Women We Admire is pleased to announce The Top 50 Women Leaders of Maryland for 2024. Maryland’s diverse economy is anchored by private industries, such as manufacturing, technology, and biosciences, totaling $382.4 billion in economic output in 2023. Other prominent industries include retail trade, international trade, healthcare, and professional services, as well as local, state, and federal government. 

With an eclectic array of sectors making up the Old Line State’s economy, it’s no wonder the women leaders of Maryland come from a wide variety of impressive backgrounds.

For example, Adrienne Hunter is a leader in the technology sector, serving as a Vice President at IBM, the global leader in business transformation through an open hybrid cloud platform and AI. In this role, Hunter leads IBM’s marketing strategy in key sectors, including government and healthcare.

Leading in both the education and healthcare sectors is honoree Barbara Slusher, a Professor, and Director at Johns Hopkins Medicine, ranked the second-best medical university for clinical medicine in the world. In addition to her many areas of expertise, including neurology, psychiatry, and oncology, Slusher is also the Director of the Johns Hopkins Drug Discovery program.

Finally, we extend honors to a leader in the government sector, Cynthia Snooks-Key, the Chief of Staff for the Office of Financial Management of the US Department of the Interior. A high-level staff member, Snooks-Key brings 23 years of federal service to this role.

Please join us in celebrating the accomplishments of The Top 50 Women Leaders of Maryland for 2024.

1. Cynthia Snooks-Key
Chief of Staff for the Office of Financial Management, US Department of the Interior

Cynthia Snooks-Key is the Chief of Staff for the Office of Financial Management (PFM). In her role, Snooks-Key plans and directs all administrative, financial, and operational activities for the deputy CFO and director of PFM. She organizes and prioritizes critical issues and required information to facilitate efficient decision-making to ensure the smooth operation of PFM. Snooks-Key brings 23 years of federal service in the areas of accounting, financial management, and budgeting. She also brings 15 years to include, state service, county service, and nonprofit organizations in areas of auditing, bookkeeping, and legal assistance. 

Snooks-Key arrived at PFM from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), where she served in the capacity of assistant to the associate CFO. Before joining OPM, she worked for the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the New Jersey National Guard, serving over 21 years, retiring as a staff sergeant after having received the Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal and the Army Achievement Medal. The span of her career has provided work experience in accounting, financial management, account reconciliations, reporting, analysis, implementing accountability measures, budgeting, and leadership of complex sensitive programs, she is judicious and organized. 

A native of Trenton, New Jersey, and current resident of Prince George’s County, Maryland, Snooks-Key holds an MBA with a concentration in accounting from the American Military University, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude. She earned an undergraduate degree in paralegal studies and has certificates in accounting, personnel apprenticing, and administrative specialist. 

2. Kathleen Langan
Vice President, Senior Program Director, AECOM

Kathleen Langan is the Vice President and Senior Program Director of AECOM, the world's trusted infrastructure consulting firm, delivering professional services throughout the project lifecycle – from advisory, planning, design, and engineering to program and construction management. Their teams are driven by a common purpose to deliver a better world through their unrivaled technical and digital expertise, a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion, and a commitment to environmental, social, and governance priorities. 

Langan is a results-driven professional with 25 years of experience leading and supporting programming, design, construction planning, and implementation assignments for large multi-million-dollar development, commercial, government, K-12, and higher education projects. Langan first got her start in 2001 as an executive vice president at Hess Construction. From there, she went on to McKissack & McKissasck as a VP.

She currently serves on the National Construction Management Association of American Board of Directors, and she previously served as a board director of the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education, as well as the Chair of the VFCCE Development Committee. Langan graduated from Harvard Business School with an AMBA in business management.

3. Caroline Roche
Partner, IBM Consulting

Caroline Roche is a VP & Senior Partner at IBM, responsible for leading the Energy Industry (Chemicals, Oil & Gas, and Utilities) in the US. She previously led the Customer Transformation business in the Americas with Strategy, User Experience, Salesforce, Adobe.

IBM Consulting is the professional services and consulting arm of IBM focused on business strategy, experience design, technology, and operations. Since taking the leadership role several years ago, Roche has led to significant growth in the business area for IBM. She has led 1200+ person teams and P&L ownership roles. Roche has won multiple awards at IBM, including the Top 50 Leaders in Maryland in 2022 and Best of IBM in 2018.

Roche graduated from William & Mary with an undergraduate degree in finance and a concentration in accounting and joined IBM out of college. A mom of three young children, Roche is particularly passionate about advocacy for DE&I in the workplace, especially for working mothers. She writes a popular blog, The Roche Report, where she writes about women’s leadership topics.

4. Patreece Butcheé
Vice President, Design & Construction, Wells Fargo 

Patreece Butcheé has more than 25 years of real estate experience and is currently a Regional VP of Design & Construction within the North/Mid-Atlantic region at Wells Fargo. Her primary responsibility is overseeing the region's performance and delivery portfolio of projects of more than two million square feet and $430 million in costs, as well as supporting the company’s current and future operational needs while cross-collaborating with internal partners and stakeholders to achieve meeting the Corporate portfolio goals and strategies.

Additionally, Butcheé has an extensive legal background with experience that includes years spent as a paralegal specialist with a focus on real estate, civil and criminal law within the Mid-Atlantic region. She has recently acquired a professional certification through Cornell University that focuses on women's leadership and entrepreneurship. Her prior educational background was focused on criminal justice and project management, with specialized certifications within the same fields of study.

Butcheé is also acting president and board member of Tanner Resource Community Center (TCRC), located on the Saint Paul United Methodist Church Campus in Oxon Hill, Maryland. TCRC is a nonprofit organization that focuses on food security, strategic partnerships, school community support, and youth volunteerism opportunities within the Prince George’s County sector. In addition, she is a member of the NAACP, Charles County Chapter, African American Women's Network, and she volunteers for other local area organizations and events.

5. Georgia Smith
Vice President, Fiserv

Georgia Smith is a talented and seasoned executive with over 30 years of experience in financial services. She brings a deep wealth of expertise in accounting, treasury, and payment processes while also utilizing her experiences in strengthening control environments and establishing operational excellence practices. In addition, Smith has led cross-cultural initiatives to author policies detailing Best-in-class controls within the settlement, accounting, and treasury functions across the globe.

Currently, Smith is a Vice President at Fiserv leading the North America Settlement Controls & Solutions teams. She oversees payment transactions of $30 billion per day. In her role, she also performs governance over the global settlement processes engaging settlement personnel in all regions to discuss metric variations, issues, implementations, and deviations within the control environment. Smith is also leading settlement integration efforts as part of the First Data/Fiserv acquisition. While leading the integration efforts for payment transactions between First Data and Fiserv, she is bringing significant change with new system designs for automation and process efficiencies.

Smith is a 2018 graduate of Leadership Washington County. She donates time and effort in her community, mentoring youth and young adults, as well as coordinating the collection of needed items for various nonprofit agencies. She enjoys spending lots of quality time with her family and is a proud aunt and great-aunt to many nieces and nephews. She has a passion for travel and continually updates her bucket list with new adventures once she checks other adventures off her list. Smith holds an MBA in business and an undergraduate degree in accounting from Frostburg State University. 

6. Adrienne Hunter
Vice President, Industry Marketing and Field Enablement, IBM

Adrienne Hunter is the Vice President for US Public and Federal Marketing at IBM. IBM is the global leader in business transformation through an open hybrid cloud platform and AI, serving clients in more than 170 countries around the world. With 28 consecutive years of patent leadership, IBM is committed to being a responsible innovator and a force for good in the world. 

Hunter has held various leadership positions in IBM across sales and marketing in both global and US-based positions. Currently, she leads the organization responsible for marketing strategy and execution in support of IBM’s largest clients in the government and healthcare industry segments. In this role, she is responsible for the execution of B2B marketing best practices, which build new client relationships and drive strategic business growth.

Hunter studied business at the University of Washington, where she was a three-time NCAA Women's Crew Champion. She also received a Certificate of International Studies in Business. 

7. Gaynelle Swann
Director - Sensors Program Management Office, TE Connectivity 

Gaynelle Swann is the Director of the Sensors Program Management Office for TE Connectivity, a global industrial technology manufacturing leader creating a safer, sustainable, productive, and connected future. 

Swann was previously the VP of the Business Analytics and Transformation Office of Stanley Black & Decker. She first joined the company in 2019 as the vice president of engineering. Before joining Stanley Black & Decker, Swann was a program and engineering manager for Raytheon. Before Raytheon, she was a senior manufacturing systems engineer for Ford Motor Company. She previously established the new college for Engineering, Computer Science, Construction Management, and Aviation programs at Southern New Hampshire University, where she led programs and curriculum development with a team of 27 professors, department chairs, and program coordinators. 

Swann graduated from Tuskegee University with an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and from Georgia Institute of Technology with a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering.

