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50 Inspirational Women Leaders in Atlanta

We have compiled a list of 50 women in the Atlanta area who inspire us based on market research and peer nominations. Besides holding some of the top jobs in Georgia, these inspirational women also serve non-profits that support and empower women. With a variety of backgrounds – biopharma, education, technology, human services, hospitality, culinary experience, etc. – these women shape the future of our community through their inspiration and influence.

Stacey Abrams continues to exemplify how women in politics can make a difference. As a political leader, voting rights activist, and New York Times best-selling author, her work continues to inspire. Stacey served 11 years in the House of Representatives and, in 2018, at the time, won the most Democratic votes of any gubernatorial nominee in Georgia. Her success is recognized through numerous awards and accomplishments. Abrams was the first Black woman to become a Gubernatorial nominee for a major party. Additionally, she was the first ever Georgian to give a response to the State of the Union. Stacey’s passion lies in social issues, philanthropy, and voting rights. Abrams founded Fair Fight, an organization promoting fair elections, encouraging voter participation, and educating voters about the importance of voting. In addition to Fair Fight, her launch of Fair Count aims to gain civic engagement and to build economic power in the South. In addition to political philanthropy, she serves on the board of several non-profits, such as the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation, the Marguerite Casey Foundation, and the Women’s National Basketball Association. Abram’s work is a testament to her fearlessness in the political ring and her impact on women in politics and the workplace.

Narcis Alikhani is a branding and marketing executive with over 15 years of experience working in sports, entertainment, hospitality, and broadcast media. Currently, Narcis is the Vice President of Marketing for the Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena where she is responsible for leading marketing strategy, digital, social, and marketing operations for the Atlanta Hawks, State Farm Arena, College Park Skyhawks and Hawks Talon Gaming Club. Narcis has been involved in many business-critical areas for the Hawks, including leading advertising efforts for the $192 million State Farm Arena transformation, leading marketing launches for multiple uniform campaigns including the historic MLK jersey launch, and helping State Farm Arena make history as Georgia’s largest voting precinct and the first NBA arena in the nation to host voting during the 2020 Presidential Election. She has played an essential role in shaping the Hawks brand identity and growing its presence throughout the city, the NBA, and beyond. She embodies the Hawks brand mantra: True To Atlanta, as an Atlanta native who is passionate about the city’s culture and community. Prior to joining the Atlanta Hawks, Narcis served as Marketing Manager for Stone Mountain Park at Herschend Family Entertainment and started her career in marketing at Turner Broadcasting. Narcis is a graduate of Georgia State University with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing and is also a RYT 500 certified yoga instructor.

Ilham Askia is a seasoned nonprofit leader committed to improving social justice and equality for her community. As President and CEO of the East Lake Foundation, Ilham Askia has impacted women in the workplace and philanthropy. Askia and the Foundation aim to increase health and well-being to advance racial equity and create pathways from poverty to prosperity. Prior to joining the East Lake Foundation, she co-founded Gideon’s Promise, a nonprofit public defenders’ organization whose mission is to provide equal justice for marginalized communities by transforming the criminal justice system. During her 15-year career at Gideon’s Promise, she moved the company from a single, regional model to a multi-state, national nonprofit. Askia began Gideon’s Promise in 2007, developing a client-centered focus, partnering with law school offices, and managing programs to recruit new defenders for Gideon’s Promise. She has worked tirelessly to help transform the legal system to provide equal justice. Under her leadership, the nonprofit received numerous awards, including Emory University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award, the Stephen B. Bright Public Defender Award, and more. Askia was a teacher before working with Gideon’s Promise (1999-2007). She began her educator career with Teach for America.

Sara Blakely is founder and part owner of shapewear brand Spanx, which sells undergarments, leggings, swimwear and maternity wear in over 50 countries. Blakely, a Florida State University alumnus, started her career in sales and worked for several companies before coming up with the idea for Spanx while trying to find a solution for visible panty lines. With a small investment of $5,000, she began selling her product door-to-door and eventually secured a deal with a major department store. Today, Spanx is a globally recognized brand with a diverse range of products and has made Blakely one of the wealthiest self-made women in the world. In addition to her success in business, Blakely is also a philanthropist and has donated millions of dollars to support causes such as education and women’s empowerment. Among her many awards and accolades is being named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People Worldwide for her entrepreneurial accomplishments. Fun fact: Blakley has been a guest judge on ‘Shark Tank’ and had a cameo in ‘Billions.’

Dr. Maxine Cain is the Founder & President of STEM Atlanta Women, Inc. A non-profit 501c(3) organization created to Enlighten, Educate, and Empower women and girls about the advantages and global opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math and the future skills needed to compete and succeed in the 21st Century.

Dr. Cain has a Bachelor of Business Management/ Human Resource Management from the University of Phoenix and a Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D) in humanitarianism for notable contributions and achievements of national and global significance to humanitarian and community building efforts relative to STEM Education and Training. She was awarded the Biden’s President’s Call to Service Award – STEM Education & Training and the President’s Call to Service Award (referred to as the “President’s Lifetime Achievement Award”) is awarded by the President of the United States to people who have completed more than 4,000 hours of community service. It is the highest level of the President’s Volunteer Service Award.

