San Francisco is home to a diverse community of incredibly successful and amazing women. From activists and professors to designers and writers, read up on these 13 wonderful women from the Bay Area who continue to inspire.
Dr. Lonnie Barbach is a clinical psychologist who works with individuals as well as couples. She started doing work in the area of sexuality in her early 20s when it was a wide open field that was not traditionally studied. In graduate school, she was one of the first sex therapy counselors at the University of California, Berkeley’s student health service, where she designed a group treatment program for women who were not orgasmic, using a mixture of women’s consciousness raising and behavioral exercises. She took the preorgasmic group program to the University of California San Francisco Medical Center’s Human Sexuality program, where she became co-director of clinical training. Her books, including For Yourself: The Fulfillment of Female Sexuality, For Each Other: Sharing Sexual Intimacy and Going the Distance: Finding and Keeping Lifelong Love, have sold over four million copies. She helped develop the Happy Couple app, a way to work with the same material in a new context, consisting of fun daily quizzes that help couples build and sustain a healthy relationship.
Kate Sabatine is is a freelance photographer and videographer studying pre-law psych with emphasis in gender studies and criminal justice at the University of San Francisco (USF). Kate got her first paid gig at a wedding when she was 14 and is now a sought-out professional, although she has never taken a photography class and has no technical training. She finds inspiration in the people she shoots at band shows, capturing life as she sees it in the moment. She chose not to go to school for art because she didn’t want her passion to become an obligation. Some advice Kate has for up-and-coming photographers is: don’t be lazy. You must be adamant about getting work and aggressive when opportunities arise, always have a business card ready, show people your portfolio, and bring your camera with you everywhere.
Aza Ziegler is a designer based between San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. Her colorful freelance fashion features sports and surf culture mainly for women. She became interested in fashion at a young age. Her mother and grandmother taught her how to sew as a girl, and in high school, she started a line of sustainable one-of-a-kind pieces with her friend that got a lot of press. She studied fashion at the Pratt Institute and after graduating received a fellowship and started her own line, Calle Del Mar. She was approached by buyers at her school fashion show and sold her pieces directly off the runway. She has been in the business for about two years now, drawing inspiration from the 1950s, 60s and 70s retro, beachy California culture. Her archive of vintage athletic wear and vintage beachwear has taken off, being featured in Nylon and Elle. Her advice to young designers is to believe in your work and not to take no for an answer, be persistent and most of all be true to who you are and let that come through in your work.
Hannah Franz works at the Center for Social Dynamics as a full-time program supervisor, creating and overseeing programs for clients on the autism spectrum to attain developmental goals using applied behavioral therapy. She is also the Director of Outreach for the Women’s International Fund for Education, a volunteer run nonprofit that provides scholarships for women across the world to access a college education in their native country. She has been working with the Center for Social Dynamics since leaving her previous job and traveling to New Zealand and Australia for six weeks and then living in Chicago for a year. Franz lives a happy and satisfying life doing what she loves and is inspired daily by the individuals and families she works with. She also greatly values her co-workers who dedicate their lives to individuals on the autism spectrum.
Marilyn DeLaure is a communication studies professor at University of San Francisco. Through her work, she gets to be part of a community of learning with her colleagues as well as students who are at a very exciting time in their lives. She is also constantly reading and discovering new things through her outside research. Her first teaching gig was at the age of 12, where she taught dance lessons to children in a small town in Iowa. When she heard the dance studio was closing her freshman year of high school, she spearheaded a community project to keep the studio open.
She is an extremely inspirational professor who often gives her college students, many of them graduating seniors, life advice. She urges students to foster connections and community and keep in touch with people. It’s often not what you know but who you know. Secondly, just ask. It is important not to be defeatist: just ask and put yourself out there. Thirdly, be OK with the questions in life. Mainstream culture and society tell us that we should have everything figured out. The misconception that there is a single laser path forward makes many us hard on ourselves. The experience of not knowing and exploring is an integral part of growing, even though it can be frustrating and painful.
Asia Bryant is a talented poet and graduating communication studies major at USF. She has been writing for the past four years and it has become an integral part of her life. With a history of depression and anxiety, poems are her way of calming down and getting out of her head. Through her experience, she has learned that putting herself in her poems and telling her own story improves her writing and gets a positive reaction from her audience. She has competed in the College Unions Poetry Slam for the past three years, which has been a great introduction to the poetry community. Her mom is one of her greatest inspirations; she adopted Asia and ‘is the most warm and loving person,’ which Asia tries to emulate. Javon Johnson, a poet and professor at San Francisco State University, is also one of her great inspirations. She listens to his poem Building once a week and hopes to have a breadth of work like his. Looking forward, she aspires to compete in the National Poetry Slam and the Women of the World Slam. Her advice to beginner poets is that you don’t need the whole world’s validation. To Asia, it is much more rewarding when one person from the crowd comes up to her after the show and tells her that her poem touched them. ‘As long as your artwork is touching one person, and even if that one person is yourself, you’re doing something right.’
