Women We Admire is pleased to announce The Top 50 Women Leaders of Illinois for 2023. This year’s awardees are guiding organizations, both large and small, in areas including healthcare, financial services, education, law, and more. Living in the state with one of the most diversified economies in the world, these individuals are key contributors to the success of the organizations they serve. They are leaders in their communities and serve as role models for future generations.

Among this year’s awardees is Catrena Slaughter, Chief Information Security Officer at Mars, a fierce advocate for STEM exposure and career development in underrepresented communities, whose drive for success is rooted in her passion to leave a legacy of products, services, and communities transformed at the works of her contributions. Awardee Cynthia Goody, Chief Dietitian Nutritionist and Menu Marketing Senior Director for McDonald's, has contributed to the chain’s kid’s meal developments such as the reformulation of the fat free chocolate milk jug, choice of sides, and inclusion of kids fries. Also awarded is Andrea S. Danes, Managing Director and Global Human Services Leader with EY, who leads efforts across 27 countries where professionals provide strategic support to government executives. She’s charged with unifying the firm’s vision and voice for transformation across social programs supporting vulnerable populations.

Please join us in celebrating the accomplishments of The Top 50 Women Leaders of Illinois for 2023.

1. Uma Amuluru
Chief Compliance Officer & Vice President of Global Compliance, The Boeing Company

Uma Amuluru is the Chief Compliance Officer and Vice President of Global Compliance for The Boeing Company, and a member of its executive council. As CCO, Amuluru is responsible for Boeing’s ethics and compliance program, which enables business success through an organizational culture committed to integrity, ethical conduct, workplace and product safety, and compliance with laws and company policies. As a member of the executive council, she is responsible for proactively addressing legal and compliance obligations, as well as providing company leaders with early visibility of any arising issues.

Amuluru previously served as VP and assistant general counsel for Boeing. She was responsible for legal advice and counsel to the chief engineer, the chief information officer and manufacturing, supply chain & operations leaders. Amuluru advised on matters related to intellectual property, cybersecurity, enterprise supply chain, and environment, health and safety.

Amuluru holds a JD from Northwestern University School of Law and earned an undergraduate degree from Duke University. She currently serves on the board of directors of Legal Aid Chicago.

2. Catrena Slaughter
Chief Information Security Officer, Mars

Catrena Slaughter's drive for success is rooted in her passion to leave a legacy of products, services, and communities transformed at the works of her contributions. She’s an advocate for STEM exposure and career development in underrepresented communities to ensure she’s never the last. She is currently Chief Information Security Officer at Mars Inc, based in Chicago, IL. While at Mars, Catrena led the transformation for Mars Factory Cyber Security which has improved the cyber protections of their manufacturing assets.

Catrena joined Mars from Whirlpool Corporation with experience working in their global information systems and integrated supply chain organizations. While with Whirlpool, Catrena led IT strategy development and delivery for global quality, product safety, innovation and regulatory functions working with global manufacturing. She led a strategic transformation of their North America integrated supply chain order-to -cash operation, and B2B digital trade self-service experience. Catrena also spent time working as an expat with Whirlpool EMEA, headquartered in Italy, on a Digital eCommerce Program.

With her passion for STEM, Catrena is an active member and mentor with the Women in Cybersecurity organization. She previously worked on a project to construct the technology Center for Benton Harbor Michigan Boys and Girls Club. Catrena advocated for corporate diversity through her previous role as president, advisor, and board member of the Whirlpool African American ERG. Upon joining Mars, she joined the Mars African American Council ERG. Catrena has been appointed to an exclusive initiative to charter Mars first Women of Mars Digital.

3. Cynthia Goody
Chief Dietitian Nutritionist - Menu Marketing Senior Director, McDonald's

Cynthia Goody, PhD, MBA, RDN, LDN, is the Chief Dietitian Nutritionist - Menu Marketing Senior Director for McDonald’s USA, LLC. A nutrition professional and business executive, Dr. Goody has a broad range of professional experiences including food, ingredients and nutrition research and development, career leadership development as well as strategic food and nutrition communications.

In her current role, Dr. Goody develops and executes initiatives for the McDonald’s US food, ingredients and nutrition strategies, delivering nutritional science expertise to oversee McDonald’s ingredients and nutritional information processes for consumer-facing endpoints. She is frequently quoted in local and national media on topics related to food, nutrition and the quick-service restaurant industry. Since joining McDonald’s, Dr. Goody has received the McDonald’s Outstanding National Marketing Award and has completed the McDonald’s Global Accelerated Leadership and Development Program. Dr. Goody has served on the executive board of the Produce for Better Health Foundation and Commission on Dietetic Registration Competency Assurance Panel, the credentialing agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Dr. Goody has been involved in the Diabetes Care and Education and Food and Culinary Professionals Practice Groups of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is also the author and editor of Cultural Food Practices, a 250+ page professional reference published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Dr. Goody has participated as an invited faculty member for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Culinary Institute of America and the Harvard School of Public Health’s Continuing Medical Education. Prior to joining McDonald’s USA, she served as a registered dietitian for HY-VEE Food Stores, Inc. in Iowa City, IA, where she provided nutritional counseling and developed wellness programs. A returned Peace Corps Volunteer-Guatemala, she has also delivered diabetes care and education in both domestic and international settings.

Dr. Goody holds a PhD and MBA from The University of Iowa, an MS double major in food science, human nutrition and family and consumer sciences; and an undergraduate degree in food, nutrition, and dietetics from Iowa State University.

4. Susana Suarez Gonzalez
EVP & Chief Human Resources Officer, Amcor

Susana Suarez Gonzalez is Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at Amcor, a leading global packaging company. A passionate advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion, she has more than 30 years of human resources experience engaging diverse workforces across global business-to-business organizations.

Prior to joining Amcor, Susana served as EVP and chief human resources and diversity & inclusion officer at International Flavors and Fragrances where she helped shape its human capital strategy while completing two of the biggest acquisitions in the history of the flavor and fragrance industry. Prior to that, she spent more than two decades in various sales, general management and HR leadership positions at Fluor Corporation. Susana is based in Amcor’s corporate offices in Deerfield, Illinois.

5. Andrea S. Danes
Managing Director, EY

Andrea S. Danes is EY’s Global Human Services Leader. In her role, Andrea is charged with unifying the firm’s vision and voice for transformation across social programs supporting vulnerable populations. EY recognizes the importance of social support as nations emerge from the pandemic and move into a prolonged recovery phase. Andrea leads efforts across 27 countries where EY professionals provide strategic support to government executives and facilitates global coordination to identify emerging trends, build sharable solutions, and enable collaboration in support of human services transformation.

Within the US government and public sector market, she is focused on program transformation across healthcare and human services. Her role is part of the EY global initiative to leverage data and analytics to drive resilience and recovery throughout a human services delivery model. Focusing on HHS agency transformation and the US activation of the Power of Prevention platforms, she spends time with federal, state, and county leaders tasked with better supporting vulnerable populations through the pandemic and beyond.

She is widely recognized as an industry expert with more than 30 years’ experience in both public and private sectors, with program expertise in Medicaid, child welfare, and other human services programs. Andrea’s passion for establishing better service delivery models across HHS is driven by personal experience both as a child growing up in Section 8 housing with free lunches, as well as in adulthood where their youngest daughter came into the family through kinship placement. This powerful combination uniquely positions her to help government agency leaders understand the power of their programs, and the untapped potential of their populations. Her knowledge of the programs from the “inside out” and experience with the challenges from the “outside in” give her exceptional insight into the current problems plaguing our Human Services programs, and the experience and expertise to help solve them.

For more than 20 years Andrea has been a nationally recognized and sought-after speaker, sharing perspectives and guidance through industry conferences, thought leadership, and podcast appearances. She’s provided expertise on panels and as a single interviewee and is always excited to share what she has learned with others interested in transforming the social safety net.

7. Rachel Paul
Partner, KPMG US

Early on, Rachel Paul discovered that her chosen career as an accountant and her passion for global travel and culture meshed perfectly in global mobility - the process of supporting business needs through movement of employees. Nearly 25 years later, she leads the Midwest US team for KPMG LLP's Global Mobility Services practice, where they provide top-notch payroll, tax, HR, technology and outsourcing support to companies and their mobile employees. Her quest to understand the needs of her clients and their employees resulted in roles in Melbourne, Australia, Denver, Colorado and travels to projects on six continents. For the past several years, she has been based in Chicago, Illinois.

In addition, Rachel is active in supporting culture and talent efforts at KPMG, including diversity, equity and inclusion. Among other roles, she currently serves as a member of KPMG's Women's Advisory Board and a mentor for members of the African Ancestry Business Resource Group.

Rachel earned an undergraduate and master’s degree in accounting from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. She is licensed as a CPA in Colorado and Illinois, and is certified as a Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR).

12. Jennifer Belongia-Barak
SVP of Communications of Social Media & Content, Guaranteed Rate, Inc.

Jennifer Belongia-Barak is an accomplished business storyteller with hands-on experience defining and driving global strategies to increase brand awareness and strengthen category leadership. “Leading with Kindness”, leveraging transferable skills, and routinely leaving her comfort zone have been the central elements of her success in building and managing marketing teams in a wide variety of business sectors around the world. By removing fear and stress from the workplace dynamic, Jen unlocks the full creative and strategic potential within her teams, ensuring a high level of performance standards while realizing sustained engagement to exceed brand building and marketing goals.

After building her toolset in the Chicago PR and advertising agency world, Jen joined Red Bull North America to begin an 11-year run with one of the world’s top consumer brands. By securing the company’s first US distribution deal with CBS and garnering media coverage in national publications, she helped transform Red Bull’s US communication impact. This success led her to a leadership position at Red Bull’s world headquarters in Salzburg, Austria where she helped spearhead Red Bull Media House’s transition from branded content producer to a full spectrum media company. A notable tenure as head of media network for Toronto-based Red Bull Canada brought Jen back to North America. In 2019, she shifted industry sectors and returned to Chicago as head of marketing and communications for SAC Wireless, a Nokia company that builds and maintains the nation’s wireless infrastructure. A few years later, she joined Denver-based Ibotta (a performance marketing platform) where within the first 60 days of hire, she pivoted the entire communications department from a B2C to B2B focus.

At Guaranteed Rate, Jen helped create the company’s premier media network and steadily launches innovative Fintech products at a blistering pace. No matter what the challenge or industry, Jen continually brings fresh energy and the desire to learn and grow to skillfully lead teams, form partnerships, and deliver impactful results.

View the complete list of awardees.

15. Elise Couston
Senior Managing Director, Newmark

Elise Couston has been in the commercial/industrial real estate industry for 35 years. She was a partner for 25 years at Paine/Wetzel Associates before moving to Newmark in 2014. Newmark is a publicly-traded global real estate company providing a fully-integrated platform of services to multinational corporations, institutional investors, and privately-held companies of all sizes. Their range of services include brokerage, capital markets, global corporate services, landlord and tenant representation, property management, project management, lease management, and valuation and advisory services.

