As mothers and entrepreneurs, leaders and decision makers, women are a force for change. At many Sacramento companies, nonprofits and government agencies, there’s a strong woman in charge of communicating her organization’s message. Together, they embody the voice of the region. Let’s meet five of them.
Senior manager of public affairs, California State Association of Counties; 2021 Woman of the Year, Yolo County
When Jenny Tan was promoted to public information officer for Yolo County in January 2020, she had no idea of the work ahead. Essentially overnight, she became a one-woman task force and a beacon of knowledge guiding residents on how to stay safe when COVID-19 hit.
“I was easily putting in like 70 to 80 hours a week, and I have a family and a husband,” says Tan, who has three sons. “So it was a hard work/life balance that I was trying to reach, but my community needed me to be able to know what is COVID? What is it that people need to do?”
That year, Tan hosted daily public health briefings live on Facebook and Twitter, reaching up to 7,000 viewers. She constantly thought about how to better reach small-business owners, those in public schools or retirement homes, and families with children. People grew to trust her for information about testing and vaccinations, and her list of tasks was nothing short of monumental.
Her dedication through the pandemic was recognized by state Sen. Bill Dodd, who presented Tan with the 2021 Woman of the Year for Yolo County award in honor of her service. She’s also acknowledged as one of the Top 40 public affairs professionals by the National Association of Asian Pacifics in Politics & Public Affairs, and a 2020 Difference Maker by the Yolo County Board of Supervisors.
“To say that my job was the most deserving of that award is so awe-inspiring. It makes me want to cry because I was able to affect change in my community,” Tan says. “It makes me feel good knowing that the actions that I’m taking, the tasks that I’m doing have a direct impact. That’s a hard calling, public service, but I’ve always been the kind of person who wants to give back and do the best job that I could regardless of what it may ask for.”
In June 2021, Tan became the senior manager of public affairs for the California State Association of Counties, where she amplifies all the work that California’s 58 counties are accomplishing. It’s similar to her work with Yolo County but on a larger scale. Tan says she’s also looking forward to working more closely with My Sister’s House, a Sacramento nonprofit that helps Asian and Pacific Islander women and children escape domestic violence.
“My parents raised me to be extremely hardworking, extremely dedicated. They immigrated over here during the Vietnam War, so they had two jobs all the time when I was growing up. But they still cooked dinner; they still tried to give us a good childhood,” Tan says. “I just want to be able to still give back and to still give my all, but in a way that builds better communities for all of us.”
Vice president of experiences and social responsibility, Sacramento Kings; owner and co-founder of Unseen Heroes
As the mother of three boys, a wife and an entrepreneur, Maritza Davis joined the Sacramento Kings as its vice president of experiences and social responsibility in 2018, bringing her passions for community engagement and social justice advocacy from a local level to a national platform.
Davis is the co-founder and owner of Unseen Heroes, an events and marketing company she started with her husband, Roshaun Davis, in 2008. At the company’s 10-year mark, the Kings recruited Davis to lead all of its social programs, charitable endeavors and youth basketball participation efforts.
On any given day, she works directly with the players and coaches on various projects that uplift and support underrepresented people in the community, which includes the team’s push to refurbish and renovate community basketball courts. Davis’ impact is also seen through her work creating Team Up for Change, an effort that started with a partnership between the Kings and the Milwaukee Bucks that’s grown to bring more than 13 professional sports teams across the NBA and WNBA together to address social issues affecting communities.
“When I first joined the team, it was a few months after the protests in Sacramento after the shooting of Stephon Clark. One of the things that hit my desk was around social justice, really ensuring that we have a social justice strategy,” Davis says. “Our goal was to unite, inspire and activate community leaders, law enforcement and youth advocates around social justice and equity. In sports, historically, it’s typically been a player who stands up for social injustices. In this case, many folks were looking at me. We now have different sports franchises that reach out to me, from MLS to some folks in the NFL, and the list goes on.”
Beyond the basketball court, Davis loves being a part of a large family; her three sons range in age from 19 to 5. Whatever’s on her agenda, be it a team meeting with the Kings or helping her boys with homework, Davis says she loves every part of it.
“There’s a lot of people who rely on me,” she says. “I want to show up for them and do a great job for everybody.”
Sarah Pollo Moo
President and CEO, Pollo Communications; appointee to the Sacramento Metropolitan Cable Television Commission
In her work, Sarah Pollo Moo has always gravitated toward people and groups she believes in.
“I fell into this nonprofit niche as a consultant where I’m both a one-woman show: an employer and the employee,” says Pollo Moo, who runs her own PR and marketing firm. “I’m more able to serve nonprofits that maybe have a much smaller budget than some other clients that would hire the big firms. I enjoy working with all the nonprofits that I’ve been able to consult with.”
