Welcome to the first Smart Women edition of Smart Business Columbus. This special issue shares the advice and achievements of local businesswomen, and recognizes inspiring male advocates and effective women’s programs.
The Smart Women program is the result of a partnership between Smart Business Network Inc. and The Women’s Book, a company I founded to connect women in business with resources to grow their careers.
I am excited about the opportunity we have to help raise the profile of successful businesswomen, and to help business leaders understand how greater diversity and inclusion is key to the success of their organizations in our evolving economy.
Our theme this year is Success Redefined. This issue and our Oct. 2 event profile a diverse range of business leaders who share how their organization’s focus on women has changed how it defines success. Many of these individuals also share their personal career journeys and how they have evolved over time.
In reflecting on the transitions I’ve had in my career as an entrepreneur and in the political, government and corporate arenas, I realize that I view success much differently than I did 20 years ago.
I still want to achieve specific goals, but I know that I don’t have to tackle them at the same time. I understand that success often requires a decent amount of failure and opportunities to learn from mistakes or miscalculations, especially when starting a business or any new initiative.
I also don’t want to look back and regret not spending enough time on other priorities in my life. Success is not just about what you achieve professionally, but also the quality of relationships you build with your loved ones and friends.
I hope this issue and the entire Smart Women series inspires how you define success for your business, your career and life.
Thank you for your readership and engagement.
Vice president, business development
The Smart Women breakfast | awards
PROGRESSIVE ENTREPRENEUR Cary Hanosek, Merrill Lynch | Sally Hughes, Caster Connection | Tonia Irion, e-Cycle LLC | Elizabeth Blount McCormick, UNIGLOBE Travel Designers | Cindy Monroe, Thirty-One Gifts | Kara Trott, Quantum Health
PROGRESSIVE WOMAN Elfi Di Bella, YWCA Columbus | Darci L. Congrove, GBQ Partners LLC | Jolie N. Havens, Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP | Pagle Helterbrand, Community Choice Financial Inc. | Amber Hulme, Medical Mutual of Ohio | Olga M. Starr, Skylight Financial Group | Marti Taylor, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
A message from the presenting sponsor
As the world changes, women are redefining success in their own terms. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is helping each woman succeed as she moves forward on her uniquely designed path toward success.
For a majority of women, success means family and a happy, healthy home life. Last year, Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center expertly welcomed 4,861 newborns into the world and provided excellent care for moms, dads and siblings. Wexner Medical Center staff provide superb obstetrical care in a state-of-the-art maternity unit for uncomplicated as well as “high-risk” deliveries.
In addition, Ohio State shares its expertise, improving the health of families in our community with programs such as Stable Cradle and Moms2B, which encourage healthy starts for at-risk newborns.
Women turn to Wexner Medical Center for help with unique health needs that arise throughout various stages of the life cycle. For example, sports medicine research is examining why females face a higher risk of activity-related knee injury and is creating training programs to help prevent these injuries. Our Women’s Cardiovascular Health Clinic is one of only a handful of programs in the country devoted solely to women’s heart health. More than a third of the cardiology experts at Ohio State are women — covering nearly every specialty of heart and vascular care.
In addition, the Women’s Behavioral Health program has particular expertise in the sexual and emotional health needs of cancer patients and survivors. The Maternal-Fetal Psychiatry program provides care to women who are experiencing distress in association with childbearing.
Education and opportunity
Ohio State is a national leader in medical and health care education and training. Women make up 44 percent of the college of medicine’s entering class, which will be the first to learn under the innovative Lead.Serve.Inspire. curriculum that integrates clinical practice with foundational science. The school of health and rehabilitation sciences is a nationally recognized leader in educating allied health professionals.
Wexner Medical Center is one of Central Ohio’s largest employers with nearly 20,000 employees. As part of The Ohio State University, employees receive a generous benefits package that includes health and life insurance, retirement benefits, and educational support for the employee and family members. These benefits ensure that women and their family members will have the opportunity to continually redefine success in their own terms and the support to achieve their dreams.
Bringing women along
Shelley Brazeau Temple’s journey has taught her to value helping others
Shelley Brazeau Temple is a dying breed. She’s worked at Nationwide since she was fresh out of college — 23 years. The company has allowed her to learn and grow, while supporting her personal evolution.
“Nationwide is so supportive of its associates, and their needs and desires,” says Temple, a senior vice president of member solutions and services. “And I think they help us all achieve the balance that we’re looking for, both personally and professionally. Not many companies come out and say to people: It is our desire to have you be with us for a long time.”
But Temple’s definition of success has broadened.
“I really think my definition of success is a lot more inclusive and about bringing others along on the journey, at this point in my career, versus when I first started,” she says. “I’m very passionate about bringing women up and through our organization, and making sure that they have opportunities.”
A delicate balance
When Temple read “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, it hit her on many levels. In particular, she related to the concept that many women opt out, thinking they cannot balance an intense career with children.
As the adoptive mother of two, Temple says she wasn’t sure she could do that either.