Elise has served as a past president of the Association of Industrial Real Estate Brokers and the Chicago chapter of the Society of Industrial/Office Realtors. She has also published extensively with her Ask The Experts column in Benuzzi's Industrial Guide and more recently in Chicago Industrial Properties.

17. Maggie Mikaitis
Vice President of Mortgage Lending, CrossCountry Mortgage, LLC

With 16 years of mortgage experience, Maggie Mikaitis is currently Vice President of Mortgage Lending with CrossCountry Mortgage, LLC. Her knowledge of the mortgage industry covers processing, underwriting, sales, and management.

A motivated self-starter, she has consistently exceeded her own goals every year and continues to grow her business with superior customer service and a conscious eye on the best borrower experience. Maggie focuses on conventional, jumbo, FHA/VA, and condo financing, with expertise in investment property financing. Helping clients build and finance their real estate portfolios is an inspiring experience, Maggie’s personal strengths and qualities stretch beyond her commitment to her clients. Outside of financing, Maggie enjoys spending time with family and friends. She is a native of Chicago and recently moved back to the south side neighborhood of Beverly, where she resides with her husband and their daughter.

18. Kay Hare
Managing Director of Marketing & Communications, Stories Program, Accenture

Kay Hare is responsible for managing Accenture's best client and corporate stories, from identification to development and then promotion through multiple channels, all geared for the right audience. Kay joined Accenture in 1990 and has spent the last 32 years in the Chicago office working in multiple industries and service lines as well as corporate functions.

Kay has an undergraduate degree in speech communications/music from Blackburn College and a MEd in English as a second language from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

19. Pam Flaherty
Vice President, NFP

Pam Flaherty brings 25 years of insurance and risk management experience to her role of developing new business for NFP Private Client Group. Through a highly personalized, consultative approach, she helps high-net-worth individuals and affluent families protect their assets and plan for the future. Her team’s approach to finding the most appropriate solution for each client includes negotiating with carriers, underwriting, claims advocacy and overall origination.

Prior to NFP, Pam served as an independent agent for the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network and as a regional sales manager with AIG. After AIG, she guided Marsh’s Midwest Private Client Services division. Pam holds an undergraduate degree in marketing from the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, as well as life, disability, health, and property and casualty licenses in many states. She’s past-president of the Professional Women’s Club of Chicago and a member of the advisory board. In 2022 Pam graduated from Wharton School of Business with her CAPI designation.

20. Kelly Smith Dotson
President, Numerator

Kelly Smith Dotson is President of Numerator, a data and tech company focused on first-party consumer data insights. As President, Dotson oversees the product, data, operations and marketing teams, working to align them for maximum impact. Dotson translated her experience as a data-driven, customer-first marketer into understanding customer requirements for product, data and change management. She is a learn-it-all, able to quickly master new industries and disciplines. She has been a senior leader and officer at VC-backed early-stage companies and $1B+ NYSE companies.

Prior to joining Numerator, Dotson was global CMO of a Goldman-Sachs portfolio company (SAVO, now acquired), Berkshire Hathaway's The Pampered Chef, and digital map giant NAVTEQ (now Here). Dotson started her career with multiple overseas assignments at major, multinational ad agencies, Leo Burnett (acquired by Publicis) and DMB&B. She earned an undergraduate degree in marketing from the University of Notre Dame.

21. Liz Hayes
Partner, Heidrick & Struggles

Liz Hayes is a Partner in Heidrick & Struggles’ Chicago office and a member of the Global Technology & Services and Private Equity practices. She works with a variety of business and professional services firms across consulting and advisory, business services, business process outsourcing, and PE-backed entities.

Liz’s experience includes high-profile assignments placing CEOs, practice leaders, partners, and other senior management positions in all segments within the business and professional services industry. Additionally, she has strong experience working with private equity firms at the fund and portfolio level, placing c-suite executives within their portfolio companies and operating partners. Liz also has notable experience leveraging the consulting and advisory talent ecosystem across a variety of chief strategy, transformation, and corporate development leadership roles.

Prior to joining Heidrick & Struggles, Liz spent several years at another global executive search firm, most recently as a member of the private equity and venture capital practice. Earlier, she was based in Hong Kong where she led internal recruiting for the firm’s Asia Pacific operations. In this capacity, she was tasked with expanding the firm’s presence across the region and for developing and executing the firm's regional growth strategy.

Liz received her undergraduate degree in political science and history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

24. Mollie Sitkowski
Partner, Faegre Drinker

Mollie Sitkowski handles import and export control and compliance work on behalf of clients at Faegre Drinker. She has assisted numerous clients in developing and implementing import and export compliance programs and offers continued training to the business areas that touch on import and export compliance. She assists with export compliance matters, including advising on export screening and classification, and filing license classification requests and voluntary disclosures with the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security and the US Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls. She has advised US-headquartered multinationals, as well as foreign-based multinationals, on compliance with US sanctions laws and the extraterritorial reach of US export controls.

Mollie also handles import compliance matters, including issues related to import valuation, tariff classification, free trade agreements, country of origin determination and marking and other import compliance areas. She has particular experience counseling and assisting clients with developing and implementing reconciliation programs, including identifying the required additions to values. In addition, she has advocated for her client’s preferred tariff classification in litigation in the Court of International Trade and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Mollie joined Faegre Drinker from existing firm client Omron Management Center of America, where she was import/export counsel. While in law school, she worked for Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP as a paralegal for the customs and trade practice.

