International Women’s Day celebrates the achievements of women around the globe, but many are breaking down barriers and making a difference right here in the Central Valley.

“To get to where you want, you’ve got to work very very hard for it,” Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said Friday. “I knew I had to get my education so I did that, while working full time and having a family and having a home.”

She achieved a series of ‘firsts’ in a male dominated field, becoming the first female deputy in Fresno County Sheriff’s Office history to become a lieutenant, captain, assistant sheriff and finally sheriff. 

“Sometimes it is tough to break through what people call the ‘good ole’ boy network,'” Esmeralda Soria a Fresno City Councilor said. 

But she showed it’s not impossible when she became the first Latina woman president of the Fresno City Council.

“I put my name in the hat and I worked very hard and so that’s what it take, not only the passion, but the desire to work hard,” she said. 

Diane Phakonekham is the executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central California. She said it’s very positive for young girls to see so much female leadership in the area. “I definitely think it’s very special,” Phakonekham said. She’s also leaving her own mark.

The Wonder Woman enthusiast channeled her hero’s bravery after being hit by a drunk driver. 

“That was my ‘ah-ha’ moment. That’s when I was hospitalized and I thought to myself if I die today what is my legacy,” she said. 

So she took a leap of faith and ditched her high paying job to follow her passion, overseeing the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in four valley counties — making an impact on countless young lives.

“If you work hard and if you’re passionate and if you push it you can break that glass ceiling,” she said. 

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