Smart Women Awards 2018

Answer the call: Culturally conscious, authentic leadership

TIME’s Person of the Year for 2017 was the Silence Breakers, people who spoke out again sexual assault and harassment. In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the #MeToo movement sprang up, which was followed by Time’s Up.
At this point, there are more questions than answers, and a lot of people are asking what’s next.
It seems like the perfect time to discuss what it means to be an authentic leader who is dedicated to building and fostering a strong culture for women in the workplace.
How do women in business get to a place where they are comfortable in their own skin, no matter what industry or position they’re in?
It starts at the top. How can executives build a workplace and culture that provide opportunities for everyone? How should they instill the ideals of inclusion and diversity into team members? How can you be a leader who is authentic, yet still culturally conscious?
These questions and more will be asked at the Smart Women Breakfast in a panel discussion with four dynamic women business leaders: Sandy Doyle-Ahern, president of EMH&T; Michelle T. Kerr, president and founder of Lightwell Inc.; Natalie Crede, senior vice president of people and leadership development at Safelitle AutoGlass; and Vinita Clements, senior vice president, Nationwide Financial Human Resources.
The event also will recognize our annual Smart Women Award winners. On the pages that follow, you’ll read about women entrepreneurs who have founded or co-founded for-profit or nonprofit organizations, women who have risen through the ranks of organizations across their distinguished careers, entities that develop and foster initiatives that support women, and men who advocate for the advancement of women.
We hope after reading these inspirational stories you’ll join us on April 17 at the Smart Women Breakfast, presented by Nationwide, to honor the 2018 award winners and listen to the discussion on culturally conscious and authentic leadership. Congratulations to all of this year’s honorees!

Introducing the 2018 panelists:

Sandy Doyle-Ahern
As president of EMH&T, Sandy oversees the activities of more than 350 professionals and technical personnel, which she describes as solution-oriented partners for the firm’s valued clients. She joined EMH&T in 1997, and today is responsible for leading the firm and focusing on corporate operations, client relationships, employee engagement and business development.
Vinita Clements
Senior Vice President, Nationwide Financial Human Resources
Vinita currently serves as the senior vice president of human resources for Nationwide. In this role, she provides strategic human resources leadership and consultation to the Nationwide Financial business. Since joining Nationwide in 2004, Vinita has provided HR leadership to a variety of organizations, including: Property & Casualty Regional Operations, Nationwide National Partners, Member Solutions, Nationwide Pet, and Nationwide Bank and Affinity.
Natalie Crede
Senior Vice President, People and Leadership Development
Safelite AutoGlass
Natalie first joined Safelite AutoGlass in 2009. She has been instrumental in shaping Safelite’s culture, earning her a series of promotions. She oversees talent management, compensation and benefits, shared services and HR business partner teams. As the senior vice president of people and leadership development at Safelite, she is responsible for leading and developing a people-focused culture through integrated people strategies and leadership development.
Michelle T. Kerr
President And Founder
Lightwell Inc.
As president of Lightwell Inc. — a leading Dublin, Ohio-based information technology firm that serves clients across the North America and Europe — Michelle leads the daily business operations, in addition to developing and overseeing the company’s growth initiatives. Since founding Lightwell in 1998, she has assisted hundreds of Fortune 2000 organizations in developing and executing their global IT strategies. Lightwell currently has more than 200 team members.


Award winners

Quick links:
2018 Advocate for AdvancementJason M. Dolin, Ohio Prison Entrepreneurship Program | Jeffrey Lyttle, JPMorgan Chase & Co.
2018 Progressive EntrepreneurJoelle Brock, Leading EDJE | Charissa Durst, Hardlines Design Co. | Crystal Hughey, Corporate Cleaning Inc. | Merry Korn, Pearl Interactive Network | Ruth Milligan, Articulation | Aslyne C. Rodriguez, EmpowerBus | Melissa West, The Tradesmen Group Inc.
2018 Progressive OrganizationKeepsake Theme Quilts | The Ohio State University
2018 Progressive WomanTasha Booker, City Year Columbus | Michelle Moskowitz Brown, Local Matters | Renee Cacchillo, Safelite AutoGlass | Melanie Corn, Columbus College of Art & Design | Sarah Landsman, The Oneida Group Inc. | Heather Leonard, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants | Joanna Pinkerton, Transportation Research Center Inc., an affiliate of The Ohio State University | Susan Porter, BalletMet | Sarah Simmons, Quantum Health
2018 TrailblazerVinita Clements, Nationwide | Sarala Pandey, Huntington Bancshares

2018 Advocate for Advancement Honorees

Jason M. Dolin
Ohio Prison Entrepreneurship Program
Women inmates seeking to re-enter society face high hurdles to success. The entrepreneurship training provided by the Ohio Prison Entrepreneurship Program offers them a pathway out of the too common cycle of despair — a cycle marked by 1) imprisonment, 2) lack of opportunity upon release from prison, 3) back to criminal conduct and 4) then back to incarceration.
Entrepreneurship training can help all inmates, but it has particular importance for female inmates. That’s why Jason M. Dolin, a former criminal prosecutor who founded OPEP, brought the program to the Ohio Reformatory for Women, Ohio’s main women’s prison.
He knows these inmates were themselves victimized, sometimes over extended periods, before committing crimes. Many were victims of physical and emotional abuse, sex trafficking, and drug and alcohol addiction. Many were trapped in abusive and loveless relationships driven by their financial need. They carry emotional baggage, shame and guilt. They feel abandoned, forgotten and stuck.
Studies have found entrepreneurial lessons are particularly impactful with women, but other studies show women tend to avoid entrepreneurial endeavors because of a lack of self-confidence and training. OPEP tackles these problems by teaching its ORW students the fundamentals of starting a small business, while bringing in guest lecturers who can serve as role models.
OPEP also stresses the importance of creativity, discipline, self-confidence and resilience, making it clear entrepreneurship is about more than making money. It’s a chance to not only start a business, but also live a productive life.
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Jeffrey Lyttle
Managing director
JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Jeffrey Lyttle is surrounded in his personal and professional life by strong and successful women — his mother, who is a retired teacher, librarian, volunteer and advocate; his wife, Cathy Lyttle, a passionate and energetic professional and community leader, and mentor to him; and his last three bosses at JPMorgan Chase & Co., who are all accomplished and committed women.
For more than 30 years, in his professional role leading philanthropic giving for JPMorgan Chase and its predecessor Bank One, Lyttle has led initiatives that support women’s issues for nonprofits like The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, Moms2B and Ruling Our eXperiences Inc. (ROX). He’s also been a professional mentor to several women at JPMorgan Chase in Columbus and across the firm.
As co-founder of the Weinland Park Collaborative, he’s led neighborhood-based programs that focused on supporting young women, women living in poverty and mothers.
In addition, Lyttle has served on nonprofit boards that helped him be part of important efforts to house and support women via the Community Shelter Board — where he is the current chair of the board of trustees — as well as protect women and children from domestic violence with The Center for Family Safety and Healing at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Lyttle’s leadership for women-related issues even resulted in him being appointed as an inaugural member of the Columbus Women’s Commission in 2017. He is the chair of the Evictions Committee.
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2018 Progressive Entrepreneur Honorees