View the complete list of awardees.

25. Lauren Logan
Managing Director, Global Health Strategy & Consulting, Accenture

Lauren Logan is a Managing Director at Accenture, where she is a member of the global health team. By harnessing the power of technology and human ingenuity, Accenture is the partner of choice for improving access, experience, and outcomes in healthcare. Accenture has been recognized by Forbes as a 5 Star America’s Best Management Consulting Firm in healthcare and by Everest, Gartner, and other ratings agencies as the market leader in numerous healthcare sub-industry categories.

At Accenture, Lauren is responsible for leading client initiatives, informing strategic direction across the global health practice, collaborating with ecosystem partners, and driving asset design and development. She is a strategic partner to senior leaders at Fortune 100 and high-growth health payers, providers, public health systems, and non-traditional healthcare organizations. Currently, Lauren serves as the global strategy and business architecture lead for Accenture’s health analytics capability, which helps clients transform data into measurable value for patients, providers, and operators. Her team members are based in North America, Europe, Asia, and Oceania.

Outside of Accenture, Lauren has advised the United Nations, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and United Kingdom Department for International Trade. While in England, she also had the honor of teaching Oxford Summer Courses. Lauren’s academic background includes an MPhil in Public Policy from the University of Cambridge and an undergraduate degree in public policy with a specialization in quantitative analysis from the University of Chicago. Lauren is a proud Chicago native. She is passionate about spending time with her family, continuously learning, and doing all things sports.

26. April Kates-Ellison
Chief Client Services & Tripartite Relations Officer, American Dental Association

April Kates-Ellison is Chief Client Services & Tripartite Relations Officer of Member and Client Services for the American Dental Association. Kates-Ellison is responsible for the strategic account management and engagement of multiple stakeholder groups, including state and local dental societies, dental schools, ASDA, ADSO, large group practices, specialty dental societies, federal dental services, Diversity Summit Presidents Group, select councils and committees, and other key stakeholder groups. April also delivers a portfolio of dental society service offerings, such as membership development, strategy & planning, leadership and governance development, operations, technology/systems support, and other key services, through dedicated account management support and ADA shared services. In addition, she delivers service offerings that support dental student and dentist member engagement, diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Division of Member & Client Services is committed to helping state and local dental societies provide superior service and value to its members. April cultivates organizational support for advancing priorities and initiatives through collaboration and joint ownership with other ADA business units and leads cross-functional teams to execute key strategies.

Kates-Ellison holds a Master of Science in Public Service Management from DePaul University and an undergraduate degree in communications from the University of Illinois. In addition, Kates-Ellison holds the Certified Association Executive credential through the American Society of Association Executives and is a current nominee for the Certified Diversify Executive Credential through the Institute for Diversity Certification. She is also the recipient of many distinguished industry awards.

Kates-Ellison works closely with women and youth organizations. She is the founder of the New Year’s Women’s Conference, Vent & Reinvent Women Group Sessions, and the Next Steps Initiative Leadership Project. She is co-founder, in collaboration with her mother, of the We Care Community Outreach Initiative.

29. Aimée Eubanks Davis
Founder & CEO, Braven

Aimée Eubanks Davis is the Founder and CEO of Braven, a nonprofit organization that was established in 2013 to ensure that first-generation and low-income college students have the skills, confidence, networks and experiences they need to land strong first jobs. Growing up in low-income and underrepresented communities in Chicago and working with young people from similar backgrounds, Aimée was inspired to start Braven based on her deep passion and belief that our next generation of leaders will emerge from everywhere. Braven operates in Atlanta, the Bay Area, Chicago, Newark, and New York City and has worked with 5100 fellows.

Aimée spent the majority of her career at Teach For America. In 2002 she joined the TFA staff as VP of new site development, helping to grow the organization’s presence into Miami and Philadelphia, as well as doubling TFA’s presence in New York City. In 2003, Aimée moved to the regional operations team, where she managed Teach For America’s executive directors and helped ensure maximum impact in each of the organization’s 22 regions.

In 2005, Aimée became the chief people officer and oversaw the organization’s staff growth from 200 to over 1800 staff members. Additionally, she worked on the development of a comprehensive competency model for staff recruitment, selection, performance management, and learning and development, and ensured that the human assets team was positioned to fuel the growth and success of Teach For America through being a strategic business partner to organizational leaders and teams. In 2011, Aimée took on the expanded role of EVP of people, community and diversity, leading work to uphold TFA’s commitment to diversity and to build an organization that is a model of fairness and equality. She also previously led TFA’s public affairs and communications teams before departing to devote her full energies to Braven.

Before joining Teach For America’s staff, Aimée was a program officer at The Breakthrough Collaborative (formerly Summerbridge National) and, prior to that position, she led the Summerbridge New Orleans site to become one of the most successful sites in The Breakthrough Collaborative. Aimée, a graduate of Mt. Holyoke College, was a 1995 Teach For America corps member and taught sixth grade social studies and language arts in New Orleans.

30. Kristen Fitzpatrick
Managing Principal, Miller, Cooper & Co., Ltd.

Kristen Fitzpatrick is the Managing Principal of the firm and has served on the executive committee since 2011. As Managing Principal, she guides the growth and direction of the firm, prioritizes new client services, and establishes the highest standards for recruiting and retention, professional development and continuing education for principals and staff members. Kristen led the Audit and Accounting Department for more than 12 years, directing its 100+ member team who provide a range of accounting and audit services for clients in a variety of industries. Additionally, she is the principal in charge of Miller Cooper's recruiting efforts both for experienced hires and campus recruiting.

