This year, NAFE reviewed an unprecedented number of nominations for our Women of Excellence Awards. We saw a marked increase in the number of diverse women nominated, as well as a stunningly high caliber of accomplishments across the board. We are pleased to be honoring 16 women this November 30 at the NAFE Women of Excellence Awards Breakfast at the Yale Club in New York City, where the honorees will share elements of the remarkable—though often unremarked—work they are doing to ensure the success of women and girls. Here are thumbnail biographies of the 2017 honorees and why we find them so remarkable.
Woman of Achievement
Woman of Achievement is a woman at the top of her game, who has had a successful career—and equally important—uses her power and influence to advance other women.
Jennifer Taubert is Company Group Chairman for Johnson & Johnson and leads the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of J&J throughout the Americas. Her businesses bring in revenues in excess of $20 billion, representing more than 30 percent of J&J's total revenue. She is a member of the corporation’s management committee and the Pharmaceuticals Group operating committee.
In her corporate role, Jennifer has built a portfolio of nine blockbuster therapies, commercializing new medicines for cancer, immune-related diseases, heart disease and diabetes, infectious diseases including HIV, and other disorders. She has been instrumental in the corporation’s growth, which has doubled in size to become the #1 pharmaceutical company in the U.S. and Canada. In human terms, this means that Jennifer’s teams reached and improved the lives of over 14 million people last year.
Jennifer is widely known for her commitment to the advancement of women. Notably, she brought women onto her leadership team in the following roles: three business presidents, a chief scientific officer, a chief financial officer, chief strategic customer officer, information technology lead, and HR head. In total, women and people of color hold approximately two-thirds of the organization’s most senior roles—and she stresses that her leaders build diverse teams throughout the organization. Jennifer serves as executive sponsor of the J&J Alliance for Disability Leadership employee resource group and personally mentors several high-potential female and diverse individuals across J&J.
In 2017, under Jennifer’s direction, Janssen Pharmaceuticals published the industry’s first Transparency Report, disclosing information about pricing and other business practices. She serves on the executive committee of the Healthcare Leadership Council, a coalition of executives from all disciplines within healthcare. She is also a member of the National Academy of Medicine Leadership Consortium for Value and Science-Driven Healthcare. Jennifer represents Johnson & Johnson on the executive committee of the International Section of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).
Fortune magazine named Jennifer to its 2016 “Most Powerful Women” list. She holds a bachelor’s degree in pharmacology and a master’s of business administration.
Legacy Award goes to a woman who, throughout a successful career, has made advancing women a key priority.
Sharon Taylor led Prudential’s human resources function with courage and distinction for 15 years, retiring in August this year. She assumed that role as Prudential went public in 2001, expanding the breadth, depth and reach of people-related programs with rollouts to both global and field office locations. She also transformed the approach to leadership development and to talent and succession management, and she expanded work/life and health programs.
For many years the highest-ranking African-American woman within the firm, Sharon demonstrated a passion for creating development opportunities for women and people of color. She helped create the influential network known as the Senior Women’s Group for division vice president or higher. In addition, sixteen business-specific women’s organizations formed during her tenure and with her support. She was an advisor for the Black Leadership Forum, a business resource group introduced in 2003.
Sharon also served as Chair of The Prudential Foundation and worked to align Prudential’s corporate social responsibility strategy and business strategy, with focus on enabling people of all abilities and impacting underserved communities. Sharon has helped to build the next generation of diverse executive talent through Prudential’s sponsorship of CALIBR. Outside her work life, Sharon has advanced economic development, public safety and workforce development in the city of Newark as past chair of the Newark Alliance and as a member of the Executive Committee of the Newark Regional Business Partnership. She is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the Advisory Board of La Raza and the Human Resources Policy Association. In 2013, she was inducted into the National Academy of Human Resources in recognition of her accomplishments and contributions to the profession.
P&L Executive of the Year
P&L Executive of the Year recognizes a woman who runs a major enterprise within an organization and abets the progress of other women into positions with profit-and-loss responsibility.