“Having learned through that experience, I’m a lot more passionate about supporting women in their choices — at least trying,” she says.
“It’s not beautiful every day. It’s not perfect. But that message has been really important for me, too,” Temple says. “I’m very vocal with the people at Nationwide about the priority that my family takes and the balance that I look to achieve — in having both a fulfilling home life and a fulfilling work life.”
She is proud that her children see she’s successful at work, while still sitting around the table for dinner and going to their events.
In her current role, Temple is responsible for 10 centers across the U.S. It’s not easy to balance the travel responsibilities, but she takes advantage of technology when she can.
In addition to advising her colleagues on achieving balance, Temple also looks to help others, like many did for her. She participates in Nationwide’s Women’s Associate Resource Group and mentors young female leaders.
“I work hard to connect with female leaders across different industries to think about best practices and ways that we can continue to forward the organization across all fronts, not just women’s issues,” she says.
Know yourself; try to grow
In general, businesses are realizing the value of people having a rich identity outside of work, Temple says. It doesn’t have to be family, like it is for her, but you’ll be happier and more effective if you have more than one side to your life.
You need to know who you are and learn to be comfortable in your own skin, Temple says.
“I think one of the hardest things to do is to try to fit into something that you don’t belong (in),” she says.
At the same time, Temple recommends trying new experiences.
“Personally, my career has been a coat of many colors, and I think it’s been terrific,” she says. “It’s kept me really excited and engaged. I’m always learning.
“And it’s amazing how much from one assignment, you can take and apply it to another.”
Paying it forward
Kimberly Blackwell serves others, while promoting inclusive leadership within her company
Not only was he the first African-American to lead advertising at Procter & Gamble, he built up a broadcasting company that was the second largest minority-owned radio station when he sold it. He also was known for his community service and leadership.
Blackwell, CEO, started her company, PMM Agency, 16 years ago, as a 20-something, working out of her one-bedroom apartment. Now that she’s attained a certain level of success, she’s focused more on significance — just like her uncle.
“I’m fortunate,” Blackwell says. “My passion awakens me every day in what I do for my business, but outside of that, too, now I am equally passionate around the change that I am a part of for organizations outside of PMM.”
She serves on boards like the YWCA and Columbus Urban League, as well as the National Women’s Business Council.
Her uncle died in 2010, but Blackwell still uses his example in her own life today.
“I subscribe heavily to a pay it forward model — understanding that to whom much is given much is required,” she says.
Develop your talent
Blackwell also uses the pay it forward model to encourage the development of her own staff, which is something she takes pride in.
She wants her team to be constantly looking for ways to grow within PMM, but Blackwell also wants them to find ways to become better, period — better within their community and better within their homes.
“If you can create a business case and/or scenario as to why you think that we need to look at this particular new software, this particular conference, this particular continuous education, then I’m willing, as an employer, to make the deposit,” she says.
It’s important for everyone in your organization to understand that you don’t need to be a boss or senior manager to lead, Blackwell says.
“When we’re in team meetings, for as much as I try to add value from a strategic lens and the point of view from a senior position, I’m equally intrigued, if not learning, from all areas of my organization,” she says. “And that’s rewarding.”
Giving everyone a voice
The inclusive leadership that Blackwell advocates goes beyond gender, race and lifestyle preference.
“Inclusive leadership is looking at what are the thoughts and perspectives from all areas of the organization, top to bottom, and I think that’s important,” she says. “I think a lot of times you can truly gain from the adage of saying less and doing more.”
Sometimes the quieter you become, the more you can hear, and the most innovative ideas don’t always come from the top of the house, Blackwell says.
If you’re in meetings and the same one or two people are always talking, that’s probably not going to get you to a culture of inclusion, she says.
Instead, the format needs to be more conversational and challenging. Your employees have to be a little bit disruptive and willing to challenge the status quo, looking for progressive and new pathways.
“All of those things are going to stretch you, and, for me, inclusive leadership allows for people to somewhat be challenged, somewhat be uncomfortable — and it’s OK,” Blackwell says.
A balancing act
Tiffany Olson finds it easier to help her staff find well-being than herself
Carving time for yourself is something many women struggle with, and Tiffany Olson, president of Nuclear Pharmacy Services at Cardinal Health is no exception.
It’s something she keeps working on, while trying to encourage it in the people who work under her, so they stay motivated.
“The balance question is always one that women struggle with a lot. And I think it’s because women always put themselves last on the list,” Olson says. “You take care of everyone else, and then if there’s any time at the end of the day, you get to take that deep breath, and go, ‘Oh, OK, I get some time for me.’”
Finding a balance
Olson has been with Cardinal Health for two years, working previously for Eli Lilly and Co. and Roche Diagnostics. She’s stayed in health care because she wants to impact patients and improve their lives. This has been her definition of success for a long time.
What is different is that her children are now in college, so Olson’s work/life balance has shifted.
“That balance, I think, for you today is going to be different than next year, because your situation can be very, very different,” she says.
Today, Olson is trying to take more time for her health — concentrating on her diet and exercising.