8. Susan Cvijanovich
Vice President of Research and Dispute Operations, Fiserv

Susan Cvijanovich leads with over 20 years of operational leadership experience in financial services and an extensive background in chargeback processing, the Research and Dispute Resolutions Organization of Fiserv. Fiserv enables money movement for thousands of financial institutions and millions of people and businesses for a world that never powers down. As a Fiserv leader, Cvijanovich has responsibility for the oversight of multi-billion dollars in annual disputes inventory and is the application business owner of the robust Fiserv Acquiring Dispute System for North America.

Cvijanovich is a results-oriented, professional leader in the highly sophisticated payments industry. She instills a sense of value, excellence, and personal growth in the associates within her organization. She is a sought-after key stakeholder on large multi-functional teams. She has proven expertise in operations, finance, logistics, relationship management, and strategic planning. Before joining the Disputes organization, she led the program management, reporting, analysis, and requirement engineering teams. Her experience also includes management positions in the call center, check processing, and network regulatory environments.

Cvijanovich has repeatedly proven her ability to work cross-functionally to motivate teams and effectively communicate purpose. As a key stakeholder on several transformational projects, she has demonstrated an indisputable track record for establishing and meeting goals. Cvijanovich has a passion for providing guidance, support, and direction for the personal growth of career-driven women through multiple mentoring relationships.

9. Kim Martinez
Vice President of Education, National Wildlife Federation

Kim Martinez serves as the Vice President of Education and Engagement and Senior Advisor to the Climate Equity Collaborative, where she oversees the development of pre-K-12, higher education, youth leadership, and community programs serving more than 15,000 schools in the US.

Martinez previously served as the national senior director of education, where she acted as advisor to multiple global partner initiatives, served as the US national operator for the global EcoSchools program, and participated in the US Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs, which supports people-to-people conversations with foreign publics on US policy priorities, including science, technology, engineering, and math pedagogy for teachers.

Martinez earned her BS and teaching credential from the University of California, Riverside, and received her Master’s Degree in School Administration from Azusa Pacific University. She was a classroom teacher and administrator of teacher professional development at the Center for Teacher Innovation at the Riverside County Office of Education in California, where she supported teacher mentoring programs in 92 school districts in four counties. She was also an adjunct instructor in the School of Education at the University of California, Riverside.

10. Margi Kirst
Chief Revenue Officer, Operation Homefront

Since 2015, Margi Kirst has served as Chief Revenue Officer of national military nonprofit Operation Homefront, overseeing a development and marketing/public relations team that creates vibrant engagement and connections between generous donors and the military families supported by the organization. 

Kirst has 30 years of experience in marketing and communications for global private and nonprofit organizations. Her extensive background in economics compels her to use data to drive the marketing and fundraising efforts that ultimately support Operation Homefront’s mission to build strong, stable, and secure military families so they can thrive - not simply struggle to get by - in the communities they’ve worked so hard to protect. Currently, she is leading a $100 million comprehensive campaign, which is tracking more than a year ahead of schedule to ensure that the organization can secure the futures of military families for years to come.

Kirst previously served as vice president of marketing at the United Service Organizations (USO), and has also directed fundraising, marketing, and communications initiatives for the Autism Society of America, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), Socimer International, and Price Waterhouse. Kirst has a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and an undergraduate degree from Trinity College in Washington DC. She is an extremely proud military family member, as the wife of a former US Army officer, the daughter of dual-service US Navy parents, and the sister of two Army reservists.

11. Jennifer Disharoon
Chief Marketing Officer, GRF CPAs & Advisors

Jennifer Disharoon is the Chief Marketing Officer at GRF CPAs & Advisors in Bethesda, MD. Her nearly 30-year career has focused on leading the marketing departments at professional service firms, including those in the A/E/C, legal, and accounting industries. As an accomplished MBA, she provides leadership for strategic marketing programs that employ the latest technology and innovative approaches to meet the firm’s goals and objectives. Disharoon works side-by-side with firm leaders to plan and execute marketing strategies that increase brand awareness, generate new business opportunities, support recruiting and retention, and reinforce the firm’s commitment to the accounting industry and the community.

In addition to her department leadership role, Disharoon is a founding committee member of Women on the Move, the formal women’s leadership initiative at GRF, and participates as a member of the GWSCPA Women’s Leadership Section Planning Committee. Outside of GRF, Disharoon mentors young women and men seeking roles in professional service marketing. She is the current secretary of Iona Senior Services in Washington DC, where she has served on the board in various roles since 2017. Previously, Disharoon was president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS). When she isn’t working, she is pursuing her passion for international travel and enjoying time with her family and her rescue dogs.

Before joining GRF, Disharoon’s professional experience included geographic and industry marketing roles focused on the nonprofit, real estate, A/E/C, legal, technology, government contracting, and hospitality sectors across the United States. Disharoon received her undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Maryland, College Park, and she holds an MBA from Pepperdine University.


12. Melissa Bissen
Vice President & Controller, Whitney Bailey Cox & Magnani

Melissa Bissen has been providing professional accounting services to Baltimore area businesses for nearly 30 years. She has served in accounting leadership positions at Allen & Shariff, Corporate Office Properties Trust, Laureate Education, Euler Hermes North America, and Whitney, Bailey, Cox & Magnani. Bissen specializes in creating and leading large teams through periods of robust changes in technology, processes, and organizational structure while instituting a culture of collaboration and innovation.  

As Vice President at Whitney, Bailey, Cox & Magnani, Bissen oversees all aspects of accounting, reporting, budgeting, forecasting, payroll (over 225 employees), treasury, audits, taxes and licensing, operating and legal agreements for the group of 30 entities and act as their primary liaison with auditors, governmental agencies and banks. Previously, at their Americas Headquarters in Owings Mills, she served for seven years as VP and treasurer for Euler Hermes, overseeing all aspects of accounting, treasury, and investments for Euler Hermes North America’s Finance Operations in the US & Canada, and consolidated reporting of the Americas region to additionally include Mexico, Chile, Columbia, Argentina, and Brazil to headquarters in Paris France. 

Bissen led a finance team of 28 and also previously served as the chief investment officer for the Americas Region. She was a member of the due diligence and integration teams for new opportunities and led treasury and banking relationships for the Americas region. Bissen is also a former co-chair and current Corporate Advisory Board member of the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and was recently recognized for her outstanding volunteer leadership with the organization for the past 12 years. Bissen was a founder of the Women’s Group at Whitney, Bailey, Cox & Magnani, “WBCM Strong” encouraging women to support and empower other women. She is also the president of the Relief Society for her church’s local operations, supporting members and connecting them to local and church resources as they face adversity.  

13. Daniela Gabrielle Smallwood
Vice President of Marketing and Programming, Thompson Hospitality

Daniela Gabrielle Smallwood is an international speaker, author, entrepreneur, and marketing executive developing & releasing leaders of systemic change across matrix organizations. She is currently Vice President of Marketing and Programming for Thompson Hospitality’s Higher Education / Solo Ventures sector primarily serving Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the country. Her impact in the HBCU market has launched a new campus dining brand and developed over twelve new restaurants specifically to honor the legacy and diversity of the global HBCU community.

Smallwood’s life's work is dedicated to producing leaders of change, revolutionizing economic ecosystems, and using business to resolve economic crises and disparity. She is a certified Master Business Coach and certified Transformation Life Coach and has formally studied graphic design, media management, new media journalism, organizational leadership, and corporate communications. In addition, Smallwood is the author of eighteen published books and has helped hundreds of leaders to become published authors and public speakers. She is the executive producer of TH Teaches, Make It Memorable, DeLuxe Life, and Chef Talk, television broadcasts aired in select HBCUs across the country. 

Smallwood is an esteemed member of the Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., a historic organization renowned for its commitment to community service and empowerment. Her affiliation underscores her dedication to fostering positive change and service within diverse global communities.

14. Carol Edwards
Vice President, Creator Growth, Raptive

Carol Edwards has extensive experience in sales management roles in the media industry, with a focus on analytics and advertising solutions. Edwards is currently the Vice President of Creator Growth at Raptive since 2021. CafeMedia and AdThrive are now Raptive, a new kind of company transforming creators into global brands and lasting businesses.

Before this role, Edwards worked as a senior client lead at Centro from 2019 to 2021. Her earlier work experience includes holding various senior VP roles at Nielsen from 2007 to 2019, leading the sales organization with a revenue portfolio of $150 million, and developing and selling advanced analytic intelligence solutions to diverse clients. Before joining Nielsen, she worked at Arbitron Inc. from 2001 to 2013, leading the startup commercialization of Project Blueprint, a pioneering single-source, cross-platform media measurement solution, and leading high-potential sectors, such as cable and digital out-of-home sales, growth sectors, and cross-platform management, driving organization excellence, boosting revenue and increasing service penetration.

Edwards obtained a BS degree in marketing management from George Mason University's School of Business. In 2020, she obtained a Basis Certification for Sales from Centro. 

15. Brigid Peterson
Partner & Head of Endowments & Foundations Business, Brown Advisory

Brigid Peterson is a Partner and Head of the Endowments and Foundations Business at Brown Advisory. She has extensive experience working with nonprofit organizations, institutions, and private foundations on strategic, operational, and development issues, as well as advising families on structuring their philanthropic legacy. In her work with clients, Peterson helps boards, staff, and investment committees develop a vision and policy around aligning their investment portfolio with their organizational mission.