Debra Polishook is group chief executive of Accenture Operations, a multi-billion-dollar P&L, where she leads the team charged with developing, selling and delivering infrastructure, cloud and business process services. This post, which Debbie assumed in 2016, put her on the Global Management Committee, the top table with peers of other Group Chief Executives running Accenture. In 2017 she was appointed to the board of directors of Avanade Inc., an Accenture unit that provides cloud and digital services through the Microsoft ecosystem.
Debbie joined Accenture 1985 and became a partner in 1997. NAFE honors her for the way she uses her success to advocate for other women and help them get ahead. She has made it a personal mission to help Accenture achieve a gender-balanced workforce—50 percent women and 50 percent men—by 2025. A corporate board member says she “is a role model and mentor for the next generation of women in leadership and a passionate advocate for their success and equality of opportunity.”
Outside the corporation, Debbie is active in the Woman to Woman mentoring program at Tulane University. She is deeply involved in Back on My Feet, a unique running-based nonprofit that works to revolutionize the way we deal with homelessness. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in economics and a master’s degree in business administration.
Community Connector is a woman dedicated to bringing women together across companies and industries for mutual success.
Alexandra Contreras serves as Senior Analyst, Global Diversity & Inclusion for Colgate-Palmolive, supporting the company’s commitment to an inclusive work environment. Alex has fostered partnerships with organizations that empower women and other diverse groups, including the Asia Women Leadership Network, Proud to be Latina, Red Shoe Movement, Futures & Options, and Team Pegine. The Chief HR Officer of the Clinton Foundation says that a passion for diversity and inclusion are “not a job to [Alexandra]. It is part of her DNA.”
Alex was one of the founding members of the Madrinas, a group that works to empower Latinas and provide networking and other professional experiences to help them advance. At the group’s inception in 2002 at Working Mother Media’s first corporate Women of Color Summit, Alex became part of its board of directors as chair of the membership committee. She continues to serve as advisor to the organization. She is also instrumental in planning an annual in-person networking event for Latinas from all over New York, held in cooperation with Colgate. Alex was a leader in the Corporate Hispanic Achievers organization during its 15-year existence.
Alex is an advisory board member of Bard Early College Schools. In 2011, she received the New York City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Diversity Leadership Award. She holds a bachelor of business administration with a major in human resources management.
Community Service Award
Community Service Award goes to a woman who is changing the face of neighborhoods through initiatives to provide services that benefit other women and/or girls.
Lisa Veneziano is the Executive Director of Global Aftersales Supply Chain, Warehousing & Logistics at General Motors. She joined GM in 1986 and now she leads the organization that handles replacement parts and accessories for GM vehicles, overseeing 110+ warehouses in 35 countries.
Lisa is widely known for her advocacy and mentorship activities. Within GM, she is a member of the Women’s Advisory Council and president of the local Women’s Resource Group. She is also executive sponsor for the company’s Take-2 internship program for employees returning to the workplace after a career break. And this accomplished athlete has completed 14 Boston Marathons and was named Michigan Runner of the Year for five consecutive years.
NAFE honors her for her work in the larger community, where she donates her time to a number of nonprofits, including the American Corporate Partners’ Veteran Mentoring Program, which helps service men and women transition from the armed forces to private enterprise. She is deeply involved with the YMCA’s SAFE House project for domestic violence victims. The CEO of the Greater Flint YMCA states, “Hundreds of women and children have directly benefited from [Lisa’s] dedication to our mission.” Her efforts include donation initiatives resulting in truckloads of gifts, food, basic needs and treats for the shelter’s residents.
Lisa holds a bachelor's of science degree in industrial engineering and a master’s in business administration.
Corporate Women’s Champion
Corporate Women’s Champion supports and implements programs and policies that enable and encourage women’s advancement.