“I have to make sure that I get exercise in my calendar, so that it’s actually an appointment for me, which really helps me to try to keep true to that,” she says.
Even though Olson sometimes struggles to find her own balance, she believes it’s important to encourage that in her staff — giving them the space they need.
She makes sure her people feel like they are able to make their own decisions and make recommendations in areas that they think are important to move the business.
“I think people stay motivated when they are excited about what they do, and (know) how they contribute to the overall organization,” Olson says.
It’s also important to respect when people have a personnel issue, she says. You can give people flexibility to get the job done in the best way they know how.
Meeting goals, with the right support
Olson also likes to set goals — in and out of work — laying out what she’d like to accomplish over the next three to five years. She knew early on that she wanted to lead a business, so she got the right education and took the types of job risks that would get her there.
At the same time, a strong support system is critical.
“The higher up you go in your job, the more it’s a lifestyle, in that your work becomes a lot of what you do. It’s kind of a 24/7 type of a job, so you need to have the support system of your family,” Olson says. “I’ve always cultivated my support system, both within work and also on the personal side.”
Those support systems certainly are encouraged at Cardinal Health, which has a number of affinity groups for its employees. For example, Olson serves on the Women’s Initiative Network steering committee.
“(These groups) really provide a great place for people to be able to work and grow their careers, where diversity is not only accepted, but it’s encouraged,” she says.
Passion for your work
Pam Springer built up a multimillion-dollar corporation, before walking away to new opportunities
Pam Springer, founding partner of SpringerNav, first learned this playing basketball in high school and at Oakland University.
When she founded Manta — and in the decade that followed — Springer built on these lessons as the local company stepped onto the national stage. She loved what she did, and it showed.
“We were building Manta to become the largest online community for small business — kind of like a LinkedIn for small business,” she says.
No longer a believer
Everything was working so well people wanted to buy the company, Springer says. Rather than sell entirely, management brought in private equity.
Springer’s vision for Manta and the new investors’ vision started to diverge, and a year later she elected to leave.
“I wanted to do this, and they wanted to do something else,” she says.
The company discussed it as a board first, and Springer told them if that’s the direction they want, she wasn’t a good fit anymore.
“It was hard,” she says. “It was the right decision for everyone; you should have a leader that believes in what’s going on.”
As an investor, Springer was in great shape financially after selling a portion of Manta. But she still woke up the next morning asking what did I just do?
Two years later, Springer has found a new role, consulting and investing in companies, often while serving on the board of directors. For example, she’s a launch CEO for ORIS Intel.
“While involved with these different companies, I actually get to do what I love to do which is the best part, quite honestly — building the team,” Springer says. “The thing that I’m most proud of about Manta is that 70 percent of the people said it was the best place they ever worked.”
Knowing your role
You must understand what you like to do or what motivates you in order to be successful, Springer says.
Do you like to be in early stage companies where things aren’t buttoned down, and you’re figuring out how to build up the business? Or does that just cause stress?
Beyond the environment, determine your role. Are you contributing and how do you take enjoyment of that?
“The thing that I think most people really appreciate is applying their skills in an environment that works for them and that they can be engaged in,” she says. “And I think that ultimately is the role of a successful CEO. If they are doing well, their first job should be that they have engaged employees, and if they don’t, it’s a big problem.”
Business leaders have to connect to employees’ passion, not just hit numbers.
“Have you created a vision and an environment that allows people to rise to the occasion and understand how they tie into that?” Springer says.
The people part of business or culture — the soft, squishy stuff — is what sets businesses apart.
“It’s a hard thing to do, but it’s one of those things that every company that’s succeeding on a sustained basis has — a culture that they understand, that they have to maintain and do a lot of care and cleaning for,” Springer says.
Guy Who Gets It finalists
Founder and president
Compton Construction LLC
Blake Compton is an active community and corporate leader who supports organizations, businesses and others that strive to make a difference.
Compton, founder and president of Compton Construction LLC, is a strong advocate for empowering women and has been an integral supporter of several Columbus women’s initiatives and organizations.
The construction firm, under Compton’s leadership, has been a corporate sponsor of The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, and Compton became the first man to serve on a Women’s Fund committee. He also connected the group to Tacocat Cooperative, a Grandview arts cooperative and gallery space, which led to new events for the nonprofit, including an exhibit called “Women As ____,” a showcase for female artists.
Beyond volunteerism and connection, Compton has supported these causes financially, including as an annual sponsor for the group’s Keyholder event.
He helped the Women’s Fund achieve the workspace it needed, and he exceeded expectations with the service and partnership that grew, says Nichole Dunn, president and CEO of The Women’s Fund.
“His network of relationships have added great value to our cause, and Blake is a true advocate for this community — as a curious and committed man addressing social justice and gender equality,” Dunn says.
Craig A. Marshall
Managing partner, Columbus
Ernst & Young
Craig A. Marshall values his commitment to women’s advancement and professional development within Ernst & Young and outside the firm.