Fitzpatrick continues to service numerous businesses in diverse industries including transportation companies, manufacturers, distributors, construction contractors and subcontractors, real estate entities, and service businesses. Her current responsibilities on these assignments are to coordinate all services for clients and ensure our team is adding value to the client relationships. She also performs a variety of financial consulting projects for clients and serves as a business advisor to clients in a number of capacities.

Fitzpatrick received an undergraduate degree from Illinois State University. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Illinois CPA Society. In 2008, she was presented with the Early Career Achievement Award from Illinois State University. She is a member of Vistage International, which is the world’s leading executive leadership organization. In 2015, she was recognized by the National Association of Women Business Owners Chicago (NAWBO Chicago) with the annual Corporate Woman of Achievement Award. Additionally, Fitzpatrick served as a director at large for the board of NAWBO Chicago and is a member and serves on the board as chapter chair of the Young Presidents Organization, Chicago-Windy City chapter.

31. Annu Khot
Founder & Managing Partner, Socíale Dispensary

Annu Khot is the Founder and Managing Partner of Socìale, a female minority-owned Illinois-based dispensary primed to become a national cannabis brand. Socìale won one of the first social equity dispensary licenses in the state of Illinois, with its Park Ridge, IL location opening in mid-2023. An aspiring vertically integrated cannabis operation, Socìale's growth plans span Illinois dispensaries, out-of-state dispensaries, and craft grow operations.

Annu discovered cannabis after enduring the physical and mental pain of seven miscarriages and soon decided to start a dispensary of her own. A proud South Asian, Annu is one of the first
female South Asian dispensary owners in the US. In addition, Socìale was the first dispensary to be blessed by a Hindu priest. Annu brings a background in angel investing and entrepreneurship to Nirvana. She was fortunate to have learned the nuances of this sector from Arlan Hamilton of Backstage Capital. A seasoned angel investor, she has made early-stage investments in Medyear, a consumer health information platform, as well as in commercial & multi-family units across Illinois. Annu is a partnership-centered investor, she works hand-in-hand with entrepreneurs to define their strategic vision, facilitate introductions to other investors, and more.

Annu brings her passion for relationship building and entrepreneur empowerment to everything she does. She is a member of Chief, Illinois Women in Cannabis, the Illinois Cannabis Industry
Association, and the Minority Cannabis Business Association. Annu was born and raised in India and spent her early career as an attorney. She resides in Illinois with her husband and son. In her spare time, you can find her reading biographies, being a lifelong learner, exploring the fine dining scene in Chicago, and spending time with family and friends.

32. Kayce Ataiyero
Chief External Affairs Officer, Joyce Foundation

Kayce Ataiyero is the Chief External Affairs Officer at the Joyce Foundation where she oversees the foundation's strategic communications, the Journalism Program and the Lend A Hand community grants fund. She is also a member of the Foundation's leadership team.

Ataiyero has extensive experience in communications, journalism and politics. Prior to joining the Foundation in 2018, she served as director of external affairs for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, where she led communications and community engagement. She has also led communications for US Congresswoman Robin Kelly, the Illinois Governor’s Office and the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office.

As a journalist, Ataiyero previously worked as a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, The (Raleigh-Durham) News and Observer, Philadelphia Inquirer and Washington Post. She’s a native of Washington, DC and has a degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. She is a member of the board of Media Impact Funders and Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights. She also at one time was general manager of the Chicago Steam, a minor-league basketball team.

33. Lauren Izaks
COO & Executive Vice President, All Points Public Relations

Lauren Izaks is the COO and Executive Vice President of All Points Public Relations, an integrated PR agency that specializes in the franchise industry. She co-founded All Points PR in 2011 and has helped fuel the agency’s ascension to the top of the franchise industry’s competitive PR set. Today, All Points PR serves dozens of clients ranging from startups and seasoned entrepreneurial enterprises to international franchise brands.

Lauren’s savvy business sense combined with stellar organization and planning keep All Points PR on track. From conceptualizing and systematizing internal processes to accounting, HR, hiring, technology and training, Lauren does it all with grace, understanding and attention to detail. She is the visionary behind the company’s sustained growth, creating pathways for new agency services and departments while also building out strategic recruitment plans to fill newly formed positions with top talent.

Lauren has also been the driving force behind some of All Points PR’s most substantive work, including launching the Positive Impact program, which includes quarterly volunteering and service events for agency team members to contribute to the Chicagoland community together. In addition, Lauren co-founded the Northern Illinois Franchise Association, an organization designed to help franchisors, franchisees and suppliers grow personally and professionally through quarterly events covering a range of timely topics related to franchising, government relations, the economy and more.

A graduate of Indiana University, Lauren holds an undergraduate degree in education and a postgraduate master’s degree in communication sciences and disorders from Northwestern University. Lauren earned a leadership certification through Northwestern University and has since begun an additional master’s degree in information design and strategy.

34. Olga Spivak
Vice President of People, YCharts

Olga Spivak is the Vice President of People for YCharts. She is passionate about making a difference in organizations by creating and implementing a tailored strategy that works for the business and people, developing a values-led culture, and leading high-performing teams. YCharts is an investment research platform that enables smarter investments and better client communications, serving a client base of more than 5,000 RIAs, financial planners, and asset managers who oversee more than $750 billion in assets.