Joelle Brock
President and CEO
Leading EDJE
When Leading EDJE, an information technology consulting firm, was founded nearly 11 years ago, the vision was to create an entrepreneurial-spirited company that focused on having fun by developing a unique culture filled with exceptional and loyal people.
Within the last two years, Joelle Brock implemented the Entrepreneurial Operating System into her business, which has enabled Leading EDJE to grow to be what it is today. A large part of this EOS system is making sure that every team member knows, understands and exercises the team’s core values. They are 1) puts team first, 2) is dedicated to growth, 3) does the right thing … not the right now thing, 4) approaches problem solving passionately and 5) communicates effectively.
Today, Leading EDJE has nearly 50 employees in Columbus, and as the company grows into the Nashville market, Brock plans to maintain that entrepreneurial culture.
Brock is currently the president of the board for the Columbus chapter of Entrepreneurs Organization, which is helping nearly 100 member business owners grow their businesses. EO’s Columbus chapter has the largest percentage of female members in the global organization. She also mentors female entrepreneurs with the Women Small Business Association and is involved with Mentoring Monday.
In addition, Leading EDJE is presenting a local high school with an “Outstanding Female IT Student” college scholarship to promote women in technology STEM initiatives.
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Charissa Durst
Owner and CEO
Hardlines Design Co.
Charissa Durst’s love for architecture and historic preservation began when she attended John Wingate Weeks Junior High School. Durst — then Charissa Wang — was intrigued by the building’s Tudor revival style and the ability of the Massachusetts region to preserve its historic buildings.
When Charissa and Don Durst, who is now her husband, completed their graduate studies at The Ohio State University in 1990, architecture jobs were scarce. They accepted a job from an Akron hobby shop owner to design a garage and hobby shop. Their work was so successful that Hardlines Design Co. was born.
The firm concentrates on architectural design, architectural history and historic preservation planning.
Never one to shy away from large, complex historic renovation projects, Durst and her team worked on the design for the rehabilitation of the historic Lincoln Theatre in the King-Lincoln District and a $10 million rehabilitation of Stewart Elementary School in German Village.
Hardlines also competed for — and won — projects, such as the renovation of the AFRL conference room at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and a multiyear project with the U.S. Air Force to assess infrastructure and buildings on 13 bases.
A founding member of the American Cultural Resources Association, Hardlines for years employed several archaeologists and a historian. In 2016, Durst sold this cultural resources division, which accounted for more than half of the company’s revenue. She wanted to focus on architecture, specifically the preservation of historic buildings. Today, the business development results are proving she made the right decision.
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Crystal Hughey
CEO and founder
Corporate Cleaning Inc.
Crystal Hughey started Corporate Cleaning Inc., a commercial and construction cleaning company, more than 20 years ago to spend more time with her young son. She built the company from the ground up, juggling 60-hour workweeks, and now works alongside her husband.
Starting out, 90 percent of CCI’s business came from word of mouth and close relationships. Today, it has four revenue streams and about 25 employees who maintain about 500,000 square footage, cleaning vacant, commercial and construction spaces. Hughey even used her second bachelor’s degree in IT to develop and redesign the company website.
Hughey is a big proponent of employee diversity, employing people from all walks of life. She also mentors others looking to start their own business, including her employees. She’s worked with the Central Ohio Minority Business Association, the Destiny Center and Increase Community Development Corp. Hughey has sponsored programs for employees to take courses on subjects of interest, learn language and grammar skills and beta test processes, while being available for one-on-one support.
She supports other women-owned businesses, like Globe Window Cleaning and Ramey Marketing, and dedicates her time to promote community, education, sustainability and business by volunteering at Alvis House and Junior Achievement of Central Ohio.
Hughey recently became an engagement ambassador with the Columbus Chamber of Commerce and is working to launch her own natural cleaning product line.
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Merry Korn
Pearl Interactive Network
Merry Korn is the tenacious and fearless leader of Pearl Interactive Network, a 500-employee social enterprise that delivers program management, contact center and staffing services, with a hiring priority for skilled and talented disabled veterans and people with disabilities.
After making a courageous move to invest in pursuing federal contracts, Korn won a $32 million four-year contract with five one-year renewal awards with a federal prime contractor. Her motivation to pursue the federal market was business growth, but she also felt federal contracts gave her niche workforce of veterans stable jobs with benefits and training.
Korn’s company is self-funded, debt-free and has substantial reserves to prepare for significant growth.