His leadership and commitment to the culture within EY echoes his belief in being one’s best self at work and in the community.
Marshall, managing partner, Columbus, doesn’t shy away from challenging client assignments to ensure female candidates are considered when a male employee is chosen for a prized assignment. On the other hand, Marshall also is ready to challenge whether a female assignment is the right fit given her responsibilities outside of work.
He has advocated for an appropriate budget from EY to provide growth opportunities for women, which for the last several years has supported activities such as a golf networking series in which EY associates participate with EY clients. Marshall has consciously supported community organizations and has ensured that EY continues to support women’s organizations, through board representation and annual giving — such as The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio and YWCA Columbus.
In addition to the boards and committees he serves on, Marshall frequently attends programs and events that elevate the community awareness about gender norms, women’s economic self-sufficiency and women’s leadership.
President and COO
Throughout his 37-year Nationwide career, Mark Pizzi has been an advocate for women in leadership, from his time as a front-line underwriter to his current position as president and COO, where four of his six direct reports — and many of his indirect reports — are women.
Whether promoting women to lead Nationwide’s regions or challenging other men to hire and promote women, beginning in his business unit, it all aligns with his commitment to identify, hire, develop and promote talent.
Pizzi serves as executive sponsor for the company’s African-American Women’s Associate Resource Group and also wrote and published an article on Nationwide’s internal social media network, accessible to its more than 33,000 associates. “Lean in” served as Pizzi’s personal reflection on what he has learned about himself and opportunities he has to support women.
As one female senior vice president stated, “Mark consistently pushed me to ‘speak up’ or ‘speak out,’ even when the topic was not my area of focus or expertise. Many male executives believe that a ‘supportive’ environment helps to create stronger female leaders; however, I found Mark’s unique combination of support/encouragement and challenge took me to new heights as a contributor to the success of this organization.”
Progressive Entrepreneur finalists
Cary Hanosek, CFP®, CRPC®, CAP®
Wealth management advisor
Wealth management advisor Cary Hanosek, CFP®, CRPC®, CAP®, has spent more than 20 years as an entrepreneur — building Simonton-Hanosek Wealth Management, a Merrill Lynch-associated wealth management firm, and founding a social entrepreneurship venture, LotsaBravePeople.
Hanosek, who believes in financial education and planning, is one of the first investment associates in Central Ohio to focus on sustainable investing, water investing and renewable energy finance. She also specializes in socially innovative investing, gender lens investing and social entrepreneurship, which led to the development of LotsaBravePeople.
One of Hanosek’s daughters developed a serious and rare form of epilepsy, which led to spending a lot of time in the hospital for blood transfusions. Hanosek founded LotsaBravePeople in 2014 as a clothing manufacturer so that babies and children could have functional, comfortable clothing to wear during various medical procedures.
She is also an active member of the community, co-founding The Merrill Lynch Bull Run/Walk 5k, which has raised more than $700,000 for Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Make-a-Wish in the past decade. Hanosek is a founding member of Women for Economic and Leadership Development (WELD) and a board member of the YWCA of Columbus endowment.
President and CEO
Sally Hughes launched Caster Connection out of the trunk of her car in 1987. For many years, she was the only female owner of a caster and wheel distributorship, which has led to more acceptance of women in all levels of the traditionally male-dominated industry.
Hughes, president and CEO, also guided Caster Connection from distributor to manufacturer/distributor in 2005, when a top client requested a new type of caster wheel that could solve its problems. Hughes set out to develop Caster Connection’s first exclusive product, CC Apex wheels.
Developing this line allowed Caster Connection to offer its clients a unique product, eliminating competitors undercutting price for the same product.
To prolong the life of their brands, Hughes also works to create an emotional attachment, while competitors promote their products nearly exclusively on a functionality level. This differentiates the company from the faceless competition of the industry, which has helped to open doors with prospects that usually ignore traditional sales approaches.
Caster Connection’s shift to manufacturing has helped to safeguard the company’s future by enabling it to better control its own destiny. Since developing CC Apex, Caster Connection has produced several other products in an effort to diversity and offer solutions that no one else can.
With a passion for technology, environmental protection and charitable giving, Tonia and Christopher Irion cofounded e-Cycle LLC in 2005. The firm collects used smartphones and tablets from organizations, reimbursing them for devices that retain value — or donating those funds to charity — and recycling all others at no charge.
The company began with only three employees in the Irions’ basement and has grown to employ more than 80 people in two Central Ohio locations.
Inc. recently ranked e-Cycle as the 10th fastest growing environmental services company in the U.S.
A veteran of the technology industry, Tonia, the company’s president, is committed to helping organizations invest their telecom budgets wisely while protecting the environment. She has helped secure thousands of enterprise clients, including many in the Fortune 500, as well as strategic partnerships with AT&T, Samsung and Blackberry.
Under her leadership, over the past two years e-Cycle has expanded its wireless buyback and recycling services into North America, South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific.
Tonia also led e-Cycle, which adheres to high global standards for environmental protection and worker safety, to become the first mobile buyback and recycling company to achieve e-Stewards certification, which strictly prohibits the export of toxic electronic waste to developing countries.