Vicki Cansler joined Piedmont Healthcare Systems in 2013, taking on the role of Chief Human Resources Officer. With an extensive background in healthcare HR leadership, Cansler brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her position. Prior to joining Piedmont, she served as SVP of Human Resources for HealthMarkets and Chief People Officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee. She also held senior global HR and consulting roles with Booz, Allen and Hamilton, as well as Deloitte & Touche LLP. Cansleri’s career in healthcare HR began at Glenwood Regional Medical Center in her hometown of West Monroe, Louisiana, followed by Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. She spent 11 years with CIGNA, holding various HR positions, including Vice President of HR for CIGNA’s Healthcare Division. Cansler holds an MBA from the University of Dallas.

Sukai Crook is the Vice President of IT Strategy and Transformation at Honeywell. Crook’s description of her career as “envisioning, building, and transforming solutions, cultures, and organizations” perfectly encapsulates her success as a businesswoman. Following her time at The Home Depot, she began work as the Head of Process Excellence at Xchanging, one of the largest and fastest growing business processors. In January 2011, she began working as the Senior Project Leader at Northeast Georgia Health System. While there, she showcased her leadership skills, helping NGMC gain a national award for its construction. After a move to North Highland, Crook accepted the position as the Chief of Staff to CIDO & Sr. Director of Digital Manufacturing Transformation for WestRock Company. Again, her work advanced the company. WestRock was honored for Innovative Design excellence and conducted studies to boost consumer education. In her current role at Honeywell, Suaki provides data for airlines and space missions. Her 20-year career in the global market focuses on clients, customers, operational excellence, and transformation. Sukai was recently named the Woman of the Year in Technology, a testament to her hard work.

Christy Cross is a Senior Vice President and Head of Growth at Trade School, a hybrid advertising agency and production company in Atlanta. She leads business development, strategic growth, and client partnerships as a leadership team member. Trade School is a spinoff of agency 22squared where Cross worked formerly as SVP and Director of Business Development. During their partnership with flagship client, The Home Depot, the leadership team of 22squared saw a need for a new advertising model and executed their vision. Cross has helped Trade School triple in size since its inception in 2020. Cross is a graduate of the University of Georgia. Her career history and passion for business development in advertising and public relations have allowed her to successfully relate to and understand clients, brands, and people.

Jasmine Crowe-Houston is the Founder and CEO of GoodrCo., a sustainable food surplus management company. GoodrCo. aims to end waste, fight hunger, and feed communities by leveraging technology and logistics. Started in 2017 in her kitchen, Crowe-Houston has grown Goodr into a full-scale waste management and hunger relief company servicing millions of people across the United States. In addition to fighting hunger, Goodr also helps redirect millions of pounds of waste from landfills. Crowe-Houston is passionate about creating awareness and fostering change to impact the lives of those with socio-economic challenges positively. In 2011, she became the Founder and Editor of Black Celebrity Giving, a media platform highlighting the positive doings in Black communities. Through good news on Black celebrity philanthropy, nonprofits, causes, and grants, Crowe-Houston empowers and enlightens others to help enrich lives. At Goodr, Jasmine became the 35th Black woman to raise more than $1 million in venture capital. She has been featured on CNBC, Oprah Magazine, NY Times, Forbes, TedTalk, and more. Entrepreneur Magazine named her one of the top 100 influential female founders. In 2021, Crowe-Houston added children’s book author to her list of accomplishments. Everybody Eats aims to inspire young people to be activists in the fight against hunger.

Fintech entrepreneur Christine de Wendel is the Co-Founder and CEO of sunday, a B2C solution for quick and easy restaurant payments. As a mother of three, de Wendel saw the need for a system that would allow diners to pay their check at the end of a meal in a timely fashion. The company raised $100 million dollars to create seamless payment options in the hospitality space. Before starting sunday, de Wendel worked for two other fintech startups, Zalando SE and ManoMano. Christine de Wendel has an MBA from INSEAD, an MSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and a BSc in International Affairs with a concentration in International Security from Georgetown University.

Dr. Christine Miller Divine is dedicated to supporting student success through the strategic implementation of technology in her role as Chief Information Officer and Vice President of Information Technology at Georgia Gwinnett College. Prior to her tenure at GGC, Dr. Divine was Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer at the University of California, Sacramento. She joined California State University, Sacramento as associate chief information officer. She also served as Assistant Dean and IT Executive Director for the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Georgia. During her time at the University of Georgia, Dr. Divine actively participated in shared governance and collaborated with other divisions to accomplish campus-wide objectives. She spearheaded numerous initiatives, including the implementation of an eAdvising platform, virtualization of server infrastructure, support for accreditation processes, development of paperless workflows, and the introduction of site licenses for campus software. Dr. Divine holds a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s in Instructional Technology, all from the University of Georgia.

Allison Dukes is Invesco‘s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), a global investment management firm with over $1.5 trillion in assets under management. As CFO, Dukes is responsible for overseeing the company’s financial operations, including financial reporting, budgeting, forecasting, and strategic planning. With over 25 years of experience in finance and accounting, Dukes has held various senior leadership positions at companies such as SunTrust Banks and Regions Financial Corporation before joining Invesco in 2019.  Dukes earned a BS degree in mathematics from Vanderbilt University and an MBA from the Goizueta Business School at Emory University. She serves on the board of directors for Haverty Furniture Companies, Inc. Dukes is an active member of the Atlanta community, serving as the past board chair for Junior Achievement of Georgia and currently serving on the board of trustees for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Foundation, Emory University and the Atlanta History Center.

Suzanne Fountain is the Senior Vice President of Human Resources at PatientCare EMS Solutions. She formerly worked at Air Serv Corporation, where she climbed the ranks from Director to Vice President of Human Resources. Fountain also served as the VP of Human Resources at SecurAmerica before finally assuming her current position at PatientCare EMS Solutions. She received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT, and her Master of Science in Human Resources Development and Counseling from the University of Bridgeport, Bridgeport, CT. Throughout her career, Fountain has played vital roles in assessing organizational needs and implementing effective strategies for training, development, employee relations, and recruitment. Fountain has consistently demonstrated boldness, dedication, and a strong work ethic.

Susannah Frost serves as Chick-fil-A‘s Executive Vice President and Chief Restaurant Development and Operations Officer. An accomplished business leader with over 20 years of restaurant industry experience, Frost deeply understands the operational and strategic aspects of running a successful business. In her current role, she oversees the operations of over 2,600 Chick-fil-A restaurants across the United States, Canada, and U.S. territories. Before joining Chick-fil-A, Frost worked as an attorney for Troutman and Sanders, practicing real estate law. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia and went on to receive her J.D. from Emory University School of Law. In addition to her contributions to the restaurant industry, Frost serves on the Executive Committee of Junior Achievement of Georgia, providing practical, real-world education to the youth of Georgia.

Molly Carter Gaines is an Atlanta real estate agent for Ansley Real Estate. Her approach to real estate is personalized, dedicated, professional, and passionate. There is no doubt Molly aims to be client-focused. Previously, Molly worked in the mortgage and marketing industries. Utilizing her passion for real estate, digital marketing skills, and content creation tactics, she continues to pursue her career skillfully. In her current position, Molly provides buyers with an unparalleled, client-centered experience. Gaines continues to execute her eloquent property descriptions, real-estate strategies, and successful communication skills, selling over $61M in 2022. She sits among the top 1% of Atlanta real estate producers and a leading sales agent in Druid Hills and Virginia Highland. Consistently ranked as one of the top producers in the Atlanta market, Molly has been named one of Atlanta’s best real estate agents by multiple publications. Molly is also involved in several Atlanta nonprofits including Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Have a Heart Foundation, and the Shepherd Center.

Krista Glenn is the EVP and Chief Claims Officer of Westfield Specialty. Glenn is building a new, full-service claims organization in order to support all of Westfield Specialty’s lines of business which currently include E&S Casualty; E&S Property; Financial Institutions; Management Liability and Westfield Pro (Cyber, E&O and Professional Liability).  Prior to joining Westfield Specialty, Glenn spent five years as EVP, Chief Claims Officer at a North Carolina-based insurance carrier.  She also spent more than 21 years at the ACE/Chubb companies where she held many roles in Chubb, ACE North America and ACE Group Claims. 

Krista is a member of Chief, a 2019 Women to Watch and a 2015 Woman on the Move award winner, a member of the Federation of Defense & Corporate Counsel and APIW, and an advisory board member for the CLM.  She is a graduate of Seton Hall University and Delaware Law School and is admitted to the bar in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. 

While working as a lawyer, Emily Giffin utilized her limited spare time to pursue her true passion for writing. Taking a leap of faith, she boldly decided to retire from law in 2004 and focus on crafting her debut novel, Something Borrowed. The book mirrored Giffin’s journey and catapulted her into the literary limelight. Selling an astounding 2.2 million copies, Something Borrowed caught readers’ attention. It helped Giffin secure an agent and land a two-book deal. Since then, Giffin has continued to captivate readers with her poignant storytelling and published nine New York Times bestsellers. Her talent resonates worldwide, as her books have achieved bestseller status in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. With over 12 million books sold to date, Giffin’s success is a testament to her unwavering love for writing and her fearlessness in pursuing her true calling. Her original work, Something Borrowed, reached the silver screen in May 2011, further solidifying her status as a revered literary figure. Emily Giffin’s journey inspires aspiring writers everywhere, reminding us all that embracing our passions and taking risks can lead to extraordinary achievements.

Erika V. Hall is an Associate Professor of Organization and Management in the Goizueta Business School at Emory University. Hall earned a PhD in Management & Organizations from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Her research focuses on the influence of race, gender, and class-based biases on interactions within the workplace and the broader society. Her groundbreaking work on discrimination in the workplace and society can be found in prestigious publications such as American Psychologist, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, among others. During her tenure at Emory’s Goizueta School of Business, Hall and her students took an innovative approach to address bias by creating and sharing educational TikToks, elevating the learning experience beyond traditional and often mundane diversity training modules.

