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Take note of these Utah women making history

Natalie Gochnour, associate dean at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business, speaks during a KSL-TV roundtable discussion on the community’s response and preparedness for the coronavirus at the Triad Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 5, 2020.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

March was Women’s History month. You may have missed it since dealing with the impacts of the coronavirus didn’t permit us much time to be thoughtful on this topic. While we couldn’t be reflective then, we can certainly look around now and see many women leading the efforts to save our state. These are women making history right now. In the decades to come, when this pandemic is studied, these are just a few history will remember and honor.

Natalie Gochnour is the executive director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. She is a former senior adviser to Gov. Mike Leavitt and held prominent positions at the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Health and Human Services. Most recently, as a member of the Utah Economic Response Task Force, Gochnour led the team that wrote “Utah Leads Together,” the statewide plan for a health and economic recovery. Gochnour’s team created the first comprehensive statewide plan in the nation for navigating the urgent, stabilization and recovery phases.

Kris Cox is the executive director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget. Cox is leading state efforts on the implementation of the Utah Leads Together Plan. That is a monumental task in collecting and analyzing data that leads to good decision-making. For example, the dashboard leading decisions on reactivating the economy include transmission rate, hospitalization, rate of spread and testing capacity. Cox coordinates multiple state agencies in a focused effort to address both the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.

Silvia Castro leads the Suazo Business Center, an organization that supports the Latino/Hispanic and other underserved communities. Previously, Castro worked at the Salt Lake Chamber’s International Department assisting businesses to expand globally. Initial data shows that minority communities are bearing a disproportionate burden on both the health and economic fronts. In addition to providing general support to these minority employers and employees, Silvia is leading an effort to ensure that a vast amount of materials, such as information on accessing federal relief programs, are translated into multiple languages.

Theresa Foxley is the president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah. In this capacity Foxley works with both the public and private sector in recruiting new business and investment to the state. In the current fight against the coronavirus, Foxley is coordinating efforts of companies that provide essentials services and support critical infrastructure. These companies face pressing issues such as screening employees, providing personal protection equipment, and overcoming daily challenges to stay open for business and keep our communities running.

Lavanya Mahate moved to Utah from India 19 years ago and started a career helping entrepreneurs with the Women’s Business Center. After helping many women start businesses, she decided to follow her own passion by opening the Saffron Valley restaurants. Mahate responded to challenging circumstances by looking beyond herself and providing food for health care providers working on the front lines every day to care for others. Her generosity has led to 1,000 free meals to essential workers in just one week.

These women represent many heroes who are making a difference in their respective circles and our collective community. The come from a variety of backgrounds and lead a variety of organizations. What they share is a spirit of service and love for Utah.

Derek Miller is the president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber.