Uplifting LeadersWhile women in the workforce have evolved, and gained ground over the years, there still exists a large gender-based gap at the top. So, what advice can those women who’ve earned spots in the C-suite give to aspiring and current leaders?

In celebration of BrownFlynn’s 20th year in business and to “pay it forward”, Barb Brown and Margie Flynn set out on a mission to write their first book capturing insights and stories from some of these leaders to empower and uplift others as they seek to progress in their lives and careers.

About the Authors

They traveled the U.S. to speak with 25 of the nation’s most accomplished and influential leaders shown below. All the leaders were candid, engaged, and supportive, providing thoughtful advice and lessons to uplift others. These outstanding leaders provide personal and professional insights and advice on a variety of topics, including:

  • Lessons from Family

  • Learning by Listening

  • Mentorship

  • Trailblazing

  • Team Collaboration

  • Leaving a Legacy

Concluding a three-year journey inspired by these learnings, we proudly present “Uplifting Leaders* (*Who Happen to be Women),” all net proceeds from which will be donated to the YWCA Greater Cleveland’s Nurturing Independence and Aspirations (NIA) program to support the education of young women transitioning out of foster care.

In the Media


Virginia Albanese
President and Chief Executive Officer,
FedEx Custom Critical

Virginia Albanese is president and chief executive officer of FedEx Custom Critical. She began her career at FedEx Custom Critical in 1986 and quickly worked her way up the ranks, serving in several senior level roles before being named president and CEO. In 2013 she was appointed by Ohio Governor John Kasich to the Kent State Board of Trustees, and is past chair of The Boys and Girls Club of the Western Reserve and the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce. Virginia currently serves on the boards of directors or Akron Children’s Hospital and the Akron Community Foundation. She has been recognized for her leadership roles both professionally and in the community, and was recently inducted into the Northeastern Ohio Business Hall of Fame. Virginia has received the Leadership Excellence Award from the National Diversity Council (2014), and has been named to the Inside Business Power 100 list for four years straight.

Jodi L. Berg
President and Chief Executive Officer,
Vita-Mix Corporation

Jodi Berg is fourth-generation president and chief executive officer of Vita-Mix Corporation (Vitamix), a family-owned manufacturer recognized as the world leader in high-performance blenders for the consumer and commercial foodservice markets. After a successful career in the hospitality industry, she joined Vitamix with a directive to lead its overseas expansion. The company’s products, designed and assembled in Northeast Ohio, are now available in more than 140 countries around the world, and the organization received the nation’s highest export recognition—the President’s “E Star” Award—in 2014. She also led Vitamix’s household and commercial divisions before becoming president and chief executive officer. Under her leadership, Vitamix revenue has grown by more than 300 percent, and the number of employees and sales representatives has more than tripled. She won the EY National Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the Family Business category for creating a global brand, transforming the organizational structure of the company, and leading the creation and implementation of a value-based and laser-focused culture.

Jenniffer D. Deckard
President and Chief Executive Officer, Fairmount Santrol

Jenniffer Deckard joined Fairmount Santrol (then Fairmount Minerals) in 1994 and was soon named chief financial officer, serving until 2011 when she was named president and subsequently chief executive officer in 2013. In October 2014, Jenniffer and the company’s leadership team led Fairmount Santrol to its initial public offering and the company is now traded on the New York Stock Exchange (FMSA). Jenniffer has been recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “Forty under 40” list, and she was named the 2008 “CFO of the Year” for large privately held businesses in Greater Cleveland. She currently serves on the Weatherhead School of Management’s Visiting Committee for Case Western Reserve University, and actively serves on the advisory boards of the Cleveland Foundation and RPM International Inc. The Deckard family is actively engaged in multiple educational and civic programs and have both opened their home and provided resources to help serve children within the Geauga County and Greater Cleveland Foster Care System.

Heather Ettinger
Managing Partner,
Fairport Asset Management

As managing partner of Fairport Asset Management, Heather specializes in helping clients and their families create financial plans to guide them through life transitions. Heather has devoted more than 25 years to the financial services industry and has held several leadership roles at the company and on the numerous boards for which she has served. In 2015 Heather was recognized on InvestmentNews’ inaugural “Women to Watch” list for her lasting impact on the financial industry, and she was named of the “Top 50 Distinguished Women in Wealth Management” by Wealth Management magazine in 2008. Heather has co-authored two studies about women and their unique needs and has been featured in many publications, including the Wall Street Journal, InvestmentNews, Barrons, and Bloomberg. She serves on the board of directors of University Hospitals, The Private Trust Company, and Asurint-One Source Technology.

