We are deeply grateful to the following champions who serve on our Board of Directors. Thank you for sharing your brilliant minds and big hearts with Y-WE!
Sangeeta Gupte: Chair
Sangeeta Gupte is an accomplished business leader with expertise in business planning, finance, product development, engineering and team building with diverse industry experience. Industry experience includes medical device, retail, and consumer packaged goods. Sangeeta is currently the Director of Finance in the Clarisonic division of L’Oreal.
Prior to L’Oreal, Sangeeta worked at Verathon and Starbucks. She led finance organizations for Starbucks’ multi-billion dollar divisions. She also has a track – record for building high performance teams with a collaborative leadership style. Previously, she held finance and strategy leadership roles at companies such as Kimberly-Clark and Thermo-Fisher Scientific. She has a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Boston University and an MBA in Finance from Case Western Reserve University.
Throughout her career, Sangeeta supports women’s professional and personal development. Sangeeta was inspired by Y-WE’s mission, leadership programs and the young women during the 2012 annual fundraiser. Shortly after that, she joined as a mentor in 2012. She became the board treasurer in 2013. As a treasurer, she partners with the Executive Director to develop the annual operating budget, reviews actual financial results and conducts financial reviews with the Board of Directors.
Susan Heikkala: Treasurer
Susan Heikkala is an accomplished real estate development executive and business leader. During her 20-year career with the Weyerhaeuser Company, she advanced from management of large scale and complex commercial development projects to divisional leadership roles. She served as Senior Vice President of the master planned community division at the subsidiary Quadrant Corporation and later, led the design of a new business undertaking–Weyerhaeuser’s China Housing Initiative–and then served as its Managing Director in Shanghai. She is recognized for her collaborative leadership skills as well as her expertise in strategic planning, project management and execution, finance, negotiation and communication.
Susan is now focused on work she is passionate about: empowering women and girls through access to education, economic opportunity and gender equity—both locally and globally. She is an active member of the Washington Women’s Foundation, which is how she was introduced to the inspiring work of Y-WE—recipient of a WWF Partner Grant in 2015. Susan is Co-Founder and former Deputy Director of Global Women—Partners in Philanthropy—an organization dedicated to building women’s philanthropy in China. Her global interests have recently taken her to Vietnam and India to meet with organizations working on issues benefiting women and girls in those countries.
She previously served as an officer and board member of the Washington State China Relations Council, Seattle Chinese Garden and Washington Chapter of the National Association for Commercial Real Estate and board member of Intiman Theater, among others. Susan holds MBA and Master of Urban Planning degrees from the University of Washington and a BA from Stanford University.
Nimco Abdirahman was born in Wisconsin but grew up in Seattle, She is a first generation Somali-American. Nimco is currently studying at the University of Washington studying global studies and a minor in economics. Nimco is an alumna and she has been part of Y-WE since 2011.
Annette Anderson is the Director of Curriculum at UW Bothell where she supports new program and curriculum development. In addition to research on higher education, current work encompasses research on educational excellence/equity and policy. Other areas of interest are pay equity, and women & leadership. Increasing leadership opportunities and STEM engagement for young women and underrepresented (URMs) students at UW Bothell also consumes her time.
She has degrees in Political Science from UPENN and moved to the region to attend law school. Previous regional positions before coming to UW are Chief of Staff, Washington State Democrats, and CFO, Cross Cultural Health Care Program. Recent honors include UWB Women in Leadership Award, and AAUW of Washington, Honoree. Annette’s overarching passion is to advance enthusiasm for learning and cultivate opportunities for African American and underrepresented students to thrive academically.
Leslie Cotter is a professional coach and facilitator who is also a medical doctor, psychiatrist, and psychotherapist. Through her career as a psychiatrist, Leslie has worked with a wide range of individuals and groups from the seriously mentally ill to people dealing with life’s challenges. She has held associate professorships at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada and McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. In 2005 Leslie retrained as a Professional Coach and attended the executive and life coaching training program with Breakthrough Enterprises in San Rafael, California. It was then she turned her attention to Professional Coaching.