Her unwavering creativity in the classroom and dedication to research have propelled her success at Emory University. Recognized for her achievements, Hall was honored as one of The World’s Best 40 Under 40 Business Professors by Poets & Quants in 2016. In 2021, she was invited to deliver a TED Talk, and in 2015, NPR interviewed her to discuss her research. Hall’s outstanding recognition in academic journals and the media is a testament to her tireless efforts inside and outside the classroom, exemplifying her genuine passion for her subject matter.

Erin Hendrick is a driving force in elevating the patient and provider experience by implementing a combination of services and technology solutions. In July 2023, Erin Hendrick made a significant career move from Shields Health Solutions to launch Stealthco under the umbrella of Redesign Health. As CEO, Hendrick efficiently scales ambulatory clinical pharmacy programs, enhances care coordination, and fully integrates pharmacist expertise into the care team. As the Chief Operating Officer at Emory University Hospital Midtown and EVP of Commercial Partnerships at Shields Health Solutions, Hendrick consistently demonstrated her strategic mindset and visionary leadership. Presently serving as an Advisor at WellBeam, she revolutionizes physician team workflows for post-acute care while contributing to the company’s overall strategy and business development. With her strategic mindset and visionary leadership, Erin works tirelessly to improve the overall quality of care and ensure a seamless healthcare experience for patients and providers.

Jen Hidinger-Kendrick, the Founder of Giving Kitchen, a community aid organization founded to help food service workers. According to their 2021 sustainability report, they’ve awarded over $6 million dollars to food industry workers in need. Prior to Giving Kitchen, Jen received a bachelor’s degree in broadcast communication from Indiana University. As co-founder of the acclaimed Staplehouse Restaurant, Jen was a key member of the team that earned Bon Appétit magazine’s Best New Restaurant in America in 2016 and a nomination as Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation.

Hidinger-Kendrick has been featured on the covers of Entrepreneur Magazine and Atlanta Magazine, was the recipient of the 2022 Claes Nobel World Betterment Award, and is participating in Leadership Atlanta’s Class of 2024. Under Hidinger-Kendrick’s exceptional leadership, Giving Kitchen has managed to assist thousands of food service workers, leading to its expansion and provision of aid to hospitality workers not only in Georgia but also in Tennessee.

Anita Hsu, the co-owner of several successful Atlanta Restaurants, including Lazy Betty, Sweet Auburn Barbecue, and Gezzo’s West Coast Burritos, is a culinary expert with over 21 years of experience. At Lazy Betty, Anita works closely with her family and siblings to create fabulous meals that provide a dining experience reminiscent of the generosity and hospitality their mother, Betty, was known for as the Founder and Managing Partner of Lazy Betty, Anita’s business understanding and passion for curating restaurants that reflect her family’s values has led to the success of their ventures, before opening Lazy Betty’s, Anita and her family established Gezzo’s West Coast Burritos and Sweet Auburn Barbeque, which gained immense popularity and allowed them to expand their culinary empire. Hsu is a graduate of the University of Georgia.

Jocelyn Hunter serves as Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at The Home Depot, a position she holds with great distinction and expertise. As Deputy General Counsel, she oversees all legal matters within the company, ensures compliance with regulatory requirements, and provides guidance on critical legal issues. Hunter’s expertise includes intellectual property, employment law, executive compensation, benefits, and regulatory affairs. As a two-time Duke alumni, heer leadership and legal expertise continue to drive the company’s success and secure its position as an industry leader as well as a leader in her community.

Hunter also serves as board chair for the Alliance Theatre and is on the Governing Board of the Woodruff Arts Center, which includes the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, High Museum and Alliance Theatre and is a member of the Board of Directors at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. In 2013, Jocelyn had the prestigious honor of receiving the Georgia Multicultural Leadership Award and in 2020, she received the Forever Duke Award from Duke University.

With over 30 years of experience, Donna Hyland, Chief Executive Officer of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA), has dedicated her life to positively impacting children’s lives. Hyland has overseen monumental growth and achievement throughout her career. Hyland has played an instrumental role in high-impact projects as CFO, COO and CEO, including the merger of Egleston and Scottish Rite hospitals; the addition of Hughes Spalding hospital and Marcus Autism Center; and the advancement of the research partnership between Emory and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. CHOA has become one of the preeminent pediatric clinical care providers in the country, with more than 12,700 employees managing approximately 1.2 million patient visits a year.

Aside from her contributions to CHOA, Donna Hyland has been recognized as one of Atlanta and Georgia’s most influential leaders. In 2023, she was honored by the Georgia Historical Society and the Office of the Governor as a Georgia Trustee. Not only does Hyland excel in her career, but she also goes above and beyond to serve others inside and outside her professional life. She actively serves on several committees and boards, using her expertise to inspire and make a difference in the lives of others.

Melanie Isbill is an accomplished marketing professional currently serving as Chief Marketing Officer at RaceTrac. Isbell has led the company’s marketing efforts to be named the official convenience-store chain of the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons, Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United and Major Leaue Baseball’s Atlanta Braves. With early career experience at Macy’s merchandising group and RaceTrac, she quickly demonstrated her talent for analyzing and planning as a commercial analyst and scheduler. Isbill further honed her skills during her internship at The Coca-Cola Company before returning to RaceTrac. Isbill graduated from Southern Methodist University with a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in marketing and minor in Italian language. She earned her MBA in marketing and finance from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Isbill also serves on the Board of Directors for the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Tracy Jacobs, recent joined Ferguson Enterprises as Vice President of FP&A and Business Support. Prior to Ferguson, Jacobs was the CFO of Kimberly Clark Professional and spent almost 15 years at the Dow Chemical Company, where she held various positions. Throughout her time at the Dow Chemical Company, Jacobs showcased her exceptional management and strategy skills, enabling her to move up the ranks and hold eight positions. Her expertise in these areas also led her to become the Global Director of Honeywell Process Solutions and Whirlpool Corporations. Jacobs is a graduate of Central Michigan University with a Bachelor’s degree business administration. She also has an MBA from Tulane University. Her strong analytical abilities, effective management techniques, and proficiency in financial planning have been instrumental in her career growth and accomplishments.

Peyton Johnston, the Director of Pro Experience (UX) and Platform Innovation at The Home Depot, has achieved remarkable success leading teams in enhancing the customer experience. Additionally, she served as Chief of Staff to Ted Decker, the CEO of The Home Depot, when he was the Executive Vice President. Leveraging her strong technical background and financial acumen, she was vital in supporting the overall company strategy. Johnston is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology with a Bachelor’s degree in systems and industrial engineering. Before Home Depot, she was a product manager in systems design for PHL and a senior consultant at Manhattan Associates. Her proficiency in problem-solving, technical knowledge, solution-testing abilities, and implementation of long-term strategies have enabled her to ascend within a multi-billion dollar company like The Home Depot.

Nicole Kimes is an accomplished financial professional and currently holds the position of Chief Financial Officer at the Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. With a strong focus on improving Atlanta’s financial matters, Kimes has implemented effective processes, policies, and procedures to enhance financial operations. With nearly two decades of experience in accounting and financial reporting services within the real estate industry, she brings valuable knowledge and strategies to her role. Previously, she served as the Vice President of accounting for MDH Partners, where she honed her management and reporting skills to support investors and company leaders. Kimes has also held positions such as Director of Accounting Compliance at Cortland and Accounting Manager at Bomgar Corporation. Her dedication and expertise have contributed to her success in her current role, allowing her to excel in her career.

Katie Kirkpatrick is a highly respected business leader and the current President and CEO of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting economic development in the Atlanta metropolitan area. With an extensive background in both the public and private sectors, Kirkpatrick brings over 20 years of experience to her role. She understands the challenges that businesses and communities face and is committed to driving growth and innovation through collaboration and partnership. Prior to her current position, Kirkpatrick held senior roles at prominent companies such as AT&T and BellSouth. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia, with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, and also holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Georgia State University. Kirkpatrick is actively involved in professional organizations, including the Rotary Club of Atlanta and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Her leadership and contributions to the business community have earned her recognition, including being named one of Atlanta’s Most Influential Women by the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Jamie Lackey, the CEO of Helping Mamas, Inc., is an experienced philanthropic businesswoman who has dedicated her career to serving women in Georgia. With over 20 years of experience in social work, Lackey observed the struggles of mothers who couldn’t afford basic necessities for their babies. In 2014, she founded Helping Mamas with the goal of assisting the nearly 30% of moms in Georgia who couldn’t afford diapers. Under Lackey’s leadership, Helping Mamas has made a significant impact, serving over 150,000 individuals and distributing over 2 million essential items to the community. Due to its success, the organization has expanded to Knoxville, TN. As CEO, Lackey has played a vital role in the organization’s growth, working closely with staff, volunteers, and the board of directors to realize the company’s vision and advance its mission. Throughout the pandemic and beyond, Lackey’s dedication, passionate team, and clear vision have driven the success of Helping Mamas, benefiting the well-being of the community it serves.

Kate Kiefer Lee knows a thing or two about building a department from scratch. She was hired as the first copywriter for MailChimp in 2010 and now leads a global team of internal and external communications functions, including PR, business and brand communications, executive communications, employee communications, crisis and issue response, and public affairs. Lee’s extensive experience at Mailchimp and in her previous roles have equipped her to directly lead the company’s communication teams and drive business growth by safeguarding the company’s reputation. Her exceptional contributions have earned her recognition, including being named a Makers Awardee in 2017 and being included in PRSA‘s Georgia Forty under 40 in 2020. Following its acquisition by Intuit for $12 billion, MailChimp stands as one of the world’s most successful bootstrapped companies.

Kristyn Long‘s strong leadership skills and extensive experience in civil legislation have made her an invaluable asset to Governor Brian Kemp‘s team. She previously served as Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Executive Counsel. Prior to joining the Governor’s staff in February 2020, she worked in private practice, focusing on civil litigation, probate litigation, and estate planning. Long holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law.  During the challenging times brought about by the pandemic, Long’s expertise and strategic decision-making played a crucial role in the successful management of the state. Governor Brian Kemp’s reelection is a testament to the exceptional leadership of individuals like Kristyn Long. Her remarkable skills and determination have undoubtedly made a significant impact on the success of the governor’s administration.