Peterson serves on numerous boards and committees, including the Board of Visitors of the University of Maryland School of Law, the Investment Committee of Notre Dame Preparatory School, and as a trustee for the Baltimore Community Foundation, where she serves on the Impact Investing SubCommittee and Race, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. 

Before joining Brown Advisory, Peterson practiced law, working with tax-exempt organizations and philanthropically minded individuals. She earned a JD in law from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and an undergraduate degree in sociology from Connecticut College, and she studied abroad at The University of Cape Town.

16. Michelle Webb
Executive Director of Employee Experience, TEKsystems

Michelle Webb serves as the Executive Director of the Employee Experience Team for TEKsytems, where she is responsible for designing, implementing, and supporting programs that positively impact every employee’s journey to create an exceptional experience that supports their ability to perform at the highest level. She started with TEKsystems in Colorado Springs in 1996 as a recruiter and has taken on many roles over her 27 years, including the oversight of Recruiting and Consultant Programs for TEKsystems in North America for over a decade. She was asked to spearhead the inclusion and diversity efforts at TEKsystems in 2013, which led to the development of her newest role as the Executive Director of the Employee Experience team in 2017.

In 2017, Webb received the Executive Impact Award from Linkage for her commitment to the advancement of women in the workplace. Her story has been featured on LeanIn.org for her courage to take on roles that are not proven and for leaning into her purpose of building connections through compassion and empowering others to do the same. Webb contributed to Susan Brady’s book Mastering Your Inner Critic and authors her blog www.Igot-this.com. 

Webb has over 25 years in recruiting, learning, and development. As a talented speaker, facilitator, and performance coach she helps people achieve the best version of themselves to support desired outcomes in all facets of their lives. She has expertise in IT services, staffing, recruitment, negotiations, project management, leadership development, behavioral coaching, and DEI. Her ability to drive large-scale change through scalable solutions has been the key to driving change across TEKsystems within her space.

17. Karina Neff
VP of Technology, Pioneer

Karina Neff is an industry veteran with over 12 years of experience in the janitorial industry, specializing in the intersection of technology and operational excellence. As a daughter of BSC owners, Neff grew up in the shadows of her parents as they built and sold a successful cleaning business. She took that foundation and jumped into a career with a reputable PR firm before launching her own cleaning company, MGN Commercial Services.

Neff developed her first technology platform while building her company creating waves within Fortune 500 real estate companies. In 2020, she merged her business and technology with Pioneer, a 30-year-old BSC in the Washington DC Area, where she quickly rose to the senior leadership team. In 2022, she co-founded Cora Technologies, a sister technology company. As the VP of Technology at Pioneer, Neff has led multiple initiatives to streamline operational processes, improve customer engagement, and boost overall efficiency. These efforts have not only resulted in significant cost savings but have also set a new industry standard for quality and reliability.

Neff's approach is rooted in a deep-seated belief in the transformative power of people alongside advancements in technology. Her work with Cora Technologies and at Pioneer exemplifies this ethos, as she continues to drive the janitorial industry toward a future, where technology serves as a bridge to enhance human potential, improve client satisfaction, and achieve unprecedented levels of efficiency.

18. Prachee Devadas
President & CEO, Synergy Enterprises

Prachee Devadas serves as Chief Executive Officer and President of Synergy Enterprises, Inc., a woman-owned small business primarily focused on public health and education programs and initiatives.

Devadas provides strategic direction to the company and leads a diverse, highly talented multidisciplinary staff of over 120 full-time employees. Under her leadership, the company has grown from its humble roots of offering support in the conference and logistics area to providing solutions for complex health and education policy issues, program implementation, technical assistance, monitoring, evaluation, and strategic communications. Over the past two decades, Synergy has continued to support the missions of agencies, such as the US Department of Health and Human Services, Education, State, Homeland Security, Energy, and Defense.

Devadas takes pride in communication and team building. She works collaboratively with professionals (technical and non-technical), staff members, and organizations to ensure results of the highest quality. Under Devadas’ leadership, Synergy has steadily grown its client portfolios, expanded its core services, and introduced innovative and cutting-edge technologies – interrelated aspects of business that enable the company to provide the maximum rate of return for each client.

19. JoAnn Theys
Independent Management Consultant, Theys C-Suite Consulting

JoAnn Theys is an Independent Management Consultant for Theys C-Suite Consulting. In this role, she provides C-suite-level consulting services, including mergers and acquisitions of non-profits and for-profits and fractional, interim, and project-based strategic support. She acts as a business partner to the C-suite to ensure alignment with mission and strategic plans, effective use of resources, and the long-term financial and operational success of the organization.

Theys was previously an SVP for finance and administration at Lutheran World Relief, a part of the Corus International family, an ensemble of long-serving, global leaders in international development and humanitarian assistance committed to ending poverty and building healthy communities across Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Africa. She was responsible for the organization's overall financial and operational health and direction.

Previously, Theys worked at Jhpiego, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins University, where she was a director of global finance and administration. Earlier, she worked for the International Law Institute as director of finance and administration and at FINCA International as controller and internal audit manager. Theys, a fluent Spanish speaker, also spent three years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay. Theys earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

20. Jennifer Poulsen
CEO & President, Hebron Savings Bank

Jennifer Poulsen is the Chief Executive Officer and President of Hebron Savings Bank, a full-service community bank based in Hebron, MD. With over 35 years of experience in the community banking industry, Poulsen brings proven excellence in executive leadership, strategic planning, talent acquisition, and operational management, which she shares with companies inside or outside the banking community.

Poulsen actively serves as a Board member for the Maryland Bankers Solutions Board and as a member of the American Bankers Association Women CEO forum. She effectively represents the industry in government relations, advocating at both the state and federal levels. Poulsen also sits on the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce Board, representing the business community through the Government and Business Affairs committee. In addition, she represents Hebron Savings Bank on the Salisbury Wicomico Economic Development board.

Poulsen is a Butler County Community College graduate with SPHR and SHRM-SCP certifications in human resources. She resides in Worcester County, MD.

21. Ashley Brown
Senior Principal, ghSMART

Ashley Brown is a Senior Principal and an Executive Leadership Advisor at ghSMART. She serves Fortune 500 CEOs and senior executives, private equity investors, and boards in the areas of leadership assessment, coaching and development, and organizational effectiveness. Drawn to helping leaders thrive, Brown’s career has spanned the private, public, and social sectors.

Before joining ghSMART, Brown was at McKinsey & Company. She served high-performing organizations, bringing a cross-industry perspective to talent strategy and capability building. Internally, Brown guided strategic growth to leaders of dozens of client service teams and served as an advisor to over 500 integrative consultants. She built trust-based relationships across tenures from business analysts through senior partners, and she was involved in shaping initiatives on recruitment, learning, development, advancement, mobility, and inclusive leadership. Before McKinsey, Brown was in people operations at Google, partnering with leaders on topics, including performance management, succession planning, compensation, and post-merger integration. 

During her graduate studies, Brown was an instructor of political psychology, an assistant to the Dean of Academic Planning and Policy, and a research assistant in the Graduate Student Success Office.  Brown also spent several years as an analyst in the United States Intelligence Community, focusing primarily on political instability and democratization. Brown graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude from Spelman College with a degree in economics. She completed her advanced degrees at the University of Michigan, earning a Master’s degree in Political Science, followed by a joint PhD in Public Policy and Political Science. She is also a Certified Executive Coach.

22. Charis Gomez
Executive Producer & Host, Living Local DMV

Charis Gomez is the Executive Producer and Host of Living Local DMV on DC News Now. Helping to launch the show on DCW50, Gomez has been committed to telling stories to inspire, educate, and entertain viewers in Maryland, DC, and Virginia. Originally from Atlanta, she has spent many years in DC as a journalist.

While in the nation’s capital, she produced for CNN’s Newsroom with Pamela Brown and MSNBC’s Meet the Press Daily with Chuck Todd. Before joining NBC, Gomez was a producer and correspondent for ABC7/WJLA’s Government Matters, a program focused on the business of government. During that time, she also occupied the anchor chair as a fill-in for the morning lifestyle show Let’s Talk Live. She began her career working at Atlanta’s award-winning WSB-TV and CBS Radio’s V-103 FM.

Gomez graduated with an undergraduate degree from Georgia State University and a master’s degree from Georgetown University. She has documented various media trends in places throughout the world, including Turkey, Hungary, and Hong Kong. She produced a 360-degree video on Muslims’ Ramadan journey in Reykjavik, Iceland. While at Georgetown, Gomez published work on the historical designation of Washington’s Kingman Park neighborhood. She is a proud member of the National Association of Black Journalists and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. In her free time, Gomez can be found rooting for her hometown Falcons or Braves (sometimes the Hawks) and spending quality time with her family.

23. Sharon Sloane
President & CEO, WILL Interactive

Sharon Sloane is the President, CEO, and Co-Founder of WILL Interactive, the leading provider of effective immersive story-based training solutions. A learning technology expert and behavior change specialist, Sloane is seen as an innovator in the training sector. Her patented software combines instructional design with gamification and sitcom-quality filmmaking to create the world’s “most watchable training”. For 30 years, WILL Interactive has been committed to learning initiatives that address issues important to organizations and society. 