Leslie’s in-depth experience as a medical practitioner now informs her focus on bringing the best out in her clients. She also uses a coaching approach in her continued work as a doctor with patients and clients as well as with clinical and medical staff. She combines her psychiatric skills with a positive coaching approach which has been described as “empathetic and down to earth underpinned by a refreshing can do attitude.”
As a group facilitator Leslie works with a wide range of groups ranging from the staff of large corporations wanting to build stronger teams, to classrooms of children wanting to create satisfying friendships. She also specializes in training youth workers and health care professionals in ways to hold generative conversations with young people and health care clients. Leslie also leads self-development programs for girls and trains adults in methods for using arts in their youth work, counseling, and coaching practices. She is on the facilitation team of PYE Global (Partnership for Youth Empowerment), an international training organization that develops transformative youth leaders. Leslie brings to her work extensive experience working with people from all walks of life, a practical can-do spirit, and a deep interest and curiosity in what makes people and organizations tick. She has a warm and empowering leadership style.
Rahwa Ghebremichael was born and raised in Shegrab, Sudan, the world’s largest refugee camp. She and her family lived in the camps for eight years without basic necessities such as access to education and medical care. Her struggles taught her how to work with what is on hand to make the best of difficult circumstances. She is now inspired to make a difference in the lives of others. In 2003, she moved with family to the United States. On Rahwa’s first day in school, she did not understand a single word her teacher spoke. During her senior year of high school, Rahwa helped start Young Women Empowered by coordinating a fundraising dinner as a senior project, raising $10,000 to help launch the organization. As a Y-WE alumna, Rahwa participates in college and career fairs to support young students, and she volunteers to help the Seattle homeless community. She recently applied to a University of Washington health studies program. Rahwa is enthusiastic about helping other young girls in the way that Y-WE has helped her.
Sally Goodwin, M.D. has been a practicing Family Physician for 33 years. There has been a community emphasis to her practice over the years and especially during the last 10 years. An increased understanding of the important link between environmental health and human health has guided her professional activities. She served on the board of the Institute for Children’s Environmental Health (a project of Commonweal) from 2001-2008 and has been active in Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility on the Environmental Justice and Human Health committee from 2005-2010. She has testified to promote public health in front of the Island County Commissioners, Environmental Protection Agency and Washington State Legislative committees. In 2009 she started working with young women’s leadership and has been on the Board of Directors of Young Women Empowered for 5 years. She has served as a mentor in both the YWE-Lead program and the YWE-Speak program. She is active on the health curriculum committee.
Sally earned her B.A in Chemistry from Williams College in 1975 and her M.D. from St Louis University Medical School in 1979. Her residency training at University of Arkansas in Little Rock was in Family Practice. She was born in Baltimore Maryland and attending public school throughout her primary and secondary schooling. She is married and has been living on Whidbey Island for 25 years.
“Health is empowering; it is public and personal and I am committed to bringing this to Young Women Empowered.”
Suzanne Hayward is an award-winning producer and experienced team leader who specializes in crafting compelling storytelling that creates conversation and makes an impact. For more than a decade, Hayward served as a producer for “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” working in varying roles of increasing responsibility for the most successful show in the history of daytime television. Her shows often lead the national conversation and generated widespread cultural buzz in publications including Time, People, and The New York Times. They were discussed on shows such as Good Morning America and The View.
Hayward’s producing is wide and diverse, ranging from shows featuring known comedians and celebrities (such as Steven Spielberg, George Clooney, Jerry Seinfield and Chris Rock, just to name a few) to shows that tackle relevant issues such as domestic violence, gender identity and healthcare. She also helped develop and produce Oprah’s unforgettable “Christmas Kindness” journey to South Africa in 2002, in which Oprah and staff traveled to South Africa for four weeks to bring food, school supplies, clothing and gifts to 50,000 schoolchildren and orphans devastated by the AIDS epidemic.
