Women walk for future

Oxygen network CEO visits Portland

More than 200 Portland-area women gathered downtown Friday morning to take part in a Mentors Walk and breakfast sponsored by Oxygen, a cable television network owned by women.

Oxygen founder and CEO Geraldine Laybourne came to Portland directly from a cable television diversity awards dinner in New York to take part in the walk and address the participants. Laybourne said Portland was one of Oxygen's earliest markets, and she is counting on local women to tell their personal and career stories on the network's new interactive website.

'Portland is known as a city where women really support each other,' said Laybourne, who started the network in 2000 and has been repeatedly named as one of the entertainment industry's most influential leaders by trade and popular publications.

The walk paired women who are successful in their fields with younger women interested in similar careers. It took the women from the World Trade Center at 121 S.W. Salmon St. through Tom McCall Waterfront Park and back to the center, where the breakfast was held.

Prominent local women who participated in the walk included: Peggy Fowler, CEO of Portland General Electric; Nancy Hamilton, Mayor Tom Potter's chief of staff; Sandra McDonough, executive director and CEO of the Portland Business Alliance; and Ann Sacks, founder of Amy Sacks Eyewear and Accessories.

Reed College student Leslie Zukor said she was thrilled to be able to walk and talk with Barbara Zappas, the assistant dean of the Lewis and Clark Law School.

'It's great to be able to talk to a woman who already has a successful career. I'm very interested in a career in public service,' Zukor said.

Lynn Brown, the internship and career services coordinator at Marylhurst University, brought five of the school's students to the event.

'As a career counselor, I can tell you that mentoring is incredibly helpful for anyone trying to decide on their future,' said Brown.

Layborne said she was mentored by several women when she was younger, including former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, who died on Wednesday. Layborne said Richards helped crafted her speeches and served as an unpaid advisor to the Oxygen network.

'Ann, and women like Ann, were very important to me. I want to help do the same thing for the next generation of woman,' said Laybourne.

One local woman who helped organize the walk was Cindy Tortorici, president and CEO of the Link for Women, a Portland-based networking organization. Tortorici, who will soon open a second office in Seattle, said she is working with the Oxygen network to develop a series of similar events for the future.