With an eye toward growth and inclusion, Sloane has seen WILL’s products translated into over a dozen languages and distributed around the world. She is passionate about creating a more respectful workplace culture, and under her leadership, WILL has produced award-winning training in DE&I, sexual harassment prevention, anti-racism, mental health support, and suicide prevention. To serve the changing landscape of in-person and remote workers, Sloane recently instituted never-been-done capabilities for institutions to self-customize WILL’s training to fit their unique needs. She is once again redefining the role of behavioral training to create more collaborative, dynamic, and cohesive workplaces.

Sloane holds an MA in Counseling from the University of Connecticut and a BS in education from Boston University. She lives in Potomac, Maryland, where she enjoys spending time with family and friends and walking in Great Falls Park.

24. Michelle Taylor
President & CEO, BETAH Associates

Michelle Taylor is the President and CEO of BETAH Associates, Inc. (BETAH), an award-winning communications and professional services firm with a 35-year record of success in providing exceptional client experiences. Her vision and entrepreneurial resilience led to BETAH being recognized by Inc. magazine on its list of America's fastest-growing companies. GrowthLab ranks BETAH as one of the top 20 marketing communications companies in government contracting, based on FY2022 data for prime, unclassified contracts awarded across all federal agencies.

Taylor is a Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program graduate and was recognized as a 2022 Enterprising Women of the Year award winner by Enterprising Women magazine. She has over 20 years of experience in communications and marketing, community engagement, and event coordination.  With a commitment to encouraging other business owners, Taylor is chair emerita and a board member of the Maryland Black Chamber of Commerce. She is a founding member of the BOW Collective, an organization that advocates for Black women entrepreneurs.  

Taylor’s dedication to economic and health equity and social justice within Montgomery County, MD, where BETAH is headquartered, led her to co-create the Montgomery County Black Collective. She also established the annual Wilhelmina Bell-Taylor Strive Scholarship for graduating high school seniors.  Given her commitment to service, Taylor is a board member of The Children's Inn at NIH and sits on the Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center governing board. She is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. 

24. Deb Callahan
Chief Executive Officer, National Fenestration Rating Council

Deb Callahan is a visionary and highly skilled association leader, with 33 years of industry experience in volunteer leadership, governance, program development, education, strategic planning, and human resources and change management

As the CEO of the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC), a nonprofit organization providing laboratory-tested, objective energy performance ratings for windows, doors, and skylights, Callahan’s goals are to increase outreach, improve programs, and build greater awareness of NFRC contributions to a greener planet. Before joining NFRC, she held leadership positions in healthcare, nonprofits, and education.

Aside from her professional background, her ongoing commitment to giving back and assisting young women in business fills her time after work hours. With her ongoing commitment to creating an atmosphere of empowerment for young women in business and sustainability industry at her alma mater Wells College, she is developing the blueprint of leadership and philanthropy inside and outside of the office. 

Callahan currently serves as a board member of the Wells College Association of Alumnae and Alumni, as well as a Wells College Board trustee. She also served as vice chair and founding member of the Board of Annapolis Pride, Inc. a nonprofit organization that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community, engaging residents, businesses, and groups to unite in welcoming and embracing diversity in Annapolis, MD. Callahan holds professional certifications, such as Certified Association Executive (CAE) and Certified Professional Mediator (CPM), and she is a conflict resolution specialist.

25. Stefanie Weiland
Executive Vice President of Programs, American Leprosy Missions

Stefanie Weiland is the Executive Vice President of Programs at American Leprosy Missions (ALM). She has a vision to help all people have access to quality healthcare. Leading ALM’s work to pioneer new systems and approaches to improve care for neglected people in the hardest places is her chief creative and mental occupation. Her heart is to restore dignity to people whose lives have been devastated by disease.

Weiland has significant experience in international development and global health, progressing to leadership in several roles, working across Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. Before ALM, Weiland led LifeNet International, a social enterprise focused on improving the quality and sustainability of healthcare in Africa, managing a global team and scaling impact from 10 clinics in one country in Africa to 130 clinics in four countries. 

Weiland is a lifelong learner. She received her undergraduate degree in foreign service from Georgetown University and master’s in development studies from The London School of Economics and in public health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Weiland has also studied at the US Air Force Academy and received a certificate in development management from the Monterey Institute of International Studies. She speaks French, Japanese, and some Swahili. She currently lives in the Washington DC area with her husband and two small children, where she enjoys running along the Potomac River.

26. Kelly Mehrtens
Executive Director, The Trust

Kelly Mehrtens is the Executive Director of The Trust (Powered by the NFLPA). Mehrtens is responsible for managing and marketing a wealth of services and benefits for players as they finish their playing careers in the NFL. She collaborates with an extraordinary team of dedicated staff members and Trust Captains to provide high-quality engagement and services. Working with world-class providers, she oversees connecting players to top-notch earned benefits in areas, including career, financial, mental health, and physical health. Mehrtens and her team continue to create hugely successful engagement events to further build upon an unrivaled comprehensive approach with members of The Trust. Before her ascent, she served as managing director, a position she assumed in 2016.

Before joining The Trust, Mehrtens was the deputy director of athletics and COO at the University of Maryland, where she was a member of the executive leadership team. During her time at Maryland, she had various responsibilities, including leading the day-to-day operations, oversight of an $80 million budget, and serving as the primary administrator for football. Mehrtens also helped oversee the transition of the University from the ACC to the Big Ten Conference.

She recently completed her term as a member of the board of directors for USA Football, the sport’s national governing body, and a member of the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee. A native of Panama City, Florida, Mehrtens received her BS in accounting from The University of Alabama, where she was an All-American discus thrower and member of the track team. She culminated her throwing career with a fourth-place finish in the 1992 Olympic Trials. Her graduate degree in higher education hails from the University of Illinois.

27. Likia Hawkins
President & Chief Executive Officer, Steel Point Solutions

Likia Hawkins, President and CEO of Steel Point Solutions, LLC (Steel Point), a business solutions provider specializing in digital transformation, possesses a wealth of business ownership, technology, analytics, policy, governance, and economic insight central to positioning her firm as a small business disrupter in the public sector space. She has used her experience as a government civilian, federal contractor, and entrepreneur to influence Steel Point’s business strategy with a keen focus on operational efficiency, economic stewardship, relationship management, and strategic partnering.

Hawkins is a servant leader and giving is indicative of her commitment to developing the next generation of professionals and entrepreneurs. She has used her experience as a government civilian, federal contractor, and entrepreneur to influence Steel Point’s business strategy with a keen focus on operational efficiency, economic stewardship, relationship management, strategic teaming, and delivery excellence. Her leadership has led to her firm receiving several awards and recognitions from clients, sales totaling $37 million, several industry certifications, and performance/customer satisfaction ratings of excellent, where her firm was the prime contractor. Known for being an astute and prepared entrepreneur, Hawkins established a firm positioned for next-level growth. 

Hawkins also is committed to social responsibility and workforce development. She mentors other minority students by volunteering her time to serve on panels for pitch sessions, offering internships at Steel Point, and serving as a mentor to other minority women. This kind of give-back is indicative of her commitment to giving back and developing the next generation of professionals. She earned an undergraduate degree in computer information systems from Morgan State University, and her MBA with a specialization in technology management from the University of Phoenix. She is an alumnus of the Rutgers University School of Business Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development and of the EY Curated Entrepreneurial Access Network (EAN) 2021 inaugural cohort. 

28. Penelope Merced
Chief Technology Officer, MidCap Financial

Penelope Merced is distinguished by her ability to influence, lead, think strategically, establish business partnerships, and execute. She successfully leads organizations through the ever-evolving digital landscape by aligning technology initiatives with strategic objectives and providing a cohesive long-term vision. With over two decades of technical leadership experience, Penelope is a strategic digital designer who can keep a dozen balls in the air and knows how all those balls fit in the long-term digital vision. Her unique blend of analytical skills, technical knowledge, and business acumen allows her to Integrate technology, business processes, and people to drive business agility and innovation.

Penelope currently serves as the Chief Technology Officer at MidCap Financial, driving digital transformation initiatives that generate tangible value for MidCap and pioneering innovative technology strategies. She has headed their IT department since 2016 and has established the five core domains of IT from the ground up, infrastructure and operations, cybersecurity, data management, application services, and business systems. Her priorities include enterprise data management and data analytics capabilities, cybersecurity risk management, and business process optimization.

Prior to MidCap, Penelope led an enterprise strategic consulting team at Dataprise while serving as a CIO consultant to numerous businesses in Washington, DC. Before that, she held various IT leadership positions at an IT consulting firm in Manhattan, New York. She has a master’s degree in management of IT from the University of Virginia and a bachelor's degree in information technology from Silliman University. When asked about factors that make an IT organization successful, she responded: “It’s the people. As leaders, we must continuously create a positive work environment conducive to growth and progress. Lead with fairness and clarity, set the tone and direction for the workplace, understand group dynamics, and ensure that everyone works together as a cohesive unit.”