Kari Love, the CEO of The Atlanta Women’s Foundation, is a leading figure in the nonprofit industry. Throughout her career, Love has demonstrated a strong passion for helping others and making a difference in the community. Love’s journey in the nonprofit sector began as the Assistant Executive Director at Children’s Miracle Network. In this role, she handled the organization’s national relationships, fundraising, and production aspects. Her dedication and successful execution of responsibilities led her to a position at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in 1993, where she focused on volunteer recruitment and sponsorship development.
In 1994, Love joined Cox Radio Inc. as the Promotions and Marketing Director, where she managed special events and devised effective marketing strategies. She continued to expand her philanthropic impact by working with organizations such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Starlight Starbright Children’s Foundation of Atlanta. As the CEO of The Atlanta Women’s Foundation, Love has brought together her development, oversight, and philanthropic skills. Under her leadership, a $2.5 million fundraising plan has been implemented, strengthening the organization’s financial resources. Additionally, Love has fostered strong relationships with donors, contributing to the success and impact of The Atlanta Women’s Foundation. Love’s career trajectory reflects her deep-seated passions and unwavering commitment to helping others. Her leadership and expertise have made a significant difference in the nonprofit sector and continue to drive positive change in the community.

Claudia Martinez, a talented pastry chef, adds a touch of sweetness to Atlanta through her work at MillerUnion in Atlanta’s old meatpacking district. Martinez, a 2015 graduate of Johnson and Wales University, draws inspiration from her background and the unique ambiance of the hotel to create innovative and delicious desserts. Martinez’s culinary journey began at Restaurant Eugene, where she had the opportunity to work alongside acclaimed chef Linton Hopkins. During her time there, she discovered her passion for pastry, realizing that desserts could be more than just sugary sweets and incorporate savory elements. Seeking further growth and experience, Martinez embarked on a new adventure in Sweden, joining the team at the Laholmen Hotel under renowned pastry chef David Vidal. Here, she learned to embrace the artistic freedom and beauty of pastry making, honing her skills and expanding her repertoire. Martinez’s creations exemplify her expertise, fearlessness, and skillful combination of ingredients and flavors. Martinez’s journey as a pastry chef showcases her dedication to her craft and her willingness to explore new possibilities within the realm of desserts.

Cass McFadden is a respected leader in the field of sustainability, serving as the Global Head of Sustainability at Cortland. McFadden received a Master of Science in Energy Policy and Climate from Johns Hopkins University following her undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies and Political Science from Case Western Reserve University. Her career began as a Renewable Energy Consultant for The World Bank, where she provided valuable expertise on environmental issues. She then joined Enel Green Power North America, further expanding her knowledge and impact in the renewable energy sector. Continuing to climb the professional ladder, McFadden held positions such as Regulatory Affairs Specialist, Board Director and Director of Energy Management, and Vice President of Sustainability. In her current role as the Global Head of Sustainability at Cortland, McFadden has drawn upon her extensive experience to lead the firm’s sustainability and ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) program. Additionally, McFadden oversees the management and maintenance of development platforms in the UK, further expanding Cortland’s global presence. McFadden’s career trajectory demonstrates her commitment to sustainability and her ability to drive positive change in the real estate industry.

Susan Nunn, the President of Atlanta Recruiting Group, is a true powerhouse in the recruiting industry. With over 20 years of experience, Nunn has proven herself as a skilled recruiter and a respected leader who has significantly impacted her field. Susan’s journey in the industry began when she joined the Atlanta Recruiting Group. Before her time at Atlanta Recruiting Group, Nunn worked for TRC Staffing Services, where she honed her skills and gained invaluable experience. Her exceptional abilities and passion for the industry were evident, and she soon caught the attention of Avail Workforce Management Solutions. Her expertise in recruiting and leadership has earned her recognition and respect from colleagues and clients alike. In her free time, Susan is on the board of Every Believer a Witness Ministries.

Vett Petty is the Senior Director of Marketing and Communications of Achieve Atlanta and the Founder of VKV Communications. Petty earned her B.S. in Literature, Media, and Communications and her M.S. in Public Policy, with concentrations in Education and Health Policy, from Georgia Tech. Before joining Achieve Atlanta, Vett was the Director of Communications at GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students. She has worked in the communications offices at the University System of Georgia, the City of Atlanta, and the Office of the Governor.

Vett is a graduate of the 2017-2018 GPEE Education Policy Fellowship Program, and Vett was selected by the Atlanta Regional Commission as one of 55 community leaders to join the 2018 Regional Leadership Institute. She was also named as one of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Atlanta (YNPN) 30 Leaders Under 30.

Joiava Philpott is the Senior Vice President of Law and Policy and General Counsel for Cox Communications. She provides legal guidance on Cox’s rights and obligations in providing cable, broadband, and telecommunications services to internal business clients. Her role includes overseeing compliance, legal operations, regulatory, and government affairs.