Rebecca Pomering is a study in perseverance, climbing the corporate ladder one rung at a time. She joined Moss Adams in 1997 and spent 11 years as a management consultant, working with wealth management firms across the country on management and business strategy. In 2008 she was named CEO of Moss Adams Wealth Advisors, a division of Moss Adams LLP. In August 2016 Rebecca assumed the role of Chief Practice Officer, overseeing the firm’s client service and growth strategies. She also leads the company’s Private Client Services practice.
NAFE honors her for her concerted efforts to increase the number of women partners and leaders at the firm. She is a founding member of the Moss Adams Forum W, an initiative launched in 2008 that works to increase opportunities for women in the accounting profession—and Moss Adams now has more women partners than the industry average. Moss Adams’ current CEO says, “Rebecca is highly impactful at the individual level and is truly unique at mentoring and inspiring success in others.”
Rebecca is also a founding member and sponsor of InfluenceHer, an initiative of the Boys & Girls Clubs that helps girls advance via academic success, healthy lifestyles, and leadership. She serves on several nonprofit boards including the Seattle Repertory Theatre and the Women's Funding Alliance, which works to close the gender pay gap in the Seattle area. She has been honored with inclusion on a number of prestigious lists like Accounting Today’s 100 Most Influential People in Accounting, InvestmentNews’s Women to Watch, and Wealth Manager’s 50 Top Women in Wealth.
Rebecca has co-authored two books on business management: Building Leverage and Capacity: The Challenge of Growth and Practice Made (More) Perfect: Transforming a Financial Advisory Practice Into a Business. She holds a B.S. in finance.
Diversity Innovator is figuring out new ways to propel diverse individuals into the senior ranks.
Mita Mallick is Senior Director, Diversity Outreach Inclusion & Employer Brand, North America, for Unilever where she oversees strategies for achieving gender balance at manager level and above. The work has paid off, increasing people of color representation at the corporation and achieving a gender-balanced workforce at manager level and above, according to Gail Gifford, VP, Global Digital Innovation.
Mita’s work covers diversity in all its forms. As a pioneer in the “Every Voice Matters. Every Story Celebrated” initiative at Unilever, she met with hundreds of employees from diverse backgrounds. Unilever received a 100% score on the HRC Corporate Equality Index for Best Places to Work - LGBT Equality in 2016 and 2017. Mita is deeply committed to Business Resource Groups within the company. There are now 10 BRGs with 5,000+ members across North America.
Mita has worked to improve programs for working moms at Unilever, ensuring they have the best internal resources. She is one of the executive sponsors of GALvanize, Unilever’s women’s network. She is a strong believer in engagement and has been instrumental in giving more than 200 employees the chance to participate in programs like MAKERS, Multicultural Women’s Conference, Network Affinity Leadership Conference, and the NAFE Leadership Summit. She also worked with market research to launch first ever model where business resource groups could be used as focus groups by brands. Not only did the company save money, but also has been another form of increasing employee engagement. One corporate director sums up her work like this: “Mita is not only breaking ground—she’s creating an entirely new playing field within Unilever.”
Mita was a MAKER Awardee in 2016, and made Women’s Wear Daily’s list of “50 People Under 40 Shaking Up Beauty.” She is on the fundraising committee for Columbia University’s School of the Arts and holds a B.A. and an M.B.A.
Global Women's Envoy
Global Women’s Envoy is a woman dedicated to the advancement of women on a global scale.
Janet Balis is a Partner and Global Advisory Services Leader for Media & Entertainment at Ernst & Young LLP. Using her extensive experience in cross-platform media, Janet now focuses on digital strategy for EY. Earlier posts included publisher of The Huffington Post and partner and CRO for betaworks, an innovative studio of startups and investments.
Janet is a passionate advocate for gender parity. In 2016, she sponsored “Accelerating the Path to Leadership for Women in Marketing and Media,” a study from She Runs It and powered by EY and LinkedIn, that was discussed on the main stage at Advertising Week. Janet acts as one of EY’s public ambassadors with public speaking, major events, published content, and broadcast commercials. She has written about gender bias and women in leadership and in digital innovation for the Harvard Business Review and blog posts on LinkedIn.
