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Meet the Speakers for WISE Seattle's Mighty are the Women - A Celebration of Title IX


On Tuesday, October 11th, WISE Seattle will be hosting 'Mighty are the Women - A Celebration of Title IX' at the Husky Club at the University of Washington.

In Celebration of Title IX, our panel will break down equal pay and rights in sports, the future of Women in sports and how we go about continuing to celebrate women's sports in society. The event is hosted at the Husky Club at Husky Stadium from 6:00-8:00PM. It is free for WISE members and UW students to attend and $15 for non-members.


Let's meet the speakers:

Sheridan Blanford
Associate Athletics Director for DEI, University of Washington

Sheridan Blanford was named the inaugural Associate Athletics Director for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at the University of Washington in December 2020. Blanford is the chief strategist that leads the development and implementation of all Husky Athletics policies, procedures, programs and initiatives to ensure that culture reflects equity, inclusion and belonging for all Husky Athletics stakeholders.

Formerly, Blanford served as the Director of Inclusion & Engagement for the University of Wisconsin Athletics’ Department, where she worked to facilitate an inclusive culture across all dimensions of diversity through strategic planning, advancing underrepresented stakeholders, education and development, talent acquisition and retention, and campus and community engagement. Prior to her time at Wisconsin, she served as the Assistant Director for the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). Blanford is the co-founder of DIECE (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council of Excellence), an organization that is comprised of DEI professionals in sport to discuss, evaluate, and create tangible solutions that drive intentional growth toward increased diversity and inclusive excellence within sport. 

In 2019, Blanford was named as one of Wisconsin’s 49 Most Influential Black Leaders by Madison 365. Women Leaders in College Sports also selected Blanford as a 2018 Rising Star. Blanford graduated from St. Olaf College where she played basketball. She went on to pursue her Master's degree in Intercollegiate Athletic Leadership from the University of Washington.

James Thomas
Director of DEI, Alaska Airlines

James is a seasoned professional with over 22 years of leadership experience, and over 14 years leading diversity and inclusion programs. His background spans fashion, food, wine and now the airline industry. James joined Alaska Airlines as the Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion where he supports the Alaska Air Group which includes Alaska Airlines and Horizon Airlines. He and his team play an important role in helping the company achieve their goal of building an airline people love by embedding inclusion and diversity throughout the company’s policies, programs and practices, to ensure that employees and guest feel safe, welcome, a sense of belonging and connected to the brand. Alaska announced bold goals to creating a more inclusive workforce by 2025 which James’ role is critical in leading; . 

In early 2022 James took on the additional responsibility of employee engagement and recognition supporting the company’s efforts to cultivate a culture of recognition that drives more engaged and productive employees, measured through the company’s annual engagement survey.

James transitioned to Alaska from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates where he served as their first Director of Inclusion, Equity and Diversity, supporting a collection of wineries across California, Oregon, and Washington. Before Ste. Michelle. James worked in multiple roles for Starbucks. First, as a District Manager leading a portfolio of stores in the downtown Seattle market, and then as a Senior Manager of inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility programs. In this role he supported the company’s U.S. retail business which included over 18,000 stores and 187,000 employees. James’ primary role was to operationalize and implement the company’s inclusion and diversity strategies throughout the retail business to create a more inclusive environment for both customers and employees.

Prior to Starbucks, James spent 20 years at Nordstrom in multiple roles that included being a Store Manager for both the Rack and Full Line division and ten years in the diversity and inclusion division, five leading the company program.

James is a Cornell University-certified diversity professional and has his undergraduate degree in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix and a graduate degree in Legal Studies from Arizona State University.

He has served on several nonprofit boards that include Seattle Goodwill and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound, Choices Education Group, and currently serves as a Board Chair for City Year King County.

In his spare time, he enjoys playing tennis, hiking, and riding his motorcycle.

Elise Woodward
Sports Broadcaster, Pac-12 Networks

Elise is a versatile broadcaster, whose duties include play-by-play for volleyball, soccer, basketball and softball. She also is a basketball analyst, and a sideline reporter for both football and basketball.While at University of Washington, Woodward served as captain her senior year, earned All-Pac-12 academic honors and made three trips to the NCAA tournament, including advancing to the Sweet 16 during her sophomore year.Woodward’s reporting career began at FOX Sports NW, where she served as a reporter for the Seahawks, Mariners and Huskies.She is also the color analyst for the Seattle Storm and was a sideline reporter for the Seattle Sonics.Woodward also hosted the sports talk radio show, ‘Elise and Jerry on KJR 950 AM,’ alongside Seattle Times columnist Jerry Brewer, and worked in sports radio for over a decade.She has since worked as a sideline reporter for UW football and analyst for UW women’s basketball.She has performed play-by-play duties for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament on ESPN since 2017.



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