Sylvia Goodman is a therapist who works primarily with adolescent and young adults who suffer from anxiety and depression. She has also been coaching the Tamalpais High School cross country team for the past 16 years. After getting her undergraduate degree in art, she moved to Thailand and worked as a jewelry designer. There, she realized she had a skill for helping people feel comfortable talking about themselves and opening up. She left Thailand as a single mother with a 6-year-old son and got her masters at Dominican University in Marin County. While counseling at a school in Mill Valley, she saw how running greatly helped one of her patients and became the high school’s cross country coach. She deeply enjoys having a balance between the kinetic, hands on approach of coaching and the cerebral involvement with clients in the office. One of her athletes has qualified for both the 200 meter and 400 meter Olympic trials. This year, she was honored with the Model Coach Award by the California Interscholastic Federation.
Jessica Floum is a business and technology reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle who grew up in Marin County. Trained as a data and investigative reporter, her job consists of figuring out what is really going on with all of the money pouring into the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. After an internship at the Chronicle, she worked for other publications. One of her earlier stories involved wrongdoings in a cancer charity where the CEO tripled his salary and the charity went bankrupt. Her story led to his firing and the resignation of two board members. She learned how to review financial documents through her work on this story, which introduced her to her current work for the San Francisco Chronicle. Floum gets the journalism buzz when she’s on a story where something horrible is happening that can be corrected. She is inspired by making a positive impact on people’s lives; those who have been taken advantage of, have been wronged, and might not have a voice to correct systemic injustices.
Gretchen Coffman is a restoration ecologist and professor in the Environmental Science Department at USF who does most of her work in the field. Her passion is working on restoration projects for wildlife with local communities and villages. Philip Rundel, a distinguished Professor from the University of California Los Angeles, is one of her main inspirations. He funded and supported her attendance at a conference in South Africa where she presented her initial dissertation research and also helped her get her first job in Laos, where she has worked for almost 10 years doing restoration for the Critically Endangered Cypress. Coffman uses a student-centered approach to teaching which involves hands-on learning through real life experiences. She also exposes all of her students to her colleagues with jobs in the environmental field, trying to inspire and engage them in a different way than textbooks and lectures. This summer, she took 14 masters and undergraduate students to Malaysian Borneo to study Tropical Restoration Ecology. They will be working alongside a co-op of four villages standing up against deforestation and by helping to create ecotourism and restoration opportunities at the grassroots level.
Katherine George works in energy efficiency policy and strategy as a senior policy analyst for Pacific Gas and Electricity (PG&E). The mission to use energy more efficiently is the fastest and most cost-efficient way to reduce greenhouse gases. In 2005, Katherine embarked on her journey in the Peace Corps in Ukraine for two years. Along with her work at PG&E, Katherine volunteers at Lava Mae, an initiative offering bathrooms and showers to the homeless in retrofitted city buses.
Theresa Sparks is a transgender woman and distinguished transgender rights activist. She serves as the executive director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. Sparks is also the former CEO of Good Vibrations and former president of the San Francisco Police Commission. Growing up in Kansas City as a male, she was in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War and later had three children. In 1997, Sparks transitioned and moved to San Francisco, becoming a prominent transgender rights activist. She has formed the Transgender Political Caucus and organized the first Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Lynne Twist is a prominent philanthropist who founded The Soul of Money Institute and the Pachamama Alliance. She is the author of the award-winning The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life that the institute is based on. She leads workshops, gives keynote presentations, and provides one-on-one coaching, inspiring people all over the world. Committed to alleviating poverty and hunger, she has won the United Nations Woman of Distinction Award, multiple Humanitarian of the Year Awards, and the GOI Peace Award, among countless others. She has stood with and worked alongside the Dalai Lama and Mother Theresa.
Dominique Crenn is a world renowned chef who has earned two Michelin stars and was recently named the World’s Best Female Chef by San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Raised in Versailles, France, her parents introduced her to the art of cooking at a very young age. She is the only woman to have received two Michelin stars. Crenn has catered events for Al Gore and Cindy Lauper, and strongly believes in using local, organic, sustainable produce ingredients. Her restaurant, Atelier Crenn, offers a seasonal multi-course Grand Tasting Menu for $298. Go check it out if you have money to spend and a refined palate.