Despite the demands of her senior leadership role at EY, Janet takes the time to connect and support other women and aspiring talent across the industry. Janet—an accomplished classical musician—holds an M.B.A. and a B.A., and was named as an Advertising Age 2010 Women to Watch and a Crains Top 40 Under 40 in 2006. She serves on the boards of She Runs It (formerly Advertising Women of New York), the International Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Public Radio Exchange.
Dr. Lisa Shipley
Healthcare Champion is committed to improving women’s health and to the success of women in healthcare.
Dr. Lisa Shipley serves as Vice President and Global Head Pharmacokinetics, Pharmacodynamics and Drug Metabolism for Merck & Co., Inc. This role entails target identification, selection of preclinical candidates from four research sites, and development of drug candidates. One of Lisa's key accomplishments has been changing the way drug discovery and development is conducted at Merck, modernizing clinical and pragmatic trials like dried blood spots, home sampling and digital health, resulting in faster decision-making, improved learning cycles, and reduced costs.
The mentorship of this outstanding female scientist and R&D executive is legendary. Her immediate supervisor at Merck says: “Lisa serves as a highly respected and talented role model for young women scientists and technical leaders to observe and emulate.” While working for Eli Lilly and Company (a former employer), Lisa was co-founder of the company’s Women’s Network and a founding member of FAMILY (Females and Minorities at Lilly) Committee, which aimed to recruit and retain female and minority senior scientists. Now she is executive sponsor for Merck’s Women in Science Symposium. She also serves on the Conference Board Leadership Council on Advancing Women and the Bias Interrupters Working Group (Center for WorkLife Law at University of California - Hastings).
Lisa has authored or co-authored three book chapters, over 25 journal articles, 40 abstracts on pharmaceutical topics, and has been granted five patents. Honors include the Chairman’s Ovation Award for leadership in motivating and developing people, the LRL President’s Award for Diversity, and the Chairman’s Award in Environmental Health and Safety. Lisa received a B.A. in Biology from McDaniel College (formerly Western Maryland College) and a Ph.D. in Pharmacology & Toxicology from University of Maryland at Baltimore.
Mentor of the Year
Kin Ching (KC) Wu
Mentor of the Year is a champion who goes above and beyond to advise, motivate and advocate for women.
Kin Ching (KC) Wu is Senior Vice President, Operations Architecture for Cisco, a role she assumed in January of 2016. KC has 30 years of experience in operations, supply chain and information technology. She started at Cisco in 1994 as program manager and “through hard work, strategic partnerships and a customer first attitude, is now SVP,” as one colleague explains it.
KC is passionate about workplace inclusion, and we honor her for her efforts in this area. At Cisco, she is well known for her one-on-one mentoring of “all who arrive at her door, especially women,” according to a co-worker. Another colleague added, “KC constantly invests her time and commitment to promote diversity and provide opportunities for those less fortunate.”
Featured recently in Diversity Woman magazine, KC was nicknamed The STEM Evangelist. It is her personal mission to bring young girls and women into the fields of science and technology. She is the executive sponsor for Cisco’s Connected Disabilities Awareness Network, Connected Asian Affinity Network, and Men for Inclusion organizations. Recent professional honors include a 2016 Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business award, and a 2016 YWCA Silicon Valley Tribute to Women and Industry award. KC has a bachelor of science degree in mathematics and chemistry and a master of science degree in industrial engineering.
NAFE Ace is a NAFE member with a commitment to NAFE networks and her community.
Shelly Rufin saw a need for her particular skill set among college hopefuls and created a company to help them. As a former Director of Financial Aid and Scholarships for several American universities, she struck out on her own and formed EDFIN Cash for College Programs and the EDFIN TV/Radio Show. The mission of EDFIN is to “provide affordable educational consulting services to graduating high school students, returning students and the unemployed.” With 25 years of experience in the college finance field, this professional college planner provides advice to students and their families on how to complete those daunting admissions applications, write winning essays, excel at aptitude tests, and figure out how to pay for college once admission is achieved.