Philpott holds a JD and MBA from American University and a bachelor’s degree in business management from Hampton University. She’s completed an executive leadership program at the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government, is a Betsy Magness Leadership Institute fellow for Women in Cable & Telecommunications (WICT), and is an alumna of National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC) Executive Leadership Development Program at the University of Virginia. Philpott has also served as Corporate Vice President and Senior Counsel of Government Affairs at Charter Communications and as Assistant General Counsel at KMC Telecom. She has worked as General Counsel at Astro Turf, LLC, and began her career with the City of Atlanta Law Department, advising the mayor and city council on public rights-of-way management and cable franchising regulations.

Meg Pirkle, the Chief Engineer for the Georgia Department of Transportation, is a force in the world of transportation and engineering. Her current role involves shaping Georgia’s transportation infrastructure and ensuring efficient operations throughout the state. Pirkle has over 25 years of experience with the Department and is currently the Division Director of Permits and Operations. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Vanderbilt University, a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and is a registered Professional Engineer in Georgia. Pirkle’s strategic vision has led to the successful execution of transformative projects, benefiting both residents and businesses by enhancing the overall transportation experience.

Dr. DeRetta Cole Rhodes, is an accomplished business leader who currently holds the position of Executive Vice President and Chief Culture Officer for the Atlanta Braves.

Previously, DeRetta was the EVP/chief human resources officer of YMCA of Metro, the VP, Human Resources, at First Data, where she provided consultation on human capital and organizational development strategies for over 5,000 First Data colleagues within Financial Services and Consumer and Network Solutions, the Vice president of human resources for Turner Broadcasting Systems, Inc., supporting Global Technology Operations. Before joining Turner, DeRetta held leadership roles with Ernst & Young, ADP,, and YUM Brand.

DeRetta received her Ph.D. in Adult Education from the University of Georgia. She is a certified facilitator for the Benchmark 360 assessment by the Center for Creative Leadership, a DISC coach and facilitator, and a facilitator for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and HOGAN Assessment. Dr. Rhodes was recently elected to serve as vice chair for Goodwill of North Georgia‘s 2024 Board of Directors.

Regina Salazar, holds the position of Senior Vice President and Chief Information and Digital Officer at Novelis, Inc., where she spearheads the Digital and Information Technology strategy.

In this role, Salazar is responsible for the development and execution of the global information technology and business information strategy, as well as digital transformation. She was named to this position in June 2021. Regina joined Novelis in November 2020 as Deputy Chief Information Officer. Prior to Novelis, she was the Chief Information Officer for the North America region at Whirlpool. Salazar holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from UNICAMP – Universidade Estadual de Campinas in São Paulo, Brazil; a Master’s in Science Administration from Central Michigan University; and an International Consortia for Executive Development Certificate from the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Salazar is also one of the recipients of the Automotive Hall of Fame Young Leadership Award in recognition of her leadership and contributions to the automotive industry.

Madlen Schwachtje currently serves as the Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Customer Support at Gulfstream Aerospace. In this role, Schwachtje works closely with the Customer Support leadership team to drive business success and ensure customer satisfaction through a wide range of service offerings. Her expertise in financial planning and analysis, combined with her strategic mindset, significantly contributes to the company’s ability to overcome challenges and seize opportunities. Prior to her current position, Schwachtje held various positions where she consistently showcased her exceptional financial acumen and leadership capabilities. These roles include Director of Finance at Siemens Industry Inc., Chief Financial Officer at Renova Technology, and Global Director of Finance at Huber Engineered Materials.

Mari Sifo’s career spans nearly two decades in the field of Human Resources. Sifo currently holds the position of EVP and Chief Human Resource Officer at the world’s largest lodging REIT, Host Hotels and Resorts. Known for her team-oriented approach and expertise in employee relations, Prior to Host Hotels, Sifo served as chief human resources and communications officer at SWM International, Inc., a global manufacturer of specialty materials, where she was responsible for leading the overall people strategy, corporate brand and environmental, social and governance strategy. Her previous positions included senior director human resources at CP Kelco; and other human resources leadership positions at Mondelez International, United Technologies Corporation and Owens Corning. She is a member of the Gartner Atlanta CHRO Governing Board and serves on the board of 21st Century Leaders, a non-profit that connects, transforms and inspires high school students.

Paige Todd is the Chief of Staff to the CEO and former Vice President of People at Flock Safety. This Atlanta-based company provides advanced security and surveillance solutions for communities, neighborhoods, and law enforcement agencies. As Chief of Staff at Flock, Todd works closely with the CEO and senior leaders to develop and execute strategic initiatives. Todd’s ability to identify critical areas for improvement and implement effective solutions has been instrumental in driving success. During Todd’s tenure, Flock Safety has gained national recognition and accolades for its impact on community security including being recognized by Fast Company’s list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies in 2021 and a Pacesetter award from the Atlanta Business Chronicle for being a 100 fastest-growing company in Atlanta. Todd holds a Bachelor’s Degree in management from Georgia Institute of Technology and a MBA from Emory University.