Those nonprofits include Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern Sierra, a group that creates mentorship opportunities that inspire youth, and California Women Lead, a statewide effort that aims to break the glass ceiling and help women realize their leadership potential.
“It felt good being able to help bring women together from all backgrounds educationally, culturally, experience-wise to share what’s working, what doesn’t work, and how to lead,” she says. “I was very proud of being able to help facilitate important forums like Women’s Empowerment Day, helping women learn how to get a statewide appointment or an appointment on a local board, and then helping out with their annual women’s conference.”
As a Sacramento State honors graduate, Pollo Moo works with its policy and politics alumni chapter to raise money for scholarships for students pursuing careers in public relations. She was also a communications correspondent under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and currently serves as Sacramento city councilmember Eric Guerra’s commissioner for the Sacramento Metropolitan Cable Television Commission.
“We worked to get some money through the Cable Commission to support an artists’ initiative that involved helping artists to get content out through short videos that would be aired on the local public access channels, which would also serve as an educational tool,” she says. “These were really cool ways for students to learn and then for artists to get some money to help not only showcase their art but help with funding for things like rent and groceries.”
Last summer, Pollo Moo and her husband, Chris, welcomed a son named Liam. These days, she sometimes finds herself holding a bottle for the baby with one hand while typing with the other. Balancing a career with a new child has been one of the most empowering experiences of her life, she says.
“The hardest but most rewarding thing in my life has been being able to have him and continue to be a small-business owner,” she says. “I want to be a positive example for my son. Telling my story in some way, even if it’s a short snippet, can help other women understand that they can do it, too.”
Kyla Aquino Irving
Marketing and communications manager, United Way California Capital Region; Donate Life California Ambassador
Kyla Aquino Irving’s introduction to public health stems from personal experience: At 15, she was diagnosed with kidney disease. Fortunately, compatible donors weren’t too far from home. Today, Aquino Irving thrives with one kidney from each of her parents, and she has dedicated her life to advocating for the health and well-being of others.
As the marketing and communications manager for United Way California Capital Region, Aquino Irving says the nonprofit’s mission to help those living in poverty overcome hardship through education and resources really spoke to her. She saw United Way’s impact on local families during the pandemic when it used COVID relief funds to put cash in the hands of those who needed it most.
“In my perspective, if my neighbor is not thriving, I’m not thriving. So we’re looking at how to fill those gaps,” she says.
Aquino Irving is also a Donate Life California Ambassador and a board member for Resources for Independent Living, which services people living with disabilities in Sacramento and Yolo counties. When she’s not working, she enjoys traveling with her husband, Steven, whom she met at Sacramento State. They have a 4-year-old son, Imani, whose name means “faith” in Swahili.
“I feel really fortunate that I get to work in a field that I’m passionate about. I can go to bed at night knowing that I’m really doing what I hope to see in the world,” she says. “Every great advocate needs that communication piece, too. So wherever I can help amplify the message, that’s been my goal.”
Deputy director of public affairs, California Department of General Services; member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness
With a natural talent for public relations, Monica Hassan says she first “fell into this field” in 2012 when she accepted a position with the Department of General Services as its public information officer. Since then, her career highlights stints in Gov. Jerry Brown’s press office and with the California Science Center in Los Angeles when it welcomed the arrival of the Space Shuttle Endeavour. In 2014, Brown appointed Hassan to director for external affairs with CaliforniaVolunteers.
These days, Hassan is the deputy director of public affairs for the California Department of General Services, where she began. With more than 3,500 employees and an annual budget of more than $1 billion, the department acts as the business manager for the state of California, providing a variety of management services to state agencies, schools and businesses. In her job, there’s never a dull moment, and Hassan prefers it that way.
“So we could get an inquiry regarding a new building that’s being built in Sacramento. Then the next day, we could get an inquiry on the status of an administrative hearing trial. Another day, we can get an inquiry on the greening of our state fleet. It’s all over the place, always exciting and always a surprise what we’re going to get asked,” she says.
Hassan is also a passionate advocate for those living with mental illness and is candid about her personal bouts with anxiety. So she became a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness to help end the stigmas that surround mental health in professional spaces and at home.
“One big thing they do is they talk about ending the stigma around mental health. That was huge to me, because growing up, I was embarrassed by it,” Hassan says. “So just knowing there are other people out there that have this same illness, that even helps me a little bit, especially in this field.”
Her favorite ways to relax are simple: snuggling with her dogs, Hamlet and Papaya, and stepping outside.
“I just sit and snuggle my dogs,” she says. “Just grabbing my pups and going out back with a cup of coffee, letting my skin feel the breeze or the sunshine on my face—those little grounding moments are my self-care.”