Prior to joining YCharts, Olga served as head of HR for daVinci payments. She has played a critical part in the company’s success, having established the company's first HR department and all of its respective HR functions and operations.

Olga has a business degree in finance and a master's degree in human resources. She also completed numerous world-class programs (domestic and international) related to neuroscience and is pursuing a doctorate degree in psychology. She is certified by the International Coach Federation as an ICF's Associate Certified Coach.

View the complete list of awardees.

35. Sophia Piliouras
COO & Corporate Secretary, Minority Corporate Counsel Association

Sophia M. Piliouras is the Chief Operating Officer and Corporate Secretary of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA), the preeminent advisor on diversity, equity, and inclusion to c-suites across corporate America. Piliouras’ longstanding commitment to racial and gender equity goes hand in hand with her belief that leaders become changemakers when they strive to always do better. By consistently advocating for sustainable DEI strategies and modeling effective allyship, she empowers today’s leaders to take action beyond the status quo.

As both a seasoned attorney and an expert in managing successful organizational partnerships, Piliouras brings a wealth of insight to MCCA’s leadership team, where she directs programming and events, strategic partnerships, membership, and more. Since joining MCCA in 2016, she has served as senior counsel, director of education and research and as president of MCCA’s Advisory Practice.

Prior to joining MCCA, she served as VP and assistant general counsel at JP Morgan Chase and as a litigator at Seyfarth Shaw LLP. In addition, she provided pro bono legal counsel to refugee and immigrant children through Kids in Need of Defense. She is a frequent presenter and guest lecturer on topics in diversity, law, and strategic planning and a trustee of the Foundation for Advancement of Diversity in Intellectual Property Law.

Ms. Piliouras holds an undergraduate degree in international relations from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s from Columbia University. She received her JD from New York Law School, where she served as the United Nations Editor for the New York Law School Journal of Human Rights.

37. Carolyn Lowstuter
Executive Vice President and CEO, Robertson Lowstuter

Passionate and dedicated to serving as President & CEO of Robertson Lowstuter, Inc., Carolyn Lowstuter and her husband, Clyde, have built a 42-year executive development firm specializing in the transformative work of executive coaching, diagnostic and selection assessment including their proprietary assessment, Behavioral IQ: The Art of Authentic Interaction, Leadership Development, and High Performance Team Building. As a trusted advisor, Carolyn enjoys partnering with executives as they explore career moves, adapt to changing environments, and pursue next-level growth. Headquartered in Lake Forest, IL she leads and collaborates with their talented team of 17 executive coaches, a local team of 24, and 162 global and domestic affiliates. R|L’s blue chip client companies range from Fortune 50 to mid-cap companies with 46% in healthcare, pharmaceutical, bio-tech, and medical device companies.

Throughout her career, Carolyn has developed with her client companies coaching cultures fostering interdependence. Through their branded R|L Leadership Institute, she has been adept at designing experiential, innovative, and interactive programs such as Coaching Competencies for Leaders, Cultural Transformation, and DEI Employee Resource Group Mentoring Circles training programs.

Since the founding of their firm, she has operated with the goal of empowering executives and their teams to realize more of their full potential for individual fulfillment as well as for the accelerated growth and profitability of the organization. Carolyn’s success has been attributed to her partnership in listening well, adapting nimbly, and benchmarking against cutting-edge best practices. Readily engendering trust with her clients, Carolyn has a strong competency for “Creating Uncommon Results!” which remains R|L’s slogan.

Carolyn is a member of the International Coach Federation and the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association. She holds an MBA in international and marketing from the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, an MAT in learning and French from the University of Illinois and an undergraduate degree in French and English from Albion College where she graduated as a Phi Beta Kappa. When she is not with clients, she enjoys global travel, cultures, and cuisine with her husband and family. She spends time at the theater, gardening, and reading. She is active in philanthropic endeavors.

38. Omaira Gonzalez
Chief Operating Officer, Family Bridges

Omaira Gonzalez has served as the Chief Operating Officer of the nonprofit Family Bridges for over 13 years. As COO, Omaira has successfully designed and implemented various strategies and initiatives to create a vibrant and mission-focused organizational culture while managing day-to-day operations. Among Omaira's areas of responsibility are operations, talent optimization, strategic execution, participant experience, and organization continuity and resiliency. Her leadership skills have been instrumental in the organization's growth and success.

In addition to her work as COO, Omaira has written several family and leadership curricula, including Marriage Champions, developed in collaboration with grassroots leaders in the Pilsen community. The program is designed to help married couples strengthen their bonds and has been implemented in over 15 communities and faith-based institutions.

Omaira's passion for leadership development has resulted in her co-founding a highly successful leadership academy for staff and management. This academy focuses on critical areas such as performance improvement, employee relations, diversity, talent retention, and change readiness. The program has been successfully implemented at publicly-traded and private companies, universities, government institutions, and other nonprofits.

Omaira also has extensive experience in the banking industry as a mortgage officer and CSR manager, and she is currently leading a successful real estate business with her husband of 30+ years. Her background in business and management has equipped her with a wealth of skills and knowledge, which she utilizes to give back to the community and serve families.

Omaira’s life’s vision is to mentor, coach, and support others in their professional and personal development. She provides mentorship to college students, women leaders, staff, and management to strengthen their skills, competencies, and capabilities utilizing various vehicles including one-on-one coaching, leadership training, and workshops. During her free time, Omaira and her husband love adventure, long walks and Broadway shows. With their two kids Yomari and Omar, they enjoy great meals and playing board games.