28. Jennifer Veach Harding
SVP People Operations, Privia Health

Jenny Harding is the Chief People Officer of People Operations and joined Privia Health in 2016.

Jenny has worked in human resources for rapidly growing technology start-ups in the Washington, D.C., area for over 20 years. Most recently, Jenny worked as the Vice President of People at WeddingWire, having established the unique corporate culture that garnered the organization many Top Workplaces accolades. Prior to WeddingWire, Jenny worked in human resources leadership roles at Vocus and Blackboard, where she established unique benefit offerings and strong employee-focused corporate cultures. Her experience includes support of rapid global expansion, M&A activity, and IPOs.

Jenny received her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Lander University, with an emphasis in Human Resources and holds a SPHR certification.

29. Lisa Blackmore
Partner, Squire Lemkin + Company

Lisa Blackmore has worked on developing a tax practice that focuses on individual taxes, high-net-worth individuals, and professional service firms, especially law firms. An area of emphasis is tax planning for high-net-worth individuals. All of these areas of the tax practice allow Blackmore to work one-on-one with her clients, which is a very important aspect of her approach. She focuses on exceptional service, which helps to build her client relationships.

Blackmore started at Squire, Lemkin +Company, LLP in 2004 and was immediately attracted to the environment, where all of the staff are recognized and appreciated. Upon first impression, the firm felt like a second family. Another factor that was very important to her upon choosing SL+Co, LLP was the firm’s dedication to the core values of mutual respect, open honest communication, professional excellence, responsibility, and interdependence, all of, which the firm continues to live by every day. She has helped to guide the transition of Squire, Lemkin + Company, LLP into Aprio, where she will be a Tax Partner in Aprio’s Rockville, MD office.

Blackmore is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants. In addition to the professional associations, she has been very active in the Frederick community. She was the treasurer of Habitat for Humanity of Frederick County for many years and also served on the board of governors for the Frederick County Affordable Housing Trust. Blackmore was awarded the 2017 MACPA Emerging Leader Women to Watch. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Mount Saint Mary’s University, graduating with summa cum laude honors. Upon completion of her undergraduate degree, she also completed her MBA from Mount Saint Mary’s University and then passed her CPA exam shortly after.

29. Dawn Hendricks
President & CEO, FM Talent Source

Dawn Hendricks is the President and CEO of FM Talent Source LLC, an award-winning professional services firm. Under Hendricks’ leadership FM Talent has evolved from a start-up staffing company to its current status as a mid-sized management consulting firm employing more than 150 professionals across 12 states. 

With over 20 years of subject matter expertise and strategic business insights in project management, Hendricks’ progressive and focused vision creates optimum growth opportunities for her clients and team. Dedication and forward-thinking leadership have been the cornerstone principles of FM Talent Source. These principles aligned with the core values of service, diversity, and excellence have earned the organization a reputation for quality and reliability.

Hendricks holds a Master's degree in Human Resource Management from American University, an undergraduate degree from Hofstra University, and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) through the Project Management Institute.

30. Peg Anthony
Executive Vice President, A-G Associates

Peg Anthony is an organizational strategist, change management expert, executive coach, and facilitator. Her 40-year career offers a rich blend of experiences as a government services management consultant, line manager, and practice leader, a federal career employee and manager, and a college administrator and professor. Anthony has been an innovator and change agent in every organization in which she has been employed and for every client she has served. That includes founding successful management consulting and applied social research practices in five separate firms, managing consulting engagements with dozens of Fortune 500 firms and US departments and agencies, leading award-winning management initiatives in the Environmental Protection Agency, and teaching at four prestigious universities, including The University of Virginia, The George Washington University, Marquette University, and Indiana University.

The focus of Anthony’s work has been organizational and service transformation. She founded, developed, and led organizational change and customer loyalty improvement practices at three consulting firms: A-G Associates, Macro International, and Kaset International. She is the Executive Vice President for A-G Associates. By delivering research-based strategic consulting, Anthony and her teams have assisted and facilitated numerous client organizations in transforming themselves into agile, market-driven, customer-focused entities. She consults with senior executives in C-suites in private and public-sector organizations, including political appointees and senior career officials in major federal agencies, on all matters regarding strategic direction and organizational performance. She has become a trusted advisor and a master facilitator, particularly accustomed to handling diverse points of view in public meetings and facilitating diverse and challenging groups, including political and career executives, general military officers, community advocates, multi-culturally diverse groups, and medical professionals.  

Anthony completed her doctoral degree at The George Washington University in Washington DC with a focus on education administration and human resources development. She earned her master’s degree from Indiana University, focusing on higher education administration and organizational behavior. She has been a member of the Association for Talent Development, the Association for Strategic Planning, the Society for Human Resource Management, and the American Marketing Association.

31. Kris Hoellen
Executive Director, B&O Railroad Museum

Kris Hoellen, Executive Director of the B&O Railroad Museum, the Birthplace of American Railroading, is leading the museum as it prepares for the 200th anniversary of American Railroading in 2027. During Hoellen’s tenure since 2018, the museum, already a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate and National Historic Landmark, has been designated as a National Park Service National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Site, opened two new permanent exhibitions, launched a skilled-trades workforce development program, and has won the Greater Baltimore Committee’s Mayor’s Award for Community Impact twice, (2019 and 2021).

Hoellen has a transportation background having served with the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences and at the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials as the inaugural director of the AASHTO Center for Environmental Excellence. Before the museum, Hoellen served as SVP and chief conservation officer at the National Aquarium and as senior vice president at The Conservation Fund, working with communities around the country on sustainable community economic development. 

Hoellen currently serves on the board of the Southwest Baltimore Partnership and the Greater Baltimore History Alliance, as well as the Maryland Semiquincentennial Commission. She has a Master’s degree in Environmental Science and policy from Johns Hopkins University and an undergraduate degree in history from Emory University.

32. Loretta Smith
Data Governance Oversight Managing Director, Citi

As the Managing Director of Technology and Cyber Operational Risk for Data Governance Oversight at Citi, Loretta Smith provides oversight and challenge of firmwide data governance policy and standards, identification, and implementation of data controls, development of a risk appetite, and effective data risk identification, management, and reporting to all levels of the firm. 

An experienced and noted data thought leader, Smith has a proven track record of implementing business value through innovative uses of enterprise information with data governance, data strategy, logical data models, metadata management, enterprise data warehouse and data mart design, data profiling, and master data management. She is an accomplished speaker, writer, and facilitator, adept at relationship-building in both business and technical environments. Smith enables communication between business and technical professionals using data modeling, technical writing, and presentation skills by creating technically accurate visual and written documentation of data requirements at the conceptual, logical, and physical levels. She acts as a mentor on all facets of data stewardship, data governance, data architecture, data modeling, and Business Intelligence.

Additionally, Smith is the past president of DAMA International, a not-for-profit, vendor-independent, global association of technical and business professionals dedicated to advancing the concepts and practices of information and data management. In this elected position, Smith focused on transparency, trust, and effective operations in all DAMA-I's initiatives. As past president, she serves on the DAMA International Board of Directors. Smith has achieved mastery level certifications from DAMA International as a Certified Data Management Professional DMBOK v1, from TDWI as a Certified Business Intelligence Professional, and from the ICCP as a Certified Computing Professional and Certified Data Professional.

32. Joyce Hunter
Executive Director, Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology

Joyce Hunter is a strategic thinker and a “philanthropreneur.” She was appointed by President Barack Obama to the position of deputy chief information officer for policy and planning at the Department of Agriculture and was the acting chief information officer from March 2016 to July 2016. In addition to policy and technology planning, Hunter is the creator of the Open Data STEAM summer camp for underserved and underrepresented youth, which has completed its 8th year of operation. 

With over 30 years of experience in the information technology industry, Hunter demonstrates a strong ability to build and sustain relationships with public/private stakeholders, and develop and lead innovative projects and inter-agency initiatives. She was the CEO of Vulcan Enterprises before her federal appointment and is currently the Executive Director of the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT), a nonprofit cyber security think tank, providing objective, nonpartisan research, advisory, and education to legislative, commercial, and public-sector cybersecurity stakeholders. 

Hunter earned an undergraduate degree from Villanova University and an MBA in marketing from the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business. She recently received her certificate as a Qualified Technical Expert (QTE), was named one of the Top 100 Women in Maryland, 2021 Leading for Impact Award Winner, and was named one of the Most Influential People in Security for 2020. Hunter is a peer reviewer for the Blockchain in Healthcare Today Journal and a contributor to the ACT/IAC Blockchain and AI Playbooks. She is also the senior advisor to the CEO of the National Information Technology Collaborative for the Underserved (NHIT) and the chair of the CyberAg Advisory Board. Hunter is on the Dean’s Advisory Council for Villanova University, Bowie State University, many industry advisory boards, a chapter contributor to The Handbook of Federal Government Leadership and Administration: Transforming, Performing and Innovating in a Complex World, and the creator of the recently published ICIT publication titled Securing the Nation’s Critical Infrastructures: A Guide for the 2021 – 2025 Administration.