Elizabeth Blount McCormick
UNIGLOBE Travel Designers
Elizabeth Blount McCormick became president of the business her mother started, UNIGLOBE Travel Designers, in 2012 and immediately began reinventing the company — working diligently to develop relationships and build business.
In two years, she nearly doubled the company’s revenue, increasing it from $13 million to $23 million in 2014. That same year, she brought in 34 new accounts, and midway through 2015 she has added another 36.
Not only is McCormick known to spend 18 months developing a business relationship before even securing a company as a client, she’s implemented a number of customer service initiatives.
UNIGLOBE attaches a five-question survey to every invoice, guarantees someone from the agency will respond to a customer inquiry within an hour and provides a special 800-number to clients who are traveling internationally.
McCormick also gives her cell number to UNIGLOBE clients — something she learned from her father, a surgeon who routinely gave his home number to patients — and attends all client meetings.
And while customer service is the heart of the company, she also has shown innovation by adopting new technology, and creating employee and community service programs.
Founder, president and CEO
President and CEO Cindy Monroe founded Thirty-One Gifts in 2003 to provide an opportunity for women to be financially independent by owning their own direct sales business. At the time, she had two employees and worked out of her basement.
Today, Monroe employs 1,500, empowers an independent sales force of nearly 116,000 in the U.S. and Canada and has more than 1.8 million square feet of office and warehouse space.
Thirty-One Gifts was recently named the fastest-growing woman-owned company in the world by the Women Presidents’ Organization with more than $643 million in annual revenue.
The company employs a staff of fashion and jewelry designers who create exclusive, on-trend handbags, wallets, totes, travel accessories, home organizational solutions and artisan jewelry. The company has received five patents and has eight more pending.
Monroe is also a philanthropist. In addition to her volunteer and board work, the company’s Thirty-One Gives charitable program has donated more than $50 million in cash and products over the past two years. In 2013, she established the Cindy Monroe Vision and Values Scholarship to provide college tuition to graduating high school girls in her home county of Hamilton County, Tennessee.
In June, Monroe was recognized by Forbes as one of eight “Women to Watch.”
Founder and CEO
After several family health events exposed Kara Trott to the average consumer experiences in the health care system — confusion, bewilderment, bureaucracy and unfriendliness — she had a revolutionary idea.
Trott used her background in market research for major consumer brands to research and determine a better way to intercept and impact the health care consumer’s experience. She found ways to reduce costs and remove confusion and waste in the process.
Two years of research led Trott to build Quantum Health, which helps self-insured companies and their benefit members with care coordination and navigation.
Quantum Health has seen tremendous growth under Trott’s leadership, going from five employees to more than 500. The company serves more than 400,000 plan participants and manages over $3 billion in health plan spend.
Trott, who serves as CEO, also has created a culture of kindness, collaboration and trust in her rapidly growing organization. And, despite the institutional changes, many of the original employees are still with the company today.
Starting a company from scratch, while redefining an industry, is no easy task. Trott, however, proved that it can be done without sacrificing the integrity or core of her vision — to help those overwhelmed and lost within the health care system find their way.
Progressive Organization finalists
At Budros, Ruhlin & Roe Inc., a major objective is to support and encourage women to develop their careers with a work/life balance and develop their abilities to become great leaders — a goal the board of directors stands behind.
The mission, BRR 4 Women, aims to attract, retain and enhance relationships with female clients as well as to further empower and educate women in the organization and the financial services industry. For example, female leaders manage approximately half of the wealth and investment management firm’s client base.
Budros, Ruhlin & Roe set out to achieve this by promoting female employees throughout the community, enhancing their professional and leadership skills, aggressively seeking female candidates for professional staff positions and by reaching out to potential women clients through business development efforts.
Some other ways employees raise awareness and give back to the community are by participating on boards and in leadership programs, speaking to women’s groups, committing to be advocates in the community and volunteering in programs supporting women and girls of all ages.
The firm believes if it begins to make a difference in financial planning today, it will be a step in the right direction toward a better tomorrow.
As the third largest micro-lender in the country, the Economic & Community Development Institute (ECDI) invests in people to create measurable and enduring social and economic change.
One of its programs is the Women’s Business Center of Ohio, which seeks to help women business owners access traditional credit and gain help for their businesses. For instance, female-owned firms are significantly more likely to be credit-constrained because of discouragement to apply for credit, according to the 2013 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.
At the WBC of Ohio, female entrepreneurs are provided with computers, Internet access, office supplies, printing and copying services, a resource library, one-on-one consultations with experts and training sessions.
WBC of Ohio’s goal is to help women become successful business owners, whether they have new startups or wish to take their business to the next level. These business leaders also can access the capital they need to grow their business through ECDI’s lending or Individual Development Account programs.
During the first 30 months in operation in Cleveland and Columbus, WBC of Ohio has provided training to 790 individuals and counseling to 273 individuals, while creating 104 jobs. An average of 10 businesses touch the center daily.
