Women Make the World Go Around: Top 15 Influential Ladies in DC

By: Kiley Doll

We’re running Washington, ladies. That bacon sizzling in the entrepreneurial pan — all ours. We brought it home, sliced it up, and are frying it up like never before. Here are a few facts that prove women in DC are rocking it right now:

  • We have the first ever female mayor, Muriel Bowser.
  • We’ve also had the first ever female chancellor and chief of police in recent years.
  • We have more women in Congress than ever before.
  • Washington has the highest percentage of women-owned businesses relative to men-owned and equally-owned at 45%.

All in all, we have a lot to be proud of and it’s all down to a major shift in our own attitudes and belief systems. We’re not taking a step back anymore. Instead, we’re grabbing the reins and taking charge of who we are, not only as entrepreneurs and business women but as sisters, mothers, daughters, friends… all the hats we whip on and off interchangeably throughout the day.

As a businesswoman with over three decades of hard grafting behind me, I fully appreciate and recognize the strength displayed by so many powerful women in the business world. I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating and working with several well-known household brands including Amazon, EO, and Berkshire Hathaway in North America, Europe, and Africa. I was born to a bootstrapping pro — there are no two ways about it. Business growth and development are my bread and butter; I know how to make the most of the tools that are available to any business and use them to create a powerful rapid growth plan.

I grew up in a “man’s world” and that’s not a negative thing. As a military brat, I needed to learn to adapt quickly and reinvent myself one too many times. Moving around a lot, learning to think on my feet, and constantly introducing myself to new people gave me the skills I needed to really kick some butt in the real estate game. I refuse to be told I can’t do something when I truly believe I can. That’s what’s motivated me in my leadership role at Goodman Lantern as well. I know I can help start-ups succeed — as long as they have a clear goal in mind. Female empowerment is close to my heart. I believe in “giving back” to the communities and neighborhoods we live and work in. With my volunteer work both in Africa and back home, I realized that the only way to make a difference is to get in there and start making a change. I joined the Ellevate network to foster my love of mentorship. Mentoring women isn’t about placing one gender above another, it’s about realizing that it should be the right person for the right job.

This is my list (in no particular order) of some of the most influential women in the DC area; women who deserve major kudos for the way they inspire all of us to take the proverbial bull by the horns.

1. DeRionne Pollard — President of Montgomery College

DeRionne has been the President of Montgomery College since 2010. The three-campus institution is home to over 60 000 credit and non-credit students and has an intense focus on training for future jobs in high tech. This influential woman has forged partnerships with Montgomery County Public Schools and the Universities at Shady Grove to develop a support program that assists students in transitioning from high school to college.

2. Sanola Daley — Co- President of the Ellevate Network’s Washington DC Chapter

Sanola is the Global Women’s Employment Lead of Manufacturing, Agribusiness, and Services for the International Finance Corporation (IFC). She’s also taken on the role of co-president of the Ellevate Network’s Washington DC chapter; helping to organize leadership development and networking events for professional women. Her passion lies in using innovative approaches to engage organizations on women’s employment, gender equality, and inclusive leadership.

3. Monica Kang — CEO of InnovatorsBox

Monica left her career in nuclear security to found InnovatorsBox, an educational firm that helps professionals tap into their creativity. She firmly believes that everyone is creative at their core, and that they can harness this innate creativity to inspire personal and professional growth. A well-recognized thought leader in creative leadership and education, Monica has worked with clients worldwide including Fortune 500 companies, higher education, government, and nonprofits.

4. Susan Fisher Sterling — Director at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

Susan Fisher Sterling’s career centers around the message of “equity for women through the example of excellence in the arts”. During her four-year tenure as director of the museum, Susan has helped the institution to flourish in even the toughest times. For the last two years, NMWA has received the highest national ratings for sound fiscal management. The museum’s collection includes over 4,000 artworks from women around the globe. It is also home to a library and research center that contain over 19,000 print, electronic and video items, archival files on 18,000 artists; and a multitude collected papers. As director, Susan has been instrumental in the development of innovative education programs and curricula that offer much needed cultural literacy to both national and local schools.

5. Sarah Chen — Chief Strategy Officer at Bloxed & Founding Partner at The Billion Dollar Fund for Women

As a global investment professional, Sarah has recently been appointed to the board of BEACON DC, a partnership between the Washington DC Mayor’s office, Google, and Georgetown University to elevate female entrepreneurship in the United States. She is Chief Strategy Officer of Bloxed, a tech startup that is focused on solving the problem of eroding trust in digital assets. Additionally, she is Co-Founder of The Billion Dollar Fund for Women, a global consortium of venture funds committed to investing $100 million in women entrepreneurs by 2020.