Shelly is an active NAFE member and promotes the organization whenever and wherever she can. Robbie Motter, NAFE’s Global Coordinator, praises Shelly’s work with college-bound youth and reports that many of Shelly’s successes seek her out after graduation to “thank her for caring and helping them through the maze… to get in the college of their choice.”
She is the author of Nine Key Decisions of Better College Planning, Better Life: Making College DREAMS a Reality. She is certified by the Federal Student Aid School Relations Division (Department of Education) Title IV Funding Administration, and Western Association of Student Financial Aid Administration: Student Loan Administration. She holds a B.S. in Management, M.S. in Human Services, M.S. in Clinical Counseling/Neuroscience and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Psychology-Industrial Organization.
Dr. Sheila Robinson
Outstanding Entrepreneur is a woman who has built a successful company and contributes to the success of other women.
Dr. Sheila Robinson is the owner and publisher of Diversity Woman magazine. In an earlier role, Sheila served as Marketing Director for DuPont’s textiles division. After 14 years with DuPont, her division was sold and Sheila was faced with a move. She chose to pursue her lifelong dream of starting a magazine, creating a forum for her strong commitment to providing a much-needed resource for other African-American women.
In her new role as publisher, Sheila first launched North Carolina Career Network. Her first publication was so successful that in 2008 Sheila expanded the magazine to the national market—and Diversity Woman was born. When she faced the economic crisis of 2008 with its concomitant drop in advertising, she restructured the business model and today the company thrives. The editor-in-chief of her Diversity Woman Media group says, “Sheila is an exemplary supervisor, strong leader, and visionary in the field of women’s leadership… [and] has that rare ability to think big.”
Sheila has emerged as a positive role model for professional women. In 2009 she received the MEAC Image Award for her career achievements. Other honors include the 2011 Minority Business Person of the Year by the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce and inclusion in the 2012 Diversity MBA Top 100 Leaders by Diversity MBA Magazine. At 2013’s 50th March on the Capital celebration, Sheila received Kingonomics’s Corporate Diversity Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She holds a B.A. (pre-law), a master’s degree in entrepreneurship and innovation, and a doctorate of education in talent management.
The Latin Recording Academy
Rising Star is an up-and-coming female executive with less than 15 years at a company.
Davina Aryeh is Chief Marketing Officer with The Latin Recording Academy—which produces the Latin Grammys. This rising star sales and marketing executive has global experience in the sports and entertainment industry, and has increased her employer’s sponsorship income by over 200 percent in 5 years’ time.
Davina is the driving force behind her employer’s new “Leading Ladies Awards” program, set to launch in 2017-2018. The awards will honor women making a difference in the entertainment industry and highlight behind-the-scenes female power players in the arts and other fields. She is a devoted mentor to other women and a frequent speaker at female empowerment events. Her company’s president and CEO describes Davina as “an adamant advocate for the equal opportunity of women in the workplace.” A music executive from another firm describes watching Davina grow her department at The Latin Recording Academy from a one-person show to a team of “four relentless, goal-accomplishing women.”
She has also spearheaded corporate fundraising and sponsorship for the company’s new Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation, raising $400,000 for musical instruments for inner city schools. Davina holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with dual majors in government and French, as well as an M.B.A.
STEM Champion for Women and Girls
STEM Champion for Women and Girls is a woman who has achieved personal success in a STEM field and then uses her influence to ensure that women and girls have the tools they need to succeed in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Corlis Murray is Abbott’s top engineer and Senior Vice President, Quality Assurance, Regulatory and Engineering Services, with fiscal responsibility of $400+ million. Prior to this position, which she assumed in 2012, Corlis held various engineering roles at Abbott, as well as at Recognition Equipment and Xerox. She joined the company in 1989 and is a strong team player: once asked to leave Manufacturing to run Global Quality for Nutrition—not her dream job—Corlis “did not hesitate to do what the business needed,” reported her supervisor at the time.