39. Pamela McElvane
CEO, Author & Publisher, Diversity MBA Media P&L Group Ltd of IL

Pamela McElvane is the CEO and Founder of P&L Group. She has spent more than 25 years working with large and midsize companies providing insights and best practices, leadership and executive coaching, strategy, and organizational management. Her passion and experience have led her to create a legacy that contributes to supporting leaders and companies that make a substantial impact for change. Her blended work of publishing, research, recognition, and learning solutions has fostered a platform for original data-based learning that catapults the disciplines of leadership; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); and talent management.

Pam has served on more than 45 paid and nonprofit boards in her career. She currently serves as an advisor to over 40 Chief Diversity Officers. She has also lent her wisdom to several publications including the Beyond Middle Management White Paper and Branding You by Todd Sawyer. She has received over a dozen accolades for her work such as being awarded the Martin Luther King Excellence Award by the Illinois Human Commission on Diversity.

Pam earned her MBA in finance and international marketing from the University of California at Berkeley, Haas School of Business, and her Executive Education Certification from Dartmouth Tufts School of Business. She recently achieved her Certified Professional and Transformational Coach designation.

40. Audrey Grunst
CEO & Founder, Simply Bee Mental Health Treatment Centers

Audrey Grunst is most recently known for her leadership efforts after the Highland Park Parade Shooting on July 4, 2022 and was honored as an Illinois State Senate Awardee. Audrey organized and led 700 therapists who spent their days counseling thousands of community members at Highland Park High School. Since then, Audrey has visited Washington, DC alongside survivors and advocacy groups to fight for safer schools and communities.

Audrey is a mission-centered leader who places a strong emphasis on delivering high quality mental health services to all people. Audrey is an expert and professional keynote on the topic of mental resilience and is the author of 5 Ways To Grow A Resilient Mind and host of the Well, Not Perfect podcast. Audrey empowers individuals and teams to prioritize their mental health and build a life worth living. Her vision is a world where people can “simply bee” themselves.

Audrey is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for over 10 years and an entrepreneur for the last 7 years, with experience working in nonprofit organizations such as Lawrence Hall Youth Services, Center for Contextual Change, and Eating Recovery Centers. Throughout her career, she has spoken to over a hundred school districts as well as at several national conferences. Additionally, Audrey has experience as a Kappa Kappa Gamma Philanthropy Consultant, Northwestern Women’s Volleyball Mental Performance Coach and presently serves as co-chair of the D128 Mental Health Committee.

Audrey is currently the CEO of Simply Bee Treatment Centers located in Vernon Hills, IL and Northbrook, IL. Simply Bee offers outpatient therapy for ages 5+ as well as Intensive Outpatient & Partial Hospitalization Programs for adolescents with eating disorders and mood disorders.

43. Veronica Glickman
CEO & Founder, Autism, Behavioral & Educational Services

Veronica Glickman, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Autism, Behavioral & Educational Services, Inc. (ABES), has dedicated her professional career to working with kids and adults with autism and their families. She began working with the adult population as an undergraduate student at Adelphi University in Long Island, NY, while working toward her psychology degree by providing vocational training and placement.

Since that time, Veronica earned a master’s in experimental psychology from the University of Hartford, a master’s in organizational psychology from Alliant International University, and a certification in applied behavior analysis from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She is a board-certified behavior analyst.

Veronica’s experience spans from early childhood, 18 months through adulthood. She has created and supervised in-home and clinic-based ABA programs across the country, set up classrooms, trained professionals, and was an administrator in a therapeutic day school. Veronica also mentors and supervises students studying applied behavior analysis.

Veronica’s twenty-year plus tenure spans across four states, New York, Connecticut, California and Illinois. Upon diagnosing and recommending behavior analytic services in Illinois, Veronica found that there was a lack of service providers and ABES, Inc. was born. She has been invited to speak on many radio-talk shows regarding autism awareness and autism and safety. Recently, she co-authored a chapter named Inclusion is a Matter of Life and Death. More Than We Realize. Veronica’s current interests include medical necessity for ABA services, working with insurance companies and the legal aspect of when services get denied by insurance companies.

View the complete list of awardees.

44. Heather Becker
Partner, ADDA Infusion

Heather Becker is a human resources professional with 25 years of progressive experience. Her background includes M&A due diligence, compensation and benefits analysis, planning, administration, and benchmarking. She’s also experienced in salary banding, career pathing, metric analysis, training and development, executive partnership and coaching, employee relations, compliance, and project and team management. She has additional expertise in implementing various payroll/HRIS systems including ADP, Paychex, BambooHR/TRAX, InfiniSource, UlitPro (UKG), Paylocity, as well as recruiting, office moves, vendor, broker and carrier negotiation and selection, along with function planning and execution. Additionally, Heather has 17 years of experience in all areas of accounting.

Heather is a hands-on, results-oriented people-person with excellent interpersonal, verbal, and written communication skills. She’s detail-oriented with outstanding multi-tasking, organizational, and analytical skills. Her strategic mindset allows her to focus on the big picture without losing the details needed to reach key goals.

45. Ami Patel
Chief Operating Officer, Elite RF

Ami Patel is a dynamic, transformational leader with over 20 years of operations, sales and finance experience. She currently serves as Chief Operating Officer of Elite RF. Her proven innovative approach to operations and sales leverages her extensive background in manufacturing and finance. Coupled with leadership, start-up and project management skills, she provides unparalleled benefits to the customer and organization. Patel is a regarded member of the Women in Electronics, Women in Manufacturing, and Women We Admire. Her rich background includes leadership positions at leading manufacturing and financial institutions.