33. Laurie Sayles
President & CEO, Civility Management Solutions

Laurie Sayles is an author, change agent, thought leader, serial entrepreneur, and the President & CEO of Civility Management Solutions (CivilityMS), a professional consulting firm working within the Government and Commercial space. CivilityMS has received numerous awards since being established and listed on INC 5000 for the past three years, including being selected as 1 of 100 Minority Businesses in the Maryland, DC, and Virginia regions. They are a Certified Small Business Administration 8(a), women-owned, verified service-disabled veteran-owned small business located in Greenbelt, MD.

Sayles was selected as a Compassionate Business Leader due to her advocacy on behalf of veteran business owners. She has served on Small Business Committee Hearings in both the US Senate and the House of Representatives and participated in many pilot programs for veterans and small business owners.

Sayles received her undergraduate degree in social science, a minor in strategic management and entrepreneurship, and a Business Project Management Certification from the University of Maryland University College. She serves as the chair of the Women Veterans Business Coalition, which fights for policy changes for Veteran Women-Owned Businesses. She authored As My Leaders Go … So Do I, which has been the foundation for the Mind Merging Summit. Proceeds for the Summit support programming for survivors of domestic violence. Sayles’ recently launched nonprofit R3 (Recognize, Repair, and Repeat) is the umbrella organization for all of her philanthropic efforts, including Mind Merging Summit, in support of women, veterans, and disadvantaged communities. 

34. Angie Barnett
President & CEO, BBB of Greater Maryland

Angie Barnett, an experienced professional with 22 years of industry expertise, currently holds the position of President and CEO at BBB of Greater Maryland. As an organization dedicated to assisting consumers in identifying trustworthy businesses, brands, and charities, BBB operates not only in Greater Maryland but also collaborates with other BBB branches across the United States and Canada.

Before assuming her current role, Barnett served as the vice president of membership at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. Her career journey began in 2001, and she has since garnered valuable experience in various roles. 

She holds a Master’s degree in Social Work and Sociology, in addition to an undergraduate degree, both of, which were earned from Arkansas State University. Barnett's educational achievements and broad expertise reflect her commitment to enhancing consumer experiences and fostering trust within the business community.

34. Laura Bruck
Founder & Chief Marketing Officer, Bruck Marketing

Laura Bruck is the Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Bruck Marketing. She started Bruck Marketing in 2018. She saw the need for digital transformation amongst small business owners. They are focused on their expertise, which is why they went into business in the first place. She wanted to bring the simple principles she put in place throughout her career to develop streamlined, repeatable processes to grow revenue.

Before Bruck Marketing, Bruck was a VP of marketing for EZShield from 2009 to 2018. She led their marketing efforts and worked with sales to develop partner solutions. Under her leadership, the company transitioned to new markets, consistently yielding significant revenue growth and industry ranking within the top two nationwide. Before EZShield, Bruck was the VP of marketing for Raymond Geddes, a national novelty supply distributor. While leading marketing and supporting sales to small businesses and retailers, she drove margin growth by leading the company’s transition to digital commerce. She was also VP of marketing for Frey Scientific, a division of School Specialty, a national school supply distributor, where she improved its marketing efficacy as well as top and bottom line contribution by organizing talent around brand rather than function.

Bruck earned an MBA in business from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and an undergraduate degree in mass communication from Towson University.

35. Charlisa Watson
Founder & CEO, VECRA, INC.

Charlisa Watson, Founder, and CEO of VECRA, INC.is an award-winning entrepreneur and senior leader with more than 30 years of management consulting experience analyzing, developing, and implementing concierge-level solutions for government and commercial customers. VECRA is a CVE-verified service-disabled veteran-owned (SDVOSB), certified woman-owned small business (WOSB), and certified minority business enterprise (MBE) consulting firm with offices in Maryland, Virginia and Florida implementing proven methodologies that help our clients drive growth, transform businesses, and innovate breakthrough ideas. VECRA’s extensive experience with health management, call center support for vulnerable populations, interpreter and translation services, facilities and transition management, program management, and staffing support services are always: Vigilant – Efficient – Collaborative – Responsive – Accurate. Her team has past performance with agencies such as the Department of Defense agencies Army, Air Force, Defense Health Agency, the state of Maryland, and Health and Human Services. Prior to leading VECRA, Inc. Ms. Watson was the Founder, President, and CEO of CRW & Associates, LLC for more than seven years. CRW was a successful award-winning management consulting firm with a contract backlog of more than eighty million dollars prior to a merger and acquisition in November 2020. The largest contract awarded was set aside for a WOSB valued at sixty-six million dollars over 5 years from MEDCOM in January 2018 doing remote medical coding in the Atlantic region. CRW was one of only two woman-owned small businesses in the country that won this contract opportunity.

Watson was in corporate America for more than fifteen years prior to becoming an entrepreneur. Her last corporate position was as Regional Vice President for Community Development in the southeastern region for United Health Care Community Plan with responsibility for building strategic alliances and relationships with community and faith-based organizations including hospitals and health care delivery systems, and federally qualified health centers (FQHCs). Prior to this position she served as the Executive Director of a UnitedHealth Group Medicaid health plan in Washington, DC. In this position she was responsible for day-to-day operations, overall market performance, directing and managing the organization’s financial performance, and partnering with corporate teams and sister segments to deliver various support services and ensuring access to quality care for members and overall compliance of a multi-million-dollar contract with the state Medicaid agency.

Because of Ms. Watson’s commitment to excellence and concierge-level service, she has received several business awards. Her success is truly attributed to the dedicated personnel who support the daily business operations and the exceptional service they provide. Most recently she was an awardee of the Community Leaders Award from the Women of Prince George’s County. Ms. Watson served as a former Army nurse and received the following recognitions during her military career, National Defense Service Medal, Army Reserves Components Achievement Medal, Armed Forces Reserves Medal, and directly supported Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield. She has dedicated most of her entire career to serving disadvantaged vulnerable women and children and is a recognized leader in both the healthcare and nonprofit industries for energized vision and keen management skills.

She is the founder of NiaImani CHOICES, Inc. (www.niaimanichoices.org) a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to providing healthcare resources to low-income women, children, and families in Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia. She is a past chapter president of the National Association of Health Services Executives Washington Metro Area Chapter (NAHSE-WMAC). Watson holds a master’s degree in health services administration from Central Michigan University.

36. Barbara Slusher
Professor & Director, Johns Hopkins Medicine

Barbara Slusher is a Professor of Neurology, Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences, Psychiatry, Neuroscience, Medicine, and Oncology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Director of the Johns Hopkins Drug Discovery program. Slusher has published over 250 scientific articles and is the inventor of over 100 patents and applications.

Before joining Johns Hopkins, Slusher spent 18 years in the pharmaceutical industry, including several years at the level of SVP of research and translational development. She has extensive experience in drug discovery through early clinical development and was involved in the successful development, launch, and post-marketing support of four FDA-approved medicines. In 2010, Slusher joined Johns Hopkins to lead the largest drug discovery program on campus with a team of over 25 medicinal chemists, assay developers, pharmacologists, toxicologists, and pharmacokinetics/drug metabolism experts. The team is engaged in identifying novel drug targets arising from the faculty’s research and translating them into new drug therapies for clinical development. Since joining JHU, she has co-founded four companies, including Cerecor, Dracen Pharmaceuticals, Adarga, and Lorem Therapeutics amassing over $150 million in venture support. She also founded the International Consortium of Academic Drug Discovery with over 150 university-led translational centers and 2000 members to coordinate and enhance university-led drug discovery efforts.  

Slusher received her undergraduate degree from Dickinson College, where she graduated valedictorian, majoring in Chemistry. She received her PhD in Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine while simultaneously earning her Master’s degree in Administrative Science from the Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business.

37. Amiee Winchester
Continuous Improvement Program Director, Baltimore City Public Schools

As Baltimore City Public Schools’ Continuous Improvement Program Director, Amiee Winchester leads the strategy development and implementation of the continuous improvement efforts throughout the district and co-leads the Baltimore Secondary Literacy Improvement Community Network focused on improving literacy outcomes for students in grades 6-12. In this capacity, Winchester supports the design and scale of a sustainable district-wide improvement strategy, constructs systems and routines to successfully drive organizational change, and leads the creation of learning-by-doing professional learning opportunities to build the improvement capacity of district leaders and practitioners.

Winchester first got her start in 2010 as a teacher of instructional technology at Howard County Public Schools. From there, she went on to Hager Sharp, before eventually rising to executive director of research and programs at Trinity Education Group, her most recent position before joining Baltimore City Public Schools. 

Winchester graduated from Teachers College, Columbia University with an MA in education policy, from Johns Hopkins University with an MA in elementary education and teaching, and from American University with an undergraduate degree in international relations and affairs.

37. Ashlee Hoagland
Chief Operating Officer, Encore Tickets

Ashlee Hoagland embarked on her professional journey over 10 years ago. Today, she serves as the Chief Operating Officer of Encore Tickets, where she brings a unique approach to the company’s operations and business development. Founded in 1995, Encore Tickets stands as a family-owned enterprise catering to the fervent admirers of sports, concerts, and theater. With a wealth of experience spanning over 15 years, the establishment has successfully facilitated the sale of seats across numerous venues throughout the nation.