Women often have a more difficult time advancing in their business careers than men, and it concerned Tonya Tiggett enough that she founded Promoting University.
She knew that while there was a long-established structure in the corporate world that favored promoting men, there often was also another impediment: the confidence gap. Women are less likely than men to negotiate their salaries, ask for that promotion or put themselves forward for strategic assignments. Unless the confidence gap was addressed, many women leaders would not reach their fullest potential.
Promoting University offers confidence building, career advancement and personal-branding tools with classes such as “Promoting U: Using Career Common CENTS.”
To date, Promoting University has served 22 organizations — from nonprofit to Fortune 500 companies — and more than 2,000 people. Promoting University’s reach has grown from Columbus to Cincinnati, Cleveland, Chicago and New York. It will also be presenting topics in the United Kingdom.
Of the 22 organizations, 17 have been female-focused audiences with a need for communication techniques and career advancement tools to address the gap of females represented in assistant vice president and vice president levels in corporate environments. Promoting University employs or contracts with an all-female consultant base.
YWCA Columbus stands as one of the most influential and impactful organizations dedicated to meeting the changing needs of women from all walks of life — single women living in poverty, young, up-and-coming leaders or established corporate women.
Under the leadership of Elfi Di Bella, YWCA Columbus continues to innovate by creating new programs to address its evolving population and raise the dollars needed to support them, including:
- The Women’s Residency program supports women in transition with affordable housing. Since 2012, it has helped 88 percent of women move into permanent housing and 90 percent remained involved in mental health or alcohol and drug treatment programs during their YWCA stay.
- The Family Center provides emergency shelter and critical services to help stabilize homeless families, finding housing for them within three weeks. It has nearly 5,000 volunteers.
- Through YWCA’s Gen Y Leadership Project, young professional women engage in leadership development activities tied to their interests and talents. They connect with local resources that help guide them as they grow professionally and personally.
- The Bright Futures Leadership Program has been building the leadership skills of high school juniors for nearly 20 years. Today, more than 70 Central Ohio high schools participate in the initiative.
Progressive Woman finalists
Elfi Di Bella
President and CEO
Elfi Di Bella serves as a beacon of hope for young, single mothers — perhaps more so for her own personal story than the numerous accolades that have come her way as the president and CEO of YWCA Columbus.
After meeting and marrying an American soldier at age 17, Di Bella came to the U.S. from Germany. She soon found herself as a single mother, working days and attending college at night.
Today, when families at the Family Center and residents in the Women’s Residency program hear her recall the tumultuous years as a young adult, they are initially shocked that a successful community leader shared a similar plight.
Di Bella’s career began at Huntington Bank, where she rose through the ranks over her 28 years with the company.
During her time at Huntington, she was instrumental in securing funds to build the YWCA’s Family Center. Her love for the nonprofit community eventually led her to the YWCA in 2010.
Using her expertise from the banking world, Di Bella has increased YWCA’s budget and revenue by $2 million. She recently oversaw a fundraising campaign to transform the historic Griswold Building, sustain critical services provided by the Family Center and strengthen the organization’s endowment — all in one year.
Darci L. Congrove
GBQ Partners LLC
Darci L. Congrove, the first female managing director at GBQ Partners LLC, embodies what it means to break down barriers, whether in her role at the firm or playing a key role in the firm’s women’s initiative, wGBQ.
The initiative was launched by and for the women of GBQ to develop programs and activities to enhance the gender diversity of the firm’s workforce and mirror diversity in senior level positions at GBQ, retaining the best people to serve clients effectively and efficiently while fulfilling employee career aspirations.
Congrove leads the firm’s executive committee and is responsible for the overall leadership and strategic direction of the organization. In addition, she oversees the firm’s human resources and marketing functions.
Since becoming managing director, Congrove has led the firm’s growth to the tune of 12 percent. During that time, GBQ has received several national awards, including the INSIDE Public Accounting “Best of the Best” and “Top 200 Firm.” Both awards are based on firm financials and benchmarking data.
Congrove graduated from the Leadership Columbus program in 2003 and was chosen as one of the “12 Women You Should Know” in 2010 by the Women for Economic and Leadership Development (WELD).
Jolie N. Havens
Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP
As a young girl, Jolie N. Havens was at the center of a contentious custody battle. She never forgot the attorney who represented her mother — who made sure the two stayed together and demonstrated how lawyers can help people overcome significant obstacles in life.
During law school, Havens secured an entry-level project assistant position at Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP. She returned the next two summers as a project assistant and clerk. After graduating with honors, Havens accepted a position at the firm.
Over the next several years, Havens rose through the ranks: She became an equity partner and then group chair of the firm’s health care industry practice. At age 40, she was Vorys’ youngest practice group leader and one of only three women to ever lead a practice group in the firm’s 106-year history.
Havens was shaped by her childhood experiences and has dedicated her life to helping others. She works with hospitals, physician groups and health care providers to help them navigate changes in health care legislation, and has developed a reputation as a go-to expert on health care compliance and reimbursement issues.