Adena Friedman
President and Chief Operating Officer, Nasdaq

Adena Friedman serves as President and Chief Operating Officer of Nasdaq. In this role, Ms. Friedman is responsible for overseeing all of the company’s business segments with a focus on driving efficiency, growth, and expansion. She has P&L responsibility as well as oversight for day-to-day business operations for each of the company’s business units, including Listing Services, Information Services (comprising Index and Data), Technology Solutions (comprising Market Technology and Corporate Solutions), and Global Trading & Market Services. Ms. Friedman rejoined Nasdaq in 2014 as President, after serving as Chief Financial Officer and Managing Director of The Carlyle Group from March 2011 to June 2014.

Before Carlyle, Ms. Friedman was a key member of Nasdaq’s management team for over a decade, serving in a variety of roles including head of the company’s data products business, head of corporate strategy, as well its Chief Financial Officer. Ms. Friedman is credited with significant contributions to the strategy and expansion of the organization, helping to create one of the most diversified exchanges in the world today. She played an instrumental role in the company’s acquisition strategy, overseeing the acquisitions of INET, OMX, and the Philadelphia and Boston Exchanges. She originally joined Nasdaq in 1993.

Susan M. Fuehrer
Medical Center Director, Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center

Susan Fuehrer was appointed the medical center director for the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center (VAMC) in 2010 after beginning her career there several decades prior. She joined the Cleveland VAMC as a management intern, held several positions over the years, and was serving as associate director before her appointment to medical center director. The Cleveland VAMC is the third largest VA in the country, and Susan oversees the care of 115,000 veterans across Northeast Ohio. Susan currently serves on the boards of directors for Cleveland’s Healthcare Information Management Executives, the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the American Red Cross, the Center for Health Affairs, and the Cuyahoga Community College Foundation, and is the past chairman of the Cleveland Federal Executive Board.

M. Ann Harlan
Co-CEO, Harlan Peterson Partners, LLC; Retired, Vice President and General Counsel, The J.M. Smucker Company

M. Ann (Ann) Harlan is a founder and co-chief executive officer of Harlan Peterson Partners, LLC, an executive leadership development firm with a unique focus on client development and professional development consulting. Prior to founding Harlan Peterson Partners, Ann served as vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary for The J.M. Smucker Company, a NYSE traded company and a leading manufacturer of food products, during which time sales grew from $300 million to $5 billion through a combination of organic growth and transformational acquisitions. Ann has served on the board of directors for The Gorman Rupp Company since 2009, where she is currently the Lead Director and chairs the Nominating and Governance Committee and serves on the Audit Committee. She also previously served on the board of directors of Eatem Foods Company until its sale to Archer Daniels Midland in 2015. Ann also sits on the Advisory Board of Gates Group Capital Partners, is the chair of the board of The First Tee of Cleveland, and is a member of the board of directors for University Hospitals Health System, where she is vice chair of the Compensation Committee and serves on the Audit Committee and the Nominating and Governance Committee.

Carla Harris
Vice Chairman, Wealth Management, Managing Director, and Senior Client Advisor, Morgan Stanley

Carla Harris is a Vice Chairman, Wealth Management, and Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanely. Before being named to her current roles, she headed the Emerging Manager Platform and was also responsible for Equity Private Placements. For more than a decade she was a senior member of the equity syndicate desk and executed such transactions as initial public offerings for UPS, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Ariba, and Redback. Carla is the immediate past chair of the board of the Morgan Stanley Foundation and the Food Bank of NYC, and sits on the boards of The Executive Leadership Council, Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, A Better Chance, Inc., and Xavier University. In 2013 she was appointed by President Barack Obama to chair the National Women’s Business Council, and was recently named to Fortune Magazine’s list of “The 50 Most Powerful Black Executives in Corporate America” and U.S. Bankers Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Finance (2009, 2010, 2011). She is an active member of the St. Charles Gospelites of the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church and the Mark Howell Singers, and has released several gospel albums. She is also the author of “Expect to Win” and “Strategize to Win.”