Hoagland’s leadership and drive are paramount in developing and maintaining strategic partnerships and policies that promote Encore’s vision and growth. Additionally, Hoagland is one of the original committee members of the NATB’s Women’s Initiative and Leadership Council and continues to be a voice for women in the industry. Hoagland graduated from WVU Potomac State College, where she earned her undergraduate degree in the field of photojournalism.

38. Houri Tamizifar
President & CEO, Cynuria Consulting

Houri Tamizifar is the Founder and CEO of Cynuria Consulting, an award-winning consulting firm with a mission to unlock and accelerate organizational potential with transformative human capital and learning solutions across the federal government, nonprofit, and commercial sectors.

Before founding Cynuria Consulting in 2016, Tamizifar worked for notable management consulting firms PwC and Booz Allen Hamilton, where she implemented one-of-a-kind learning solutions for her federal agency clients. She has also had a global impact on the K-12 and higher education industry both as a teacher and consultant and has been invited to speak to audiences of more than 500 in both English and Spanish. Her commitment to the community has also been unwavering throughout the years as she and her company have provided pro bono services to organizations, such as Educators 4 Excellence, Black Engineer of the Year, and Women of Color Conference. Most recently, she accepted a position as an advisor for the Transformative Leadership Program at Shenandoah University.

As a wife and mother of two children, who were one of her biggest inspirations for starting Cynuria, Tamizifar champions work-life balance. She can often be found spending quality time with family and friends or reading a good book. She also enjoys traveling with her family as a means of cultural engagement and exposure and remains connected to her Iranian heritage through great Persian food.

39. Kimberlee Driggs
President, D2

Kimberlee Driggs is the President of D2, the leading woman-owned site work company. D2 is based out of Rockville, Maryland, and was established in 2012 with a focus on both, pre-construction and construction services. The D2 team prides itself on offering qualified and experienced teamwork with a unique vision and understanding of each project. 

Driggs is committed to providing an unparalleled level of service. With nearly four decades of experience, she was previously a vice president of marketing and construction management at another construction company. Earlier in her career, she worked with Bob Duncan Real Estate. Driggs graduated from George Mason University with an undergraduate degree in finance.

40. Colleen Turner
Associate Vice President & Senior Project Manager, Michael Baker International

Colleen Turner is a senior project manager with 20 years of experience in transportation planning and policy. She specializes in breaking down silos and illuminating linkages between traditional transportation planning, emerging technologies, and the environment. She currently serves as an Associate Vice President and Senior Project Manager for Michael Baker International.

Turner returned to Michael Baker in February 2021 following her employment as the assistant director of the Maryland Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) Office of Planning and Capital Programming (OPCP). During her tenure at MDOT, Turner oversaw long-range environmental planning and the planning and deployment of innovative transportation technologies, including zero-emission vehicles and connected and automated vehicles. She managed MDOT’s air quality and climate change mitigation programs and participated in national discussions related to the electrification of the transportation sector, sharing her expertise with the White House, the National Governor’s Association, the Transportation Research Board (TRB), and the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials.

Turner is a member of the TRB Standing Committees Standing on Air Quality and Greenhouse Gas Mitigation (AMS10) and Alternative Fuels and Technologies (AMS40). She is the former chair of the AASHTO Air Quality Climate Change and Energy subcommittee of the Committee on Environment and Sustainability.

41. Katie Jordan
Senior Director of Client Services, Morning Consult

Katie Jordan is a Senior Director of Client Services for Morning Consult, a global decision intelligence company changing how modern leaders make smarter, faster, and better decisions. The company pairs its proprietary high-frequency data with applied artificial intelligence to better inform decisions on what people think and how they will act.

Jordan has experience in online marketing and communications with both an international business consultancy and with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. Before joining Morning Consult, Jordan was a research director for consumer and industry insights for the National Retail Federation. Before that, she was a research associate with Wakefield Research. She previously served as a co-founder and chair of community outreach for the Elon Chapter of Autism Speaks. Jordan graduated with an undergraduate degree in marketing and leadership studies from Elon University.

41. Catherine Allen
Co-Founder & Chief Impact Officer, AO People Partners

Catherine Allen is passionately dedicated to helping leaders and organizations lean into the power of developing people to drive business success and meaningful social contributions. She brings over 25 years of experience working as an organizational and people skills development practitioner and executive coach. Her coaching practice focuses on helping executive leaders and teams “Own + Model + Drive” business and people development in their companies.

Allen is known as a trusted and strategic thought partner who helps her clients explore the heart of issues, what is possible, what is needed from their leadership, and what is holding them back. With a desire to elevate AO’s service delivery framework around measurable impact and advance AO’s view that employee development is the highest form of social contribution, Allen stepped into the role of Chief Impact Officer (CIO) in 2023. Allen is co-author of a book with Ed Offterdinger titled, Conscious, Capable, and Ready to Contribute: How Employee Development Can Become the Highest Form of Social Contribution.

42. OluwaTosin Adegbola
Dean & Executive Director of the Clara I. Adams Honors College, Morgan State University

As a charismatic and impassioned academic leader with an eighteen-year progressive career, OluwaTosin Adegbola has achieved notable success in directing initiatives critical to realizing academic excellence. One of her passions is developing and executing strategies and programs to help individuals and teams identify their strengths and tap their potential. A success champion within academia, she has expertly developed high-achieving, championship-level students, opening opportunities with prestigious scholar programs and the Fortune 500. Globally traveled, she has also lived in the UK, Nigeria, and The Gambia.

Adegbola currently serves as the first Dean and Executive Director for the Clara I. Adams Honors College at Morgan State University. Since 2003, she has progressed to positions of increasing scope and responsibility with the 150+-year-old public university. Initially serving as assistant professor and lecturer, she advanced to tenured associate professor. She has served as a special advisor to the president within Student Leadership and Scholar Development since 2017. In 2011, she was selected concurrently to serve as interim chair of the Department of Communication Studies during the department’s transition to a standalone school and in 2013, was appointed to the chair of the newly formed School of Global Journalism.

Adegbola's commitment to purpose-pursuits has seen her launch and manage several ventures, including a well-received educational platform providing custom one-on-one consulting and workshops to all levels of professionals seeking enhanced workplace and career fulfillment. Her self-paced tools to help college students make key decisions through college have been used actively by thousands of students and she developed the "Discovering Your Student Identity," series, where she delivers keynotes, and engages in masterclasses and workshops to challenge students to discover their voice. Adegbola sits on the boards of the Enoch Pratt Library and The AFRO Charities and continues to lend her time to work with entities that seek to prepare and fund especially students from minority-serving institutions, for career opportunities.

43. Paula Anderson
President & CEO, PACE Consulting

Paula Anderson is a passionate leader and the President and CEO of PACE Consulting, an award-winning minority, and woman-owned certified Behavioral Health Counseling and Organizational Consulting firm.  Anderson started PACE Consulting 16 years ago as a solo practitioner to provide quality mental health services in the Washington DC area. Since then, PACE has grown to a full team of talented professionals who provide counseling and organizational consulting services in the Washington DC area and nationally. These services are provided in schools, universities, corporations, nonprofits, and government agencies. 

Anderson is an organizational psychologist, a licensed clinical professional counselor, a nationally certified counselor, and a board-approved clinical supervisor. She earned her undergraduate degree in psychology from The University of Virginia, her Master's degree in Community Counseling from George Washington University, and earned her PhD in Business Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She loves learning about business and as a result, she was accepted and graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses (10kSB) Program and recently from the Inner City Capital Connections Small Business Program. 

As an organizational psychologist and consultant, she provides services in the areas of workplace wellness, stress management, organizational culture, change management, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Anderson and her team also facilitate team retreats for small to mid-sized businesses and departments in large organizations looking to build team well-being and cohesion. She has been and is a featured speaker for several small business and women's conferences. Anderson volunteers as a youth leader in her church, serves on several nonprofit boards, and serves in her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated in Maryland.

44. Amanda Karst
Partner & Chief Operating Officer, AO People Partners

Amanda Karst is a Partner and the Chief Operating Officer of AO People Partners. She is an energetic, engaging leadership coach and business strategist who specializes in helping leaders synthesize their ideas into cohesive action plans, find a greater sense of clarity and direction to guide their decision-making and navigate moments of transition and change. A skilled listener and big-picture thinker, Karst’s work helps clients, and their companies get to the next level of growth.

With a background in complex IT project management, she takes an intentional, purposeful approach to helping leaders address their areas of leadership and challenge or limitation. As a senior practitioner in AO People Partners Leadership Development and People Strategies practices, Karst excels at helping leaders create healthy, sustainable, and integrative opportunities for personal growth and professional development.

Karst has also served as director of Conscious Capitalism DC (CCDC) and now sits on the board of directors, where she advises on operations of the Conscious Capitalism movement, which is based on the philosophy that when practiced consciously, business innately elevates humanity. Karst believes that conscious businesses will help evolve our world so that people can flourish, leading lives infused with passion, purpose, love, and creativity.