Atlanta native Emily Ward is a prominent figure in the legal and culinary realms. Ward is a White Collar and Complex Litigation Partner at Continuum Legal Group LLP. An active member of the Atlanta Bar Association, Ward currently serves as the treasurer and chair of the criminal law section. She is currently President-elect of the Association. In addition to her legal career, Ward’s entrepreneurial spirit has led her to venture into the culinary world alongside her husband, Joey. Together, they are the co-owners of two popular Atlanta restaurants: Southern Belle and Georgia Boy. Through Southern Belle and Georgia Boy, Ward and her husband have created dining experiences that perfectly blend traditional Southern flavors with innovative culinary techniques. Ward’s journey from to the legal and culinary realms is a testament to her dedication, determination, and ability to excel in various fields. Fun fact: Ward won the 2009 Miss Georgia title and competed in the 2010 Miss America pageant.

Major Andrea Webster‘s illustrious career in law enforcement is a testament to her unwavering dedication and remarkable leadership abilities at the Atlanta Police Department. In 2008, she assumed the role of an investigator. Five years later, she was promoted to the position of Sergeant, where she continued to excel in her duties and earn the respect of her colleagues. In 2016, Major Webster’s leadership potential was again recognized when she was appointed Lieutenant, overseeing the supervision of high-profile crimes in Atlanta. Major Webster’s exceptional talents and dedication led to her promotion as a Major. In this esteemed position, she took charge of critical priority investigations, providing invaluable guidance and support to her team. Her ability to navigate complex cases and make sound decisions has been instrumental in delivering justice to the community. In 2021, she was appointed as the Chief of Staff, responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the Office of the Chief of Police. Today she serves as Zone 6 Commander for the Department.

Major Webster is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE), the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF).  Major Webster holds a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a Concentration in Homeland Security from Herzing University and a Master of Public Safety Administration from Columbus State University.Major Webster’s passion for serving the community is evident in her dedication to ensuring public safety and building trust within the Atlanta community.

Natalia Williams has built an impressive career as a Chief Product Officer at Hootsuite, a formidable name in social media management platforms. She spearheads the development and execution of Hootsuite’s product strategy, ensuring that the company remains at the forefront of the industry. Prior to Hootsuite, Williams led Product at Mailchimp, a global SaaS company with over 18M customers. She was also part of the executive team that drove the $12B acquisition of Mailchimp by Intuit, the largest acquisition for a bootstrapped company. Williams is a graduate of Georgia State University. She has a deep-seated passion for product innovation and growth, Williams consistently pushes the boundaries of what is possible, providing Hootsuite’s customers with cutting-edge tools and functionalities.

Singer, songwriter, model, and businesswoman Ciara Princess Wilson is helping to pave the way for women in music. With eight studio albums and multiple top hits, her musical talents are beyond evident. Her first studio album, Goodies, topped the Billboard Hot 100. From the start, she has been a force in the music industry. Her duet songs “Lose Control” with Missy Elliot and “Like You” with Bow Wow reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100. Her second and fourth studio album reached the Billboard 200, and her third studio album, Fantasy Ride, received a Grammy Award Nomination, recognizing her Pop Collaborations with Vocals. Ciara has won a Grammy, seven Soul Train Awards, thirteen Ascap Music Awards, and the Woman of the Year award from Billboard Women in Music. But her talent goes beyond her music. In 2014 she launched the Why Not You Foundation with her husband Russell Wilson to fight poverty through education and empower youth to have a “why not” attitude. In 2022 the Foundation raised over $10 million for the Seattle Children’s pediatric cancer immunotherapy program.

Nicole Wilson currently serves as the Vice President of Procurement at InterContinental Hotel Group. Wilson’s career trajectory includes holding pivotal positions in renowned organizations. She has served as the Vice President of Global Strategic Sourcing at Carnival Corporation, where she played a crucial role in developing and executing sourcing strategies for the company. As the Director of Corporate Responsibility at Tommy Hilfiger, Wilson implemented initiatives to promote sustainable and ethical practices within the company’s supply chain. Additionally, she was Manager of Supplier Sustainability for The Walt Disney Company, working towards building strong relationships with suppliers and ensuring responsible sourcing practices. Fun fact: Wilson delivered one of the top TedTalks in 2017.

Jaime Yeager is a highly accomplished business leader and Vice President of Business Development at InComm Payments. With her immense experience and expertise, Yeager plays a crucial role in translating marketing trends into revenue growth for the company. She has been a trailblazer in the cryptocurrency payment space, where she developed infrastructure to support consumers and collaborated with renowned companies like CVS, McDonald’s, Target, Walgreens, and Best Buy to form corporate strategies around digital currency. Her tenure at CardinalCommerce and her role as Vice President of Sales at Gift Card Impressions have solidified her expertise in sales, making her a well-rounded professional in business development and the payment industry. Yeager graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelor of Science and holds an MBA in marketing.

Interested in Other Cities?

Interested in reading about more inspiring women leaders, driving success of their companies and communities? Check out this article for our Top Women Series highlighting women from the Research Triangle of North Carolina.



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