Special Projects / Executive Director (retired)
After 11 years, Mari Watanabe retired as executive director of Partners in Diversity in April 2023. She remains at Partners in Diversity part time to help plan Northwest Equity Summit.
As executive director, she oversaw all aspects of the nonprofit whose mission is to help employers diversify and retain their workforce in Oregon and southwest Washington. Up until November 2019, Mari split her time between Partners in Diversity and Leadership Portland, a 10-month civic engagement leadership program operated by the Portland Business Alliance.
Prior to Partners in Diversity, Mari was in the apparel arena for many years, working for corporations such as Nike, Nordstrom and Union Bay Sportswear. She is the first executive director of Oregon Nikkei Endowment, a Japanese American history and culture organization. Mari also served six years as the co-chair and chair on the Oregon Commission for Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, a governor-appointed commission to help create policies that support the Asian and Pacific Islander communities. Mari is the founding member of the City of Beaverton Diversity Advisory Board and serves on other nonprofit boards that support veterans, Japanese Americans, women, and the arts.
Mari has a diversity and inclusion certificate from Cornell University and an undergraduate degree from Washington State University in fashion merchandising. Raised in Seattle, Mari moved to Portland in 2000.