To be a successful leader, Korn believes it is crucial to have a philosophy of caring about employees, business partners and clients equally.
Her success also stems from an emphasis on constantly reviewing the business to assess areas of strengths and weaknesses, while realizing areas for future growth and opportunities. For example, she is launching a Supportive Care and Remote Monitoring solution that combines program management and staffing with tele-health technology. Vital sign and environmental technology monitors will integrate with a call center platform staffed by Pearl’s care navigators. She expects to sell the SCRM to federal contractors/agencies and Medicaid health plans, and already has $31 million in her sales pipeline.
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Ruth Milligan
When other children played with Barbie dolls or baseballs, Ruth Milligan was developing a love of the spoken word. She tagged along with her father when he attended events, including the Kit Kat Club of Columbus, a gathering of intellects and interests. Throughout her life, Milligan wondered if she would find her own Kit Kat.
Then in 2008, Milligan was heading up her own traditional PR firm, Milligan Communications, which she’d launched in 2002. After a date with her husband, Milligan watched her first TED video and it was love at first sight. She watched video after video, stumbling across a call for people to launch local, licensed versions of TED. She partnered with Nancy Kramer, and TEDxColumbus was born. Milligan got her Kit Kat.
After the first event in 2009, Milligan reflected on the eight speakers. Most delivered successful, memorable performances. A few did not. Milligan realized there wasn’t anyone helping speakers deliver a consequential talk — a quarterly briefing to staff, leadership summit, keynote or event revealing a research discovery. She saw a void and determined to fill it.
Milligan founded Articulation, narrowing her practice to coaching and training inside executive communication, structured thought, storytelling and public speaking.
Today, she coaches executives one-on-one and facilitates trainings in corporations. Each of the last two years, Articulation achieved more than 35 percent growth. She and her team have advised a dozen other TEDx events, coached and trained nearly 400 speakers, and are sought after by Fortune 100 companies.
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Aslyne C. Rodriguez
Co-founder and CEO
Aslyne C. Rodriguez first worked in education through Teach For America and for Ohio Sens. Tom Roberts and Fred Strahorn, whose emphasis and efforts were on education. Then, she was a middle school teacher at KIPP Journey Academy and became the co-executive director of After-School All-Stars Ohio.
Rodriguez honed her leadership, development and business acumen at After-School All-Stars, which eventually opened the doors for her next quest, Yokel, her first startup.
Now, she’s started EmpowerBus, with Co-founder and President Jerry Tsai. The social enterprise provides dignified, reliable and on-time transportation to and from employment, education and health care opportunities.
Many manufacturing and distribution centers throughout Central Ohio have high workforce attrition and difficulty finding entry-level workers because people cannot get to their facilities due to the geographic restrictions of public transportation.
EmpowerBus charges the employer a weekly flat rate per bus per week to provide transportation for its employees.
EmpowerBus provides the bus, the driver, organizes routes, handles logistics, insurance, etc., so employers can focus on running their business. By engaging EmpowerBus to provide the transportation, employers increase their retention, decrease turnover costs and increase profits.
The momentum at EmpowerBus that Rodriguez and Tsai are building as they turn their dream into a reality is because of the passion and drive Rodriguez has for seeing all people live a healthy, safe and prosperous life.
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Melissa West
Founder and president
The Tradesmen Group Inc.
Melissa West grew up working in her father’s historical building restoration company. She became a public accountant as a young adult, but stayed close to her family business by specializing in working with construction clients.
In 1997, the pull toward building preservation — and owning her own business — became strong enough that West decided to start The Tradesmen Group Inc., a historic building restoration company.
West sometimes felt like she had a target on her back, as competitors and prospective clients initially doubted her capabilities. In fact, after putting in a bid for an early job, she was contacted by the requesting organization, trying to convince her to rescind her bid because she was a woman-owned business. After successfully completing a number of jobs, people’s impressions changed. Plus, women-owned businesses today are sought after and supported by government agencies and other organizations.
Historic building restoration is a niche market, but it is West’s passion. She and her company have worked for churches, historical sites and memorials, universities, and national and local government organizations. For example, West was recently contacted by people at the Milwaukee Federal Building. Past sandblasting had defaced the building, so West was charged with identifying the best new method to clean the building and mitigate the past damage.
Thanks to West and her company, some historic structures that aren’t meant to change, won’t — but some attitudes and assumptions that are meant to change, will.
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2018 Progressive Organization Honorees