6. Janice Omadeke — Founder & CEO of the The Mentor Method

Janice is the CEO and Founder of The Mentor Method, a DC-based company focused on creating inclusive workplace cultures by mentoring diverse talent. The company aims to develop lasting connections between budding tech entrepreneurs and mentors who are experts in their field. The Mentor Method also offers courses that provide guidance for navigating a career with confidence; helping employees and employers to capitalize on diversity and inclusion in business.

7. Charlene M Dukes — President of Prince George’s Community College

Dr. Charlene Dukes is President of Prince George’s Community College, which serves 40,000 students with more than 200 degree, workforce development, and continuing education programs. In her role as president, Charlene helped gain a $5-million National Science Foundation grant to create the National Cyberwatch Center, headquartered at Prince’s George’s.

8. Claire Alexander — GVP & GM at Capterra

As General Manager of Capterra, Claire spearheads the world’s leading software discovery and reviews platform for small and new businesses. Backed by nearly two decades of experience in digital strategy, new product development and go-to-market leadership across the media, clean tech, education tech and advertising tech industries, she is the ideal female powerhouse to oversee all day-to-day operations and lead the strategic vision for the organization. Previously, Claire held a variety of executive roles within Oracle Data USA, AddThis, LearnZillion, Opower, and Discovery Communications.

9. Serene Al-Momen — Founder & CEO at Senseware

As the founder of Senseware, Serene has developed a full-stack IoT solution of hardware, software, and cloud data. The company’s out-of-the-box smart building solution offers customers a simple way to integrate, monitor, and control building systems in real-time. Serene holds a Ph.D. degree in IT and is a certified PMP, SCM, ITIL, and SCJP. Before founding Senseware, she spent over a decade managing mission critical projects and overseeing large, 40-person teams, and managing an annual budget of at least $10M.

10. Alexandra Jaritz — Senior Vice President and Global Head of Tru by Hilton

Alexandra is the driving force behind the launch of Tru by Hilton, Hilton’s midscale brand. Tru was born from the firm belief that guests traveling on a budget should not have to compromise on having a fantastic hotel experience. Grabbing hold of the “CEO” title of the Tru Brand, with full P&L responsibility, her success is measured by the development, launch, and growth of the brand to over 500 agreements in various stages of development within a 24-month time frame. Alexandra has almost single handedly made Tru the fastest growing brand in Hilton’s portfolio.

11. Simone Wu — Senior Vice President, General Counsel, Corporate Secretary & External Affairs at Choice Hotels International

In addition to her role at Choice Hotels International, Simone serves on the Board of Directors of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association and the Association of Corporate Counsel-National Capital Region. She is backed by over 20 years of legal and regulatory experience, including expertise in corporate matters, mergers & acquisitions, international & domestic commercial transactions, joint ventures, litigation, employment law and technology & intellectual property issues.She’s fighting for more diversity in hospitality, and doing it one giant step at a time.

12. Allison Dyer — Audit and Assurance Partner, Group Partner-in-Charge

Allison’s 25 year career at Deloitte is more than a job to her. She is passionate about the growth of the firm’s audit practice as well as the development of people. Allison serves both public and private companies, specializing in real estate and construction and hospitality. She is incredibly passionate about leadership development for women and girls of all ages and creeds. Because of her deep-seated need to foster female empowerment, she serves on the Leadership Council of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation.

13. Maris Angolia — President & CEO of Karin’s Florist

Maris is the President and CEO of Karin’s Florist in Vienna, VA, a family-owned business that was started by her father and grandfather over 6 decades ago. Karin’s Florist has not only been recognized on a local, regional, and national level but has also proudly received several awards. Maris serves on the Board of Directors of the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and spends a large portion of her time on fundraising efforts within her community. Her charitable donation program “Karin’s Gives Back” was started five years ago, and supports the inspiring work of several Northern Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland-based charities.

14. Gabrielle Bosché — Founder & President at The Millennial Solution

As the President and Founder of The Millennial Solution, Gabrielle is known as “America’s Millennial Expert”. She is frequently called upon to speak and consult on Millennial motivation and engagements for Fortune 500 Companies, presidential campaigns, and government agencies. Gabrielle puts her 11 years of Millennial research to good use, providing top-level solutions to a broad range of clients in every industry imaginable.

15. Jo Ann Jenkins — Chief Executive Officer of AARP

Jo Ann Jenkins leads the world’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization. Her strength lies in harnessing the power and passion of nearly 2,000 staff members, 60,000 volunteers, and various strategic partners. The organization’s major focus is on empowering people to choose how they live and age. She has transformed AARP into a recognizable leader in social change.

Kiley Doll is a seasoned leader with more than 35 years of experience, working with several well-known household brands including Amazon, EO, and Berkshire Hathaway in North America, Europe, and Africa.

Previously published on www.ellevatenetwork.com.

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