As a black female professional engineer, Corlis is sharply aware of the dearth of women and people of color in her field, and NAFE honors her for the work she is doing to change those numbers. In conjunction with University Relations, she initiated a high school engineering intern program—now in its sixth successful year. For younger students, Corlis puts together engineers and middle schoolers for an intensive five-day program of innovative, hands-on projects to encourage interest in STEM careers. Corlis’ leadership at the annual Power of the Purse STEM Conference for minority high school girls inspires those students to pursue careers in engineering and related fields, regardless of barriers. As a side benefit, her work on these projects has created a new conduit of talent for the corporation, and many of the alumna have advanced to Abbott’s Professional Development Program for promising college students.
Corlis supports the Women Engineers Network, and serves on the Executive Steering Committee for the Black Business Network. She is on the Board of the Clara Abbott Foundation, serving as chair of the program committee and member of the executive committee. The Foundation provides scholarships and other financial aid for Abbott employees and their families. Black Enterprise Magazine honored her twice as one of the 50 Top African American Female Executives, and In 2013 she received the Black Engineer of the Year Award: Emerald Honoree for Science and Technology: Scientist of the Year. Corlis holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering.
Dana Robbins Schneider
Sustainability Champion is a woman who through her career and influence is working to stem the depletion of the world’s natural resources and maintain an ecological balance.
Dana Robbins Schneider leads JLL’s Energy and Sustainability Projects team nationally and heads the Northeast division, a region that includes New York City, Boston, and Washington, D.C. Her focus on increasing energy efficiency and reducing the footprint of the built environment has earned her NAFE’s honor of Sustainability Champion.
Dana joined JLL in 2002. In 2007, she identified a growing trend in energy and sustainability and made a convincing business case that this should be a new service line at JLL. Dana doesn’t think small: in 2001, she led the whole-building energy retrofit of the Empire State Building and achieved LEED EBOM Gold certification for the most famous office building in the world. Since then, Dana has replicated the energy optimization process from the Empire State Building in dozens of projects across the U.S.
Dana is a champion for the women at JLL and within the green building industry at large. One of her employees reports that Dana has signed her up for training, volunteered her for pitches and speaking opportunities, and advocated to get her promotions and fair compensation.
Dana is a LEED Fellow, a technical resource expert for the Clinton Climate Initiative, and Vice Chair of the USGBC’s Technical Advisory Group for Indoor Environmental Quality. She was named to Engineering News Record’s “20 under 40” in 2011, New Jersey Real Estate’s “30 Under 30” in March, 2007, and Engineering Design and Construction’s “40 under 40” in 2009. Dana is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Virginia.
Visionary Leadership Award
Visionary Leadership Award goes to a woman has demonstrated innovative ways of leading that have led to breakthroughs for other women.
Monica Turner is Vice President, Selling & Market Operations for Procter & Gamble. NAFE honors her for her powerful yet compassionate leadership, which she exhibits in every activity she undertakes. One corporate president sums up Monica’s achievements like this: “She has made it a priority to lend her position, stature and expertise to break down gender bias and effect positive change for women inside and outside of P&G.”
Monica’s leadership on diversity issues is seen through her work with P&G’s US Sales Talent Council, where she pushes to identify top talent and forces the question ‘why not?’ when considering women and minorities for crucial positions. She serves on the Corporate Women’s Leadership Team, which was instrumental in P&G’s decision to take on gender bias as a corporate priority. The Chief HR Officer says, “As a result of Monica’s leadership, we have made continuous improvement of representation of women and minorities in US Sales positions in each of the last two years. “ Outside the company, Monica chairs the Network of Executive Women’s Partnership Committee and is a member of the Catalyst Advisory Board.
Monica holds a B.A. in marketing and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, an organization committed to “public service with a primary focus on the Black community.”