee member of the Vernon CommUNITY Fund where she helps advance the mission of providing charitable contributions to community-based organizations and governmental agencies in support of efforts to improve the quality of life, strengthen families and affirm Vernon’s ties with neighboring communities in pursuit of bright futures. In her free time, Ms. Juarez volunteers her time consulting with nonprofit organizations on leadership, communications, fundraising and programming.

Ms. Juarez holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in English Literature and Political Science from Point Loma Nazarene University as well as a Master’s Degree in Leadership and Organizational Studies from Azusa Pacific University.


Mujer Empresaria

Maria Galli



Maria Galli is a 10 year State Farm Insurance Agent who took a leap of faith in December 2007 and began her State Farm Agency with zero clients and no insurance experience in the city of Paramount, CA. She is a graduate of UC Berkley and worked in various industries from where she draws her business acumen, including law firms, brokerage houses and marketing firms. She was introduced to the State Farm agent career while working at a public relations firm that was hired to help increase market share amongst the Latino community in the Los Angeles area. While working on the State Farm project, she had the chance to interview several State Farm agents and she quickly realized that combining her talent and drive with the State Farm entrepreneurial opportunity would be a successful venture.

During her almost 10 years as a State Farm agent, Maria has simultaneously bought a commercial property, built her own office building, gotten married, and had 3 children. She has achieved these personal accomplishments all while being in the top 5% of over 19,000 State Farm agents throughout the United States. She has also received numerous industry accolades which include being a 9 time Ambassador traveler, a 8 time Chairman’s Circle recipient, and 9 time Senior Vice President qualifier.

Maria attributes much of her success to her relentless focus on continuously developing and challenging her team to be the greatest versions of themselves. She also has immense gratitude to her parents for helping her develop her strong work ethic and the unconditional support she receives every day from her husband Brian. She is quickly learning how to balance life, work, and family and is excited about the next 30 years of her career with State Farm.


Mujer Liderazgo

Faviola Ochoa



Faviola Ochoa is a Public Affairs Manager with SoCalGas. In her position, she is the company liaison with government and community stakeholders for the South Bay, Long Beach, San Pedro Bay ports, and LA Harbor areas.

Faviola has more than 15 years of experience working on a range of complex issues including energy, land use, public health, wastewater, environmental planning, regulatory issues, and infrastructure projects. She has extensive knowledge and experience in strategic communications, stakeholder engagement, crisis communications, media relations, and campaign management.

A native of Los Angeles, Faviola earned a B.S. in International Studies from the University of La Verne. She is currently working on a Master’s degree in Communications Management and a certificate in Public Policy Advocacy from the University of Southern California.


Mujer Super Estrella

Betty Yee



State Controller Betty T. Yee was elected in November 2014, following two terms of service on the California Board of Equalization. As Controller, she continues to serve the Board as its fifth voting member.

Ms. Yee was first elected to the Board of Equalization in 2006 where she represented 21 counties in northern and central California. She was elected to her second four-year term in 2010.

Now serving as the state’s chief fiscal officer, Ms. Yee also chairs the Franchise Tax Board and serves as a member of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) Boards. These two boards have a combined portfolio of nearly $500 billion. Ms. Yee also serves on the Ceres Board of Directors, a nonprofit organization working to mobilize many of the world’s largest investors to advance global sustainability and take stronger action on climate change.

Ms. Yee serves on dozens of boards and commissions with authority ranging from land management to crime victim compensation. As a member of the State Lands Commission (and chairperson in even-numbered years), she helps provide stewardship of public-trust lands, waterways, industrial wharves, marine terminals, pipelines, and resources through economic development, protection, preservation, and restoration consistent with the state’s environmental needs. The development and extraction of oil, gas, and geothermal resources are part of the Commission’s purview, as well. Through other financing authorities, Ms. Yee is dedicated to creating incentives that will increase the number of affordable housing units in California, given that demand consistently outpaces supply.

Ms. Yee has over 30 years of experience in public service, specializing in state and local finance and tax policy. Ms. Yee previously served as Chief Deputy Director for Budget with the California Department of Finance where she led the development of the Governor’s Budget, negotiations with the Legislature and key budget stakeholders, and fiscal analyses of legislation on behalf of the Administration. Prior to this, she served in senior staff positions for several fiscal and policy committees in both houses of the California State Legislature. She also cofounded the Asian Pacific Youth Leadership Project, which exposes California high school youth to the public service, public policy, and political arenas.

A native of San Francisco, Ms. Yee received her bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, and she holds a master’s degree in public administration.