She also serves as a role model for younger attorneys, showing them how they, too, can make a difference.
Senior vice president, human resources
Community Choice Financial Inc.
Pagle Helterbrand has risen through the ranks during her 23-year career at Community Choice Financial Inc., all while prevailing over multiple life challenges.
While she went to community college, Helterbrand started working full time as a customer service representative at one of Community Choice Financial’s retail locations.
Her commitment to customers and positive attitude resulted in her promotion to assistant manager and then manager. By age 20, she was in charge of a retail location.
Even as her career advanced and Helterbrand assumed full responsibility for the company’s HR and payroll operations, she dealt with personal challenges — from a husband that succumbed to substance abuse to being diagnosed with cervical cancer just before she learned she was pregnant to a child with a serious chronic illness.
Regardless of those challenges and the demands of her job, Helterbrand, who serves as senior vice president of human resources, went back to school to earn her bachelor’s degree in 2009 to demonstrate the importance of education and perseverance to her children.
Her dedication isn’t limited to herself and her family, Helterbrand has been the chief architect of the company’s “SmartTrack” program — a management development program that takes employees at every level and provides them with the tools and knowledge to move up.
Vice president of sales, Central and Southern Ohio
Medical Mutual of Ohio
Amber Hulme began her insurance career in 1997 as a receptionist at Huntington Insurance (formerly Sky Insurance).
Hulme’s rise is the product of hard work and a commitment to learning the industry.
By 2000, she was running day-to-day sales of Sky’s Columbus office and exceeded her sales goals for six straight years. She was involved in two mergers and by 2007 had been promoted five times — eventually becoming senior vice president.
That’s when Medical Mutual of Ohio came calling. As the oldest and largest Ohio-based health insurance company, Medical Mutual was looking to expand and enhance its Columbus base. Hulme was perfect for the job, and today serves as Medical Mutual’s vice president of sales, Central and Southern Ohio.
She hit the ground running — establishing and maintaining contacts throughout the two regions and building out the firm’s book of business.
Hulme is also involved in the community. She is secretary of YWCA’s board of directors, and volunteers on the boards of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Dublin AM Rotary board and Business Advisory Council. She also serves as a mentor to teenage girls through her board work at ROX (Ruling Our eXperiences).
Olga M. Starr
Skylight Financial Group
Growing up in the former Soviet Union, Olga M. Starr knew of economic collapse, political turmoil and poverty firsthand.
As a student studying journalism she was involved in independent media, which was being shut down by the dictatorial regime. In the late 1990s the persecution had gotten so severe Starr feared for her life, so at age 21 she came to the U.S.
Like many immigrants Starr started at the bottom, working two full-time jobs. But every free minute she had Starr studied English, as she saved money to buy a car.
In 2002, she got a job as a bank teller, and over the next three years was promoted to personal banker and got her investment and insurance licenses. Starr also earned her MBA while working full time.
After becoming an assistant manager and personal financial counselor, starting her own financial planning practice seemed like a natural progression.
In early 2013, Starr joined Skylight Financial Group as a financial planner with a goal of serving the underserved. Understanding the direct relationship between lack of financial education and poverty, she decided to dedicate resources for outreach into the African-American and LGBT communities, along with helping small businesses start and grow.
Marti Taylor, MSN, RN
CEO, University Hospital
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
This March, Marti Taylor, MSN, RN, achieved a notable first. She was appointed CEO of University Hospital at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center — the first person with a nursing background to have the job.
Her journey started in 1982 when she pursued a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Capital University in Columbus, and then sought opportunities at hospitals in North Carolina and Georgia before joining OSU as a hospital executive.
Along the way, patients, colleagues and medical centers have benefited from her passion to improve health by creating effective health care delivery systems, developing clinical and administrative excellence and supporting new ways to prevent and treat debilitating diseases.
Returning to Ohio in 2012, Taylor took on the role of executive director at the Ross Heart Hospital and COO of Ohio State’s Heart and Vascular Center.
Already, Taylor has accomplished much at OSU. She led construction of a radial lounge and hybrid OR/Cath suite; with her team, increased affiliations for the heart hospital by 20 percent in two years; partnered with the OSU College of Nursing to create a nurse research program; and developed a standardized ambulatory approach to care.
Taylor also has directed quality initiatives and helped record patient satisfaction scores in the 97th percentile.
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is one of America’s top-ranked academic medical centers. Our mission is to improve people’s lives through innovation in research, education and patient care. As an integral part of one of our nation’s largest and most comprehensive land grant institutions, Wexner Medical Center is home to more than 20 research centers and institutes and 25 core research laboratories that promote collaborations and discoveries benefiting humankind.
Educational opportunities abound within our nationally ranked college of medicine. We are one of the few schools in the world to offer five dual medical degree programs, where a doctor of medicine degree can be earned along with another professional degree. Our school of health and rehabilitation sciences educates and trains a cadre of health care specialists who are positively impacting the lives of people around the world. More than 65 accredited graduate and residency programs train more than 800 residents and fellows annually. In addition, Ohio State’s Web-based continuing medical education programs support physicians in 130 countries each year.