44. Kathryn Procope
Executive Director, Howard University Middle School of Math & Science

Kathryn Procope is an accomplished Executive Director of the Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science. Her rich background in K-12 educational leadership boasts

numerous achievements as principal of Friendship Collegiate Academy High School and Maya Angelou Public Charter High School. Lauded for transforming educational programs, Procope has earned many accolades, including the 2020 Digital Principal of the Year Award and 2016 State Principal of the Year Award. A valued educator and champion of student achievement, she taught AP calculus and served as a mathematics coach, receiving the Agnes Meyer Teacher of the Year Award in 2009.

Procope has a long and impressive list of professional successes. Before becoming an educator, she excelled as a leader across industries, including project manager at Bank of America and senior developer at First Union National Bank. Her strong technical acumen is often beneficial in academia, especially when integrating blended and remote learning. Procope truly understands the power of education. 

She holds several graduate degrees, including a Master’s degree in Leadership, a Master’s degree in Middle-grade Mathematics, and a Master’s degree in Secondary Education and Teaching. Committed to lifelong learning, she earned a Doctor of Education in educational leadership and administration from American University in 2023.

45. Madhusmita Baruah
Associate Vice President of Government Relations, Save the Children US

Madhusmita Baruah has over two decades of experience in setting strategic direction, and vision and providing leadership on public policy, advocacy, and communications strategies around a variety of international humanitarian and development sectors and domestic and global health issues. 

Baruah has vast experience in coalition and partnership building, including mobilizing and leading civil society organizations on various issues, including domestic and global HIV/AIDS, global maternal and child health, vaccines, and other international and domestic issues. Baruah currently serves as the Associate Vice President of Government Relations for Save the Children US.

Baruah has also effectively established and managed relations with high-level US government representatives, such as USAID and CDC, corporations, UN agencies-UNICEF, UNAIDS, UNFPA, WHO, and other stakeholders, such as the African Union and the World Bank. Baruah also has extensive experience in developing and managing partnerships with foundations and other donors. She also brings experience in operations management, including raising resources, developing, and managing budgets, developing, and managing staff, managing board relations, and contributing to an organization's multi-year strategies. Baruah has represented organizations across Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America in global policy meetings and other policy work.

46. Veary Kin
Chief Executive Officer, Veary Enterprises

Veary Kin is the Chief Executive Officer of Veary Enterprises. She has more than 18 years of experience managing and growing mid-sized companies and large enterprises with a proven record of transforming corporations from mediocrity to stellar performances. She leads, maintains, and improves operations of all departments while effectively managing crises in a fast-paced environment. She is a motivated, proactive team player who can multitask, beat deadlines, take on responsibilities, and own the outcome.

For over 16 years, Kin served as the controller and contract manager for security services firms specializing in federal and commercial security services. She has managed, directed, and guided security companies, applying her skills in pricing and contracting management to take small emerging businesses and grow them into clearly defined companies that provide a quality product at a fair market price and set the standard throughout the industry. 

Kin’s foremost goal in any business endeavor is quality and efficiency of mission accomplishment within a positive environment that promotes individual growth and provides clear and direct leadership. On every available occasion, she shares the knowledge she has gained and enables her staff to grow into leadership roles. Kin graduated from the University of Maryland Global Campus with an undergraduate degree.

46. Judi Olinger
Executive Director, Chesapeake Neighbors

Judi Olinger is the Executive Director of Chesapeake Neighbors, an Arc Central Chesapeake Region company founded in 2007 as an independent organization to advance the idea of safe, affordable, and accessible housing for people with disabilities and low-income families.

Olinger is an innovative and progressive leader with over 30 years of experience in human services, housing development, property management, and operational oversight of a wide array of multi-million-dollar programs committed to supporting the needs of people with disabilities. She founded and served as president of iHomes, Inc., a development and management company for affordable housing.

Olinger earned her undergraduate degree at Salisbury State University, Maryland. She is a graduate of Leadership Maryland Class of 2013 and Shore Leadership 2022. She received her license in Home Improvement Contracting from the Maryland Home Improvement Commission in 2014.

47. Julie Spangler
Director of GIS & Technology, Straughan Environmental

Julie Spangler is the Director of GIS and Technology for Straughan Environmental. With a dedicated team of expert environmental planners, scientists, and designers, Straughan Environmental provides high-quality and sustainable environmental planning, permitting, and design services to government (federal, state, and municipal) and commercial clients. 

Spangler was previously the director of client services of IMS Infrastructure Management Services, an independently owned and operated pavement distress data collection firm with offices in Tempe, Arizona, Rolling Meadows, Illinois, and Cambridge, Ontario. Previously, Spangler was a director of technology and business development and associate vice president at JMT Technology Group. Before that, she was an adjunct faculty of the Geospatial Applications Program at Community College of Baltimore County. 

Spangler earned an MS in applied information technology and an undergraduate degree in geography and environmental planning from Towson University.

48. Beth Rosenwald
Managing Director & Financial Advisor, RBC Wealth Management

Beth Rosenwald is the Managing Director & Financial Advisor for RBC Wealth Management. She started her career in 1989, and over the years, she has assembled a dedicated team of seasoned professionals with outstanding credentials and years of specialized, hands-on experience. Her primary focus is on building lasting relationships centered on a thorough understanding of each client’s needs, wants, and wishes, guiding them from being reactive and defensive to being proactive and visionary. She is passionate about helping individuals and families position their wealth more effectively and thoughtfully creating more time for their personal, professional, and philanthropic goals.

Raised in Long Island, New York, Rosenwald received an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Maryland. She continues to serve her community as a member of the Women’s Leadership Council Tocqueville Society and as a board member of Women United of United Way of Central Maryland, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maryland, Baltimore Symphony Endowment Trust, and Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. 

Rosenwald is honored to have received numerous accolades, including being named to the Barron’s Top 1,200 Financial Advisors list in 2022, the Forbes Top Women in Wealth Advisors list in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023, the Forbes Best-In-State Wealth Advisors list in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023, and Advisor Hub's Advisors to Watch list in 2022. 

49. Mae Elise Cannon
Executive Director, Churches for Middle East Peace

Mae Elise Cannon is the Executive Director of Churches for Middle East Peace and an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). 

Cannon holds an MDIV from North Park Theological Seminary, an MBA from North Park University’s School of Business and Nonprofit Management, and an MA in bioethics from Trinity International University. She received her first Doctorate in American History with a minor in Middle Eastern studies at the University of California (Davis) focusing on the history of the American Protestant church in Israel and Palestine and her second Doctorate in Ministry in Spiritual Formation from Northern Theological Seminary. 

Cannon is the author of several books, including the award-winning Social Justice Handbook: Small Steps for a Better World, and editor of A Land Full of God: Christian Perspectives on the Holy Land. Her most recent book is Beyond Hashtag Activism: Comprehensive Justice in a Complicated Age. In 2024, she received the Alumni of the Year Award from North Park Theological Seminary. Her work has been highlighted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Chicago Tribune, Christianity Today, Leadership Magazine, The Christian Post, Jerusalem Post, EU Parliament Magazine, Huffington Post, and other international media outlets.

50. Arnelda Broadaway
Director of Special Events - Office of Governor Wes Moore, State of Maryland

Arnelda Broadaway is a seasoned professional with over two decades of experience in the hospitality industry. Her journey began in Maryland and took her to Miami in 2008, where she played a pivotal role in the reopening and rebranding of the iconic Fontainebleau Miami Beach. Returning to Maryland in 2013, Arnelda continued to excel in hospitality sales until 2021 when she transitioned to a new path driven by her desire to make a difference.

At the National Governors Association, Arnelda applied her expertise as an events planner, meticulously managing event and technology logistics for numerous meetings. Her responsibilities included catering to over 200 attendees, comprising governors, government officials, and external stakeholders. Arnelda's approach extended to coordinating various departments, ensuring seamless execution across marketing, sales, operations, technology, and events.

Born and raised in Prince George's County, Arnelda is a proud graduate of Suitland High School. She remains actively engaged in her community as a member of Philos, an auxiliary organization of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., showcasing her commitment to service and leadership both personally and professionally.

50. Neema Dhungana
Director of Clinical Operations, Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. 

Neema Dhungana is the Director of Clinical Operations of Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. For more than 30 years, Ionis has been a leader in RNA-targeted therapy, pioneering new markets and changing standards of care.

Dhungana is a result-driven, certified project management expert with more than 15 years of leadership in diverse and multifaceted clinical trials. Her experience is mostly in designing and conducting clinical trials Phases I-IV, managing multiple portfolios, executing global clinical trials, and managing stakeholder relations. She has extensive experience in vendor management with expertise in clinical trial budgeting, timeline management, and risk analysis/mitigation. 

Dhungana landed her first management role at Human Genome Sciences, where she directed, supervised, managed, and closed out 2 Phase 3 SLE trials with a partnership with the CRO and other vendors. She held a senior manager role at Pfizer for nearly six years before accepting an associate director role at Viela Bio. She was appointed to her first director role at Horizon in 2021 and her current role in 2022. Dhungana graduated from the University of Maryland.