E. LaVerne Johnson
Founder, President and
Chief Executive Officer,
International Institute for Learning, Inc.

E. LaVerne (LaVerne) Johnson is founder, president, and chief executive officer of International Institute for Learning, Inc. (IIL), a leading, global corporate training and consulting company headquartered in New York City, with 18 wholly owned companies around the world. IIL was founded in 1991 by LaVerne, who has a Master’s degree in Finance and Economics from Michigan State University. She has been called one of the most powerful leaders in project management by the Project Management Institute, and recently received special recognition from the PMI Educational Foundation as a PMIEF Mission Partner for IIL’s donation of $1 million to fund a Project Management Skills for Life curriculum, plus four academic scholarships every year, available to graduate and undergraduate students studying project management at degree-granting colleges and universities.

Erika Karp
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Cornerstone Capital Inc.

Prior to founding Cornerstone Capital Inc. in 2013, Erika Karp was managing director and head of global sector research for UBS Investment Bank, where she chaired the UBS Global Investment Review Committee and managed a global team of analysts and strategists. Cornerstone Capital aims to apply the principles of sustainable finance across capital markets and enhance investment processes through transparency and collaboration. Erika is an advisor to the UN Global Compact’s LEAD Board Development Program, a founding board member of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Financing and Capital. She was named among the nation’s “Top 50 Women in Wealth” by AdvisorOne and one of the 50 “Conscious Capitalists” who are “Transforming Wall Street.”

Photo courtesy of Anti/Andris Sondrol Visdal

Robin M. Kilbride
President, Chief Executive Officer,
and Chairman of the Board,
Smithers-Oasis Company

Robin began her career at Smithers-Oasis in 1983 as a senior financial analyst, was named to controller in 1987, chief financial officer in 2001, executive vice president in 2005, president and chief operations officer in 2006, and president and chief executive officer in 2011 after leading a management buyout of the company. She was elected chairman of the board in 2014. Robin currently serves on the boards and committees of several private companies and non-profit organizations, including Ball Horticultural Company, Kent State University, and Wadsworth United Methodist Church.

Ilene H. Lang
Former President and
Chief Executive Officer, Catalyst

Ilene Lang is broadly recognized as a pioneering female high-tech/internet executive, having founded AltaVista Internet Software Inc. and serving as senior vice president at Lotus Development Corporation before becoming president and chief executive officer at Catalyst. During her tenure at Catalyst, Ilene helped double revenue, triple membership, quadruple brand awareness, and increase the number of research reports and knowledge products tenfold. To honor her legacy, Catalyst established the Lang Legacy Fund, an individual giving program to sustain the growth she directed and honor her impact on the world of women and business. In 2013, Ilene was awarded the Foreign Policy Association Medal, and named to the National Association of Corporate Directors Hall of Fame in 2014.

Beth E. Mooney
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, KeyCorp

Beth Mooney served in several roles at KeyCorp before elected Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in 2011. She has more than 30 years of experience in retail banking, commercial lending, and real estate financing. Before joining KeyCorp in 2006, Beth held senior level positions at AmSouth Bancorporation, Bank One Corporation, and Citicorp Real Estate, Inc. A recipient of numerous awards, Beth has been recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” and one of the Top 50 “Most Powerful Women in Business” by Fortune Magazine several times. In 2015, she was named the #1 Most Powerful Woman in Banking for the third year in a row by American Banker.

Karen Parkhill
Executive Vice President and
Chief Financial Officer, Medtronic

Karen Parkhill was named executive vice president and chief financial officer for Medtronic in May 2016. She previously served as vice chairman and chief financial officer for Comerica Incorporated for five years. Karen has more than 25 years of financial experience, including nearly 20 years at JP Morgan Chase where she served in various roles in investment banking as well as chief financial officer for the commercial banking business before joining Comerica. Karen is a member of the International Women’s Forum, serves as a National Trustee for the Boys and Girls Club of America, and is a member of the board of directors for the Methodist Health System in Dallas. She was named one of the “Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking” by American Banker Magazine in 2015.

Sandra Pianalto
Former President and Chief Executive Officer, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

Sandra Pianalto began her career at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland in 1983 as an economist, and moved through the ranks to be named president and chief executive officer in 2003 until 2014. During her tenure, she participated in the formulation of U.S. monetary policy and led more than 1,000 employees in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh in their work of conducting economic research, supervising financial institutions, and providing payment services to commercial banks and the U.S. government. Sandra currently serves on the boards of Eaton Corporation, The J.M. Smucker Company, Prudential Financial, Inc., and is Chair of the Board of University Hospitals. She is also an Advisory Trustee and an Executive in Residence at The University of Akron.