Hayward has also shown expertise partnering with government officials, private corporations, and the public to maximize the impact of her programs, be it by raising donations or creating awareness of the issue at hand. Most recently, Hayward has continued to employ storytelling to impact social change through her work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, serving as both a freelance producer for the organization, and supervising producer for the Gates Knowledge Project: Leading for Effective Teaching.
Hayward focuses her philanthropic efforts on empowering and inspiring youth. She served as a panelist for the Girl Scouts of America Forum “Reality Check” live web event, designed to foster healthy images of preteen and teen girls in the media and also as the Committee Chair for Camp Heartland’s first Chicago fundraiser. She also developed and deployed a media relations campaign for the launch of the Cops N’ Kids Reading Center in Racine, Wisconsin – an Oprah “Use Your Life” Award recipient.
Madeliene Hernández is a nonprofit leader with a background in developing youth programs that create equitable access to education and extracurricular activities to youth and their families. Her work in youth development spans from serving as an AmeriCorps for the Seattle World School, a coach for Soccer Without Borders in Granada, Nicaragua to leading a team of Community School Managers at El Programa Hispano Católico in Portland, OR. Currently, she is the Operations Manager at Seattle Foundation where she supports a team of Program Officers by developing systems and processes to help them achieve their programmatic goals to create a more equitable Seattle region for all. She is a alumna of the University of Puget Sound and a Líderes fellow with Hispanics in Philanthropy.
Her passion for nonprofit service comes from her Papa’s influence who encouraged her to engage in volunteer service at a young age which led her to mentoring students at her local elementary school and coaching soccer. In 2017 when she returned to the Puget Sound area, she was introduced to Y-WE and served as a mentor and volunteer. Mentors have played a huge role in supporting Madeliene throughout her journey and she has been constantly inspired by the way Y-WE lives out its values and mission to empower young women. Outside of volunteering and work, Madeliene loves to cook new recipes that help her reconnect to her Mexican roots and as a Pacific Northwesterner you can also find her exploring the trails of the Cascades and Olympics either hiking or cycling.
Karan Nigam is a technology product marketer by profession with a penchant for storytelling, building products with a sense of purpose and culturally responsible marketing. He has lived and worked in 3 different countries – India, Finland and USA, and each experience has made him more optimistic about people’s ability to respond to biggest societal problems and the role technology can play in shaping a better world around us.
He has worked in some of the biggest technology companies in the world – Microsoft, Nokia and IBM. He currently leads a product marketing group in Microsoft Teams that’s modernizing team collaboration & championing new ways of working. Prior to this, he was part of the team that launched Windows 10 that is used by more than 600Mn people globally. He led product marketing for affordable smartphones at Nokia which is an iconic consumer brand in Europe & Asia. The fact that a billion plus people on the planet use these products everyday gets him energized.
Outside work, Karan enjoys hiking, biking, writing, mentoring young students. He and his wife are working on a personal goal to hike in all the USA national parks. He is also in midst of reading books to learn more about American society, history and culture. He is a big believer in mentoring younger generation and is actively involved as a guest speaker in local community colleges and is a mentor at Seattle University.
He is a firm believer in the fact that each of us are responsible to play a role, no matter how minor or significant, in moving the society forward. So becoming a part of the Y-We board is his small step forward in the righteous direction.
Nahil Sharkasi is a Libyan-American technologist focused on the use of technology for individual and social empowerment. As a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft, Nahil has developed devices like Kinect and Hololens that seek to bridge the gap between humans and the digital world. Nahil joined YWE as a mentor in 2014, and introduced technology and STEM education into YWE programming with Hour of Code. As facilitator of the YWE Code learning community, she aspires to introduce young women to career opportunities in the tech industry. Nahil is also a member of the Board of Trustees for Muslims for Progressive Values, a non-profit organization that defends human rights in the Muslim World. Nahil holds an M.F.A. from the University of Southern California and a B.A. in Journalism from University of Maryland.