46. Essence Keys
Co-Founder and VP of Operations, Expedient Tax Service

Essence Keys is driven, motivated, and a woman of faith. She is multi-talented and known for singing, acting, and entrepreneurship. Essence is from Chicago, Illinois.

She joined forces with her husband and Founder of Expedient Tax Service, Stephen Keys, in 2012, where she is Co-Founder and Vice President of Operations. Essence uses her performing arts, customer service, and corporate communications skills to help launch innovative ideas for the tax business. She and the team aim to continue giving clients the Ultimate VIP Experience when managing their taxes and other financial needs. She plans to continue taking Expedient Tax Service to the top. Since joining the business, Essence has been featured alongside her husband on WVON1690 Radio, CEO Monthly UK magazine, Money 2.0 magazine in Las Vegas as a panelist, and Comcast Rise Recipient.

Before joining the business, she earned her bachelor’s degree in corporate communications from Eastern Illinois University. After receiving her degree, she joined a community service pageant where she was crowned as Miss Black Windy City USA. She later competed for the Miss Black Illinois USA title, placing 1st runner-up as a first-time contender.

She believes her gifts can be a blessing and a light to others. Her family is her motivation to continue making a difference. She is thankful that God continues to give her strength. She advocates for moms and will launch her first blog, "YouGotThisMommy.com," on Mother’s Day. She is working on an eBook and song that will motivate other moms to slay while still having a career doing what they love. Essence loves spending time with her two sons, Stephen Jr. and Jeremiah. Look out, world, this woman is going places.

47. Susan Reilly
President, Founder, Reilly Connect

Susan Reilly is President and Founder of Reilly Connect, a 100-percent women-owned, public relations, brand, and digital content marketing firm headquartered in Chicago. With deep roots in public relations, Reilly pioneered the shift in PR from traditional media relations to integrated strategic communications across paid, owned and earned media. She has a long history of working with clients in the health and wellness, bioscience, pharmaceutical, legal, fintech, food and beverage and hospitality sectors.

Reilly is also founder of Clever Monarch Studio™, a full-service video and content production studio featuring award-winning influencer campaigns, corporate milestone documentaries, sponsored content and broadcast quality social media.

In addition to running Reilly Connect, Susan is a highly sought after communications coach and expert in persuasive communications. She created The Reilly Communications Training Method™ a battery-tested, proprietary process to shape messages and prepare messengers for a variety of formats including live and taped presentations, video content, shareholder presentations, and high-profile media interviews. Her trainees include celebrities, athletes, CEOs, world-renowned medical experts, lawyers, macro- and micro-influencers and senior leaders at major industry organizations.

Prior to launching her own firm, Reilly had a successful run at BCW Chicago where she served as VP and group manager responsible for a multimillion-dollar portfolio devoted to the health, wellness, pharmaceutical, and nutrition sectors. She left an amazing corner office overlooking the Chicago River and took to her basement with phone and fax. Once feeling confident, Reilly moved into a renovated sheet metal factory with two talented graphic designers in the 1500 block of North Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago. The view was now very different. Her lunches were often spent peering east toward the city thinking about all Chicago has to offer while sitting in her car listening to the Smashing Pumpkins and eating a delicious caprese sandwich from the infamous D’Amato’s Bakery.

Reilly is the recipient of many awards from leading industry organizations including the Public Relations Society of America, PRWeek’s Top Women in PR and the Publicity Club of Chicago. She has served as an adjunct professor at DePaul University. Reilly is known for her left and right-brained strengths, humor and “make no bones about it” counsel. She is an avid photographer and sailor with a love for all things Chicago and Lake Michigan. Her greatest accomplishment however is as a mother to her three children who remain her guiding light and inspiration.

48. Selvei Rajkumar
Managing Director, KLA Schools of Plainfield

Selvei Rajkumar ardently advocates for children's right to access high-quality education that fosters positive community impact. Her vision encompasses nurturing young minds to become respectful, compassionate citizens and empathetic leaders, making a lasting difference in their communities. Her father played a significant role in shaping her values, often sharing quotes from inspirational leaders to instill social responsibility and strong ethics.

Inspired by her father's principles, Selvei pursued a career in engineering, earned an MBA, and became a management consultant, specializing in strategic planning and the implementation of financial and business intelligence systems for top-tier executives. A letter from Mother Teresa she once received reminded her of the profound impact education could have on communities.

With the support of her family and husband, Selvei collaborated with KLA Schools, a Reggio Emilia-inspired franchise, and opened campuses in Plainfield, Naperville, and Naperville West. Recognizing the need for an integrated app tailored to the early childhood industry, she developed SchoolCRM and PedagoguePointe to enhance the everyday lives of leadership and pedagogical teams, facilitating informed decision-making.

In 2018, Selvei and her son, Asuttosh Rajkumar, founded the nonprofit Muthusami Paravel Foundation. This organization aims to empower children by educating parents, teachers, and school leaders globally about the importance of quality education, incorporating emotional intelligence and core values alongside academic achievement.

Selvei is currently working towards establishing Orion STEM Schools in Naperville, IL. She firmly believes in every child's capability and right to explore their passions within a high-quality educational environment. Orion STEM students are encouraged to engage with their curiosities, develop innovative ideas, and address humanity's needs while upholding the highest levels of integrity, kindness, respect, and gratitude.

View the complete list of awardees.