Clinical excellence is the norm at Wexner Medical Center, which was ranked third among the 104 academic medical centers by the University HealthSystem Consortium; is one of 12 academic medical centers to receive a 2014 Quality Leadership Award by UHC; and has been nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report for 23 consecutive years. With more than 1,200 beds, Ohio State delivers care in every medical specialty, supports numerous regional and state health care programs and provided more than $140 million in community benefit during FY14.
The Hilton Columbus/Polaris is committed to women-based programs, diversity and women-based executive leadership.
Three executive leadership team members are women — general manager, director of sales and front office manager. Four active female associates from our hotel have been on the corporate leadership team at one point or another for our parent company, Crescent Hotels & Resorts LLC.
In addition, amongst 162 active associates, there have been 29 promotions in five years for female associates. Out of 32 managers and supervisors 17 of them are females, which is the majority of the leadership team.
In the past year, the hotel has partnered with Dress for Success, which helps with needed items for women preparing to enter the workforce. The hotel also partners with Dancing Divas, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to empowering and inspiring women of all ages to achieve personal growth, strength, physical and mental health.
Helping women achieve their goals is smart business. At Cardinal Health, we fully believe in the power of gender partnerships to promote equality for our employees, customer and supplier partners. With many programs like our Women’s Initiative Network (WIN), Women and Partners Leading Change and Women in Pharmacy, we seek to foster partnerships which create a great place for women to work and grow their careers, while building a sustainable competitive advantage.
Headquartered in Dublin, Cardinal Health is a $103 billion health care services company that improves the cost-effectiveness of health care. As the business behind health care, Cardinal Health helps pharmacies, hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers and physician offices focus on patient care while reducing costs, enhancing efficiency and improving quality. Cardinal Health is an essential link in the health care supply chain, providing pharmaceuticals and medical products to more than 60,000 locations each day. Ranked No. 26 on the Fortune 500, Cardinal Health employs nearly 34,000 people worldwide.
The Charles Penzone Salons has been committed to our community and giving back to many local and national causes since 1969. Our professionals selflessly volunteer their time and talent to many programs and events. Additionally, The Charles Penzone Salons contribute to many nonprofit groups to help raise community awareness and funds.
We believe in the power of our professionals and have witnessed the little miracles that have been made through our contributions. We strongly believe in the power of woman empowerment. Through our various contributions to women-focused organizations such as Komen Columbus, Dress For Success Columbus, the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women and YWCA, we have been able to utilize our talents in a way that makes women feel valued. Debra Penzone is also an active member of the Women Presidents’ Organization where she learns from women presidents in Central Ohio.
We consider all of the women in Columbus part of our family of salons.
Nationwide is proud to be a sponsor of the 2015 Smart Women Breakfast. At Nationwide, our vision of success for diversity and inclusion is to create an environment where all of our associates’ voices are heard and valued, and our members know “Nationwide is on your side®.”
We congratulate the many women and men who are being featured and honored. Whether holding leadership positions in one of our business units, leading major strategic initiatives or supporting women associate resource groups, women play a major role in Nationwide’s success.
As a Fortune 100 Best Company to Work For, we are proud of the many contributions women have made to our company and are honored to celebrate their achievements.
Diversity and inclusion are part of Huntington Bank’s overall business strategy. We benefit from an inclusive culture that includes capable women on the board of directors, the executive team and throughout the organization, while working hard to leverage our inclusion in ways that make us a better organization and community partner. Chairman, President and CEO Stephen Steinour often says it best: “One of our biggest opportunities to invest comes in the form of people. Whether it’s our customers, our shareholders, our colleagues or within our communities, we have a responsibility to make a difference in the lives of others.”
By including women, millennials, veterans, LGBT and people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds in the life of our organization and in our community engagement, we build a culture fueled by diversity of thought. And that informs how we treat our partners, how we contribute to our communities, and how we provide our customers with the products and services they want and need.
GREENCREST is honored to be a sponsor of the inaugural Smart Women Awards in Central Ohio. Columbus has a robust number of women business owners and key women executives. We have greatly benefitted as a company and as a community from their influence and leadership.
GREENCREST is a woman-owned business that was inspired in 1990 by founder, Kelly Borth. Borth was a charter member of the Columbus NAWBO Chapter in the early 90s. She is a past president and co-founder of the NAWBO Visionary Awards and Women Business Roundtables. She also started the NAWBO Advisory Board and is a past Visionary recipient. Borth served as a mentor for several recognized women-owned businesses in Central Ohio. She led the local Circle of Red to record numbers in two separate years, bringing top women in the community together to support the No. 1 killer of women — heart disease.
GREENCREST’s team is a mix of male and female executives, but the company has traditionally employed more female executives than male, which is not unusual for the industry. GREENCREST is associated with the Women Presidents’ Organization and Vistage — organizations that provide executive leadership training and support diversity within their membership.
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