Two La Jollans honored as Women of the Year

By Ashley Mackin

La Jollans Barbara Bry and Cindy Greatrex were among nine women honored for community service by California Assemblymember and speaker-elect Toni Atkins during a Women of the Year ceremony, March 28, in her downtown offices.

Residents of the cities Atkins represents (including Solana Beach, Del Mar, La Jolla, Imperial Beach, Coronado and San Diego) were asked to recommend women in local leadership roles. Some 25 names were submitted.

“I want you to know you were recommended by your friends, your peers and your community,” Atkins told the honorees. “So you should know people recognize your leadership, they know the work you do and they value it. So if they value it, I need to make sure you are recognized and it is an honor to do that.”

The celebration marked the end of Women’s History Month (observed in March), and Atkins took the opportunity to herald women’s achievements and acknowledge that there is more to be done. “We’ve made great strides in the march to full equality from winning universal voting rights to assuming roles once reserved only for men. ... Over the years, women’s voices have grown louder in the boardroom, in science labs and in the halls of government — including the state assembly,” Atkins said.

“We can all be proud of the progress that has been made in our lifetime but we will never forget that we still have work left to do. So, while Women’s History Month gives us a chance to celebrate all we’ve achieved and accomplished together, the best way to honor that legacy is to ensure that every woman has equality under the law, in the workplace, in the classroom and in every facet of society. I have a great deal of respect for women who choose to enter public service — whatever that role is.”

In the case of Bry — CEO of Blackbird Ventures, which invests in early stage technology companies — her public service is in “leveling the playing field for women and girls in business, healthcare and politics,” Atkins said. Bry is involved in organizations such as Athena San Diego, which promotes women’s involvement in life sciences and technology; and Run Women Run (the mere mention of which drew yells and applause from the audience), a non- partisan political action committee that mentors and supports pro-choice women in elected and appointed offices.

Bry also serves on the board of directors of Planned Parenthood for the Pacific Southwest, the San Diego Jewish Women’s Foundation and the San Diego Jewish Community Foundation, among others.

Bry later told

La Jolla Light

her path to activism started with watching how her mother was treated in the workplace. When her mother was appointed the first female vice president of a Philadelphia ad agency in the 1960s, she was paid less than her male counterparts. “There was nothing she could do about it,” Bry said. Further, when it came to her mother buying a home, despite having enough money to pay for it, she still had to have a male co-signer. “Seeing that as a teenager, I became committed to making sure that in my life, I was going to do all I could to help other women,” said Bry, who added that she felt honored to be recognized by Atkins, “one of my all-time heroes.”

For Greatrex, her contributions to the field of biotechnology and to her community earned her the recognition. Atkins explained that Greatrex’s work “provides remote medical care via software and other medical devices, as well as genomic sequencing, so that companies can decode and analyze molecular structures. It’s a wonderful industry here in San Diego and we’re so fortunate that San Diego is leading the way in that area.”

Atkins also noted Greatrex’s involvement as outgoing president of the La Jolla Town Council, current president of Independent La Jolla, secretary for the La Jolla Community Center and board member for the La Jolla Rec Center.

Greatrex is also involved in Adopt a Special Kid, a group that promotes adoption of children in foster care; International Orphan Care of San Diego; and the San Diego/Jalal Abad sister city foundation, which provides medical and education services to Afghan citizens; and others.

Of the recognition, Greatrex said, “I’m honored to represent La Jolla and honored to work with Toni Atkins and her staff. It’s wonderful to have an assemblymember and majority leader who supports women so much, and the San Diego community.” The other seven honorees were Patricia Ann Yim Cowett and Betty Jones from Coronado, Linda LeGerrette and Patricia McQuater from San Diego, Gerri Retman- Opper from Solana Beach, Nancy Weare from Del Mar, and Mayda Winter from Imperial Beach.