Dr. Jean Rogers
Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Sustainability Accounting Standards Board

Dr. Jean Rogers founded the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) in 2010 from an idea that formulated in collaboration with the Harvard University Initiative for Responsible Investment. Prior to founding SASB, Jean served as a principal at Arup, a global engineering firm focused on sustainable development, and was a management consultant at Deloitte working in the environmental and manufacturing practices. Jean is a former Loeb Fellow at Harvard University, and was named one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting by Accounting Today in 2015.

Marcella Kanfer Rolnick
Vice Chair, GOJO

Marcella Kanfer Rolnick focuses on creating meaning and value through her diverse family enterprise—including GOJO, the global leader in skin health and hygiene solutions for away-from-home markets and inventor of PURELL® Hand Sanitizer, and an array of early-stage ventures and philanthropic foundations. At GOJO, Marcella ensures preconditions for long-term viability and vitality are in place; this includes her championship of sustainability, innovation, and organizational effectiveness. She co-founded and guides Walnut Ridge Strategic Management Company, a management and administration services provider.

Throughout her career, Marcella has performed numerous roles within GOJO, including establishing the e-business practice and launching new markets. She has also worked in management consulting, nonprofit business development, and investment advisory services. Marcella serves on various boards, including EP Technologies, UNKNWN, Meeteor, The Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit, American Jewish World Service, and Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah. Marcella was named one of Jewish Women International’s 10 “Women to Watch” and Crain’s Cleveland Business’ “Forty under 40.” Marcella received the “Woman of the Year” Award for Innovation by the Women’s History Project of the Akron Area. Marcella, her husband, and four children reside in Brooklyn, NY; Akron, OH; and Chautauqua, NY.

Lisa Sherman
President and Chief Executive Officer,
The Advertising Council

Lisa Sherman is President and CEO of the Ad Council, the national non-profit behind the most impactful public service campaigns in the U.S., including Smokey Bear, ‘Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk’ and the recent viral phenomenon ‘Love Has No Labels.’ In this position she leverages her extensive experience in molding and leading national communications programs with her strong passion for social causes. Lisa harnesses more than 20 years of experience as a leader and innovator in the communications industry. Previously with Viacom, she launched LogoTV, the leading entertainment network aimed at the LBGT community. She has also served as EVP at Hill, Holliday Connors, Cosmopulos, and held a number of executive and senior level marketing, advertising, and operating positions at Verizon Communications. Lisa’s commitment to social good is also evident outside the office where she serves as the Vice Chair of the Board of God’s Love We Deliver and on the Advisory Board of TMI, the consulting arm of DoSomething.org. She has been recognized with awards including Ad Age’s “Women to Watch 2015” and Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC’s Public Service Award in 2016. Lisa is an inductee into the YWCA’s Academy of Women Leaders and a Metzger-Conway fellow at her alma mater, Dickinson College.

Barbara R. Snyder
President, Case Western Reserve University

President of Case Western Reserve University since 2007, Snyder has encouraged interdisciplinary excellence, catalyzed institutional collaboration and reinvigorated alumni engagement and fundraising. For example, in 2013, Case Western Reserve entered into a historic partnership with Cleveland Clinic to develop a Health Education Campus including the university’s schools of medicine, nursing and dental medicine and broke ground in fall 2015.

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During Snyder’s tenure, the university has tripled undergraduate applications, become twice as selective, and dramatically improved the academic credentials of the entering class. The university also reached its $1 billion capital campaign goal early and expanded it to $1.5 billion. Snyder graduated from the University of Chicago Law School and earned her bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University. Prior to becoming president of Case Western Reserve, she was executive vice president and provost at Ohio State. Snyder is a director of the Association of American Universities, American Council on Education, Business-Higher Education Forum, Greater Cleveland Partnership, JobsOhio, and a trustee of Internet2. She is also a director of KeyCorp and Progressive Corporation. She is a member of the Ohio Business Roundtable and an elected member of the American Law Institute.

Darla Stuckey
President and Chief Executive Officer,
Society for Corporate Governance

Darla Stuckey joined the Society for Corporate Governance in 2009 and was named president and chief executive officer in 2015. She has testified before the House Financial Services Committee on Dodd-Frank governance issues, and is a sought after speaker on important legal, policy, advocacy, and research issues. Prior to joining the Society for Corporate Governance, Darla was Senior Assistant Secretary at American Express Company and Corporate Secretary at the New York Stock Exchange.

Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton
Chief Executive Officer, Dream/Catcher Educational Consulting Service

Dream/Catcher Educational Consulting Service is a consulting firm that provides coaching and professional development for newly selected college and university presidents. Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton served as president of Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) from 1992 until retiring as president emeritus in 2013. Before joining Cuyahoga Community College, Dr. Thornton served as president of Lakewood Community College in Minnesota from 1985 to 1991. She also held several senior level leadership positions at Triton College (Illinois). In 2011, Dr. Thornton was appointed co-chair of the 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges, a national task force convened by the American Association of Community Colleges. She currently serves on the boards of University Hospitals Health System and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. She serves on several corporate boards including FirstEnergy Corporation, Applied Industrial Technologies, Inc., Barnes and Noble Education, Inc., and Republic Powdered Metals, Inc. (RPM, Inc.). She was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame in 1999 and recognized annually by Northern Ohio Live as one of the Top Women Professionals. She received the American Association of Community Colleges Leadership Award in 2014.

Lisa Woll
Chief Executive Officer,
US SIF/US SIF Foundation

Lisa Woll has worked as an advocate and organization builder across a range of domestic and international issues. She has been the chief executive officer of US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment and the US SIF Foundation for a decade, and has been advancing sustainable and impact investing through high quality research, programming, education, convenings, and through engagement with the media and policymakers. Before US SIF, Lisa was executive director of the International Women’s Media Foundation, an organization focused on press freedom and expansion of women’s role in the media. She was the director of the first international study to look at the impact of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and directed the Washington, DC office of Save the Children. She is the founder of Suited for Change, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization serving low income women, and a co-founder of The Women’s Alliance and Advantage Ethiopia: Kid’s Tennis and Education Fund. She has a Master’s Degree in Women’s Studies and her motto is “don’t agonize, organize.”

Margaret W. Wong
Managing Partner, Margaret W. Wong
& Associates, LLC

Margaret Wong is an award-winning managing partner of her namesake law firm, bringing more than 38 years of experience in immigration and nationality law and legal practice management to her valued clients. Margaret W. Wong & Associates is nationally and internationally renowned for its ability to successfully represent clients and companies in obtaining immigration status. Her firm is rated AV Preeminent, is a Best Lawyers’ Best Law Firm, and is rated 10 by AVVO. Margaret is a sought-after speaker and author, is an adjunct professor at Case Western Reserve University Law School, and Founding Chair of the seminar on immigration and naturalization law of the Federal Bar Association, Northern District of Ohio. Her law firm has won more than 35 precedent-setting cases in U.S. Federal Courts and Boards of Immigration Appeals. She was also named Honor Professor of People at the University of China (China’s top law school) and is the author of “The Immigrant’s Way.” She sat on Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown’s Ad Hoc Committee on Nominations of U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Marshals of the Southern District of Ohio. She loves reading and writing. She has represented thousands of immigrants throughout her life, and she personally sees more than 100 clients most weeks of her working life.

Jacqueline Woods
Retired President, AT&T Ohio

Jacqueline (Jackie) Woods is the retired president of AT&T Ohio, and was the first woman to be president of a major public utility company where she oversaw the transformation from a regulated utility to a consumer-driven competitive communication company. Jackie currently serves on the board of directors for The Timken Company and The Andersons Inc., and formerly on the boards of School Specialty and Office Max. She is a former board chair and trustee of Kent State University; a trustee of Muskingum University, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, and the Cleveland Bluecoats; and is a national trustee of the Association of Governing Boards. During her career Jackie has served on over 20 civic and non-profit boards; is a chair emeritus of the Greater Cleveland Chapter of the American Red Cross and Great Lakes Science Center; and has received numerous awards including the YWCA Lifetime Achievement Award (2008), Athena Award (2009), was inducted into the Northeast Ohio Inside Business Hall of Fame in 2010, and most recently won The Cleveland Foundation Women of Note Legacy Award.


Proudly Presenting Uplifting Leaders

Advance your leadership journey in this 100‑page business paperback, which is now available for $17.95. 100% of the book’s net proceeds will support the education of women transitioning out of foster care through the YWCA Greater Cleveland’s Nurturing Independence and Aspirations (NIA) program.




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Inspire Future Leaders

How can you uplift future leaders? 1) Pass along your copy of the book to an aspiring or current leader, 2) introduce the book to affinity groups and networks, and/or 3) tear & share the perforated advice cards from chapter 6 with friends and colleagues.