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Women moving mountains

Joanna HartmanSierra Sun
Ryan Salm/Sierra SunNancy Cushing serves as the chief executive officer of Squaw Valley Ski Corp.
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Poised and confident, Nancy Cushing walks around Squaw Valley USA like she owns the place. Thats because the former Wall Street lawyer does.Cushing, and a growing number of local women, are making their mark at the helm of governmental organizations, businesses and non-profits.While statistically women still lag behind men in managing public utility districts, hospitals and running ski resorts around Tahoe, a group of ambitious and involved women have set their sights high and shattered the glass ceiling.

I think were past gender, at least up here, said Beth Ingalls, who served as Truckees mayor from late 2005 through 2006.Ingalls, whose activity in government has ranged from recycling to Green Party politics, said that the first step toward leadership is expressing desire.In order to lead, you have to step up to the plate and say that you want to lead, Ingalls said.Compared to her last home in rural Virginia, she said women in North Tahoe and Truckee are much more involved.Pat Sutton has been a Truckee decision-maker longer than most people have even lived in the area. Coming up on three decades in one of the five directors chairs at the Truckee Donner Public Utility, Sutton is one of the most long-standing examples of female leadership in the area. She also served on the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.I personally think women bring some special insight to government, Sutton said. Women bring a different perspective to the board. Its good for the board, and its good for the district.Women more often think about environmental, social, or health and safety issues from a different point of view, she said.Jennifer Merchant, the Tahoe manager for Placer County, said she doesnt find being a woman in her position any more difficult than being a man.It almost feels like its to my advantage, Merchant said.Sue Daniels is a new face in local leadership. In November she was elected to the North Tahoe Public Utility District Board of Directors replacing Norma Schwartz, who for 28 years was the only woman on the board.I think Tahoes really proactive as far as being progressive in the nature of politics … things being equal for men and women, Daniels said.Daniels recalled a point in her candidacy when gender played a role in running for the utility district seat. An older gentleman stood up to ask a question during the candidates forum, she said.Directed towards the women, she recalls him saying. What makes you think you are qualified to deal with water and sewer lines? Daniels recalled with a laugh.Good, but not good enoughWhile there are a fair number of women serving on boards of directors, running businesses and directing non-profit organizations in the Truckee and North Tahoe areas, when it comes to sewer, water and ski mountain operations, women are found only in small numbers.Julie Maurer, vice president of marketing for Booth Creek Resorts, has worked with Northstar for 26 years and Booth Creek for 10 years.Within this company [gender is] absolutely not an issue. Within the industry, weve made some great strides … its still very heavily male dominated, Maurer said. Northstar-at-Tahoe employs approximately 1,100 employees at peak season, with women composing 30 percent of the hourly workers. Additionally, females make up 27 percent of management jobs, according to Maurer.At Squaw Valley Ski Corp. a woman leads the way. Nancy Cushing serves as the chief executive officer of the ski resort. She has a long history in a male-dominated world, from Wall Street banks to the famed mountainside.She said that women who take leadership roles are helping to reduce the long-standing gender gap.And they are influencing the community standard of what is expected of women in the future, Cushing said.Cushing offered words of wisdom to other women who want to be forces in government and leadership.Regardless of your gender, it is incumbent on any employee to perform to their highest ability and hold themselves accountable, Cushing said. And, remember, always give more than is expected of you.


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