Keepsake Theme Quilts

Deaf Initiatives was established by the mother of two deaf children in 1998 to provide initiatives that strengthen the potential of youth who are deaf or hard of hearing. A year later, it created a social purpose business, Keepsake Theme Quilts.
One of the most challenging problems for the deaf in the workplace is that the workplace is organized around hearing people. In addition to creating a high-quality product through its T-shirt quilts, KTQ provides meaningful employment for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Everyone who works at KTQ is proficient in sign language, thus the flow of communication, exchange of ideas and ultimately the feeling of contribution that the deaf employees feel is high.
KTQ has made over 9,200 quilts and currently employs 15 women and one man who are deaf or hard of hearing, two hearing women and one deaf student intern. As a testament to the supportive work environment, nearly half of the staff has been employed for more than 13 years.
KTQ also employs junior production assistants, so local deaf and hard of hearing high school students can gain job experience. To date, KTQ has employed 24 assistants, 18 of whom were female and three who have transitioned into permanent employment. The student interns are also responsible for the Be Warm initiative, which utilizes excess material. Since 2015, nearly 1,000 blankets, hats, scarves and gloves have been donated to children and families experiencing homelessness.
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The Ohio State University

The Ohio State University is committed to supporting women-based initiatives and continuously developing women leaders across the university community.
The Women’s Place at OSU works to catalyze change by focusing on four areas: policy, culture, leadership and reporting the status of women. The Women’s Place collaborates with organizations across campus to cultivate a pipeline of women leaders, remove barriers and create a welcoming, equitable environment for women. These organizations include the President and Provost’s Council on Women; USAC Diversity and Inclusion Task Force; Association of Staff and Faculty Women; Ohio State ADVANCE; and Critical Difference for Women, a scholarship/grant program.
In addition, Ohio State and Wexner Medical Center have signed on to The Columbus Commitment: Achieving Pay Equity. This voluntary pledge demonstrates Ohio State’s commitment to understand, analyze, act upon and share best practices and solutions to pay inequality.
Ohio State also continually creates a family-friendly workplace through its employment benefits and availability of quality child care.
While there is still work to be done, some results include:

  • 40 percent of the 2016 cohort of new department chairs are women, and 40 percent of these are nonwhite women.
  • 64 percent of non-faculty executive and managerial staff are women.
  • Double-digit percentage increases in women, between 1999 and 2016, in the following positions: vice presidents and senior vice presidents, senior administration, non-faculty executive staff and faculty.

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2018 Progressive Woman Honorees

Tasha Booker
Executive director
City Year Columbus
A graduate of Columbus City Schools, Tasha Booker brings a unique perspective and a true understanding of the environment to her leadership of City Year Columbus, an education-focused nonprofit dedicated to keeping students in school and on track. She truly believes in the power of young people and works tirelessly to ensure that Columbus City Schools students are given the attention and mentorship they deserve to learn and thrive.
Booker has nearly two decades of leadership experience in the nonprofit sector. In her current role, she has strengthened both the quality and quantity of City Year’s relationships with other stakeholders to bring resources together to close the achievement gap for low-income students.
City Year Columbus serves seven schools in the Columbus school district and supports more than 4,000 students. This growth would not have been possible without Booker’s leadership and vision.
When she first joined City Year in 2015, she was tasked with balancing the nonprofit’s 20-year history with the current needs of the organization and community. This was especially challenging because many students needed support and Booker had to make difficult decisions regarding which schools City Year could dedicate funding to. In addition, Columbus is highly saturated with nonprofits and Booker had to ensure City Year stayed relevant.
Since then, the nonprofit’s private revenue stream has seen a continuous annual growth rate of over 10 percent. This growth is a testament to Booker’s leadership, vision and unrelenting passion for fighting for communities in need.
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Michelle Moskowitz Brown
Executive director
Local Matters
Michelle Moskowitz Brown has built her leadership over the past 20 years in not-for-profit management. She is driven by a commitment to healthy communities, economic development and the belief that everyone should have the knowledge, resources and confidence to eat well. Her personal experience with food insecurity and chronic disease fuel her at work.
At Local Matters, Moskowitz Brown focuses on growing organizational impact, and increasing education and access to healthy, delicious and affordable foods.
Local Matters supports diverse populations, including preschoolers in Head Start, women in recovery and people managing chronic diseases. The nonprofit teaches at more than 80 sites in Columbus and collaborates with Central Ohio partners and satellite partners across the state.
Local Matters reaches over 14,000 individual each year through its life-changing programs, such as:

  • Cooking Matters, which has educated over 5,000 low-income adults since it launched in 2012.
  • Food Matters, a weekly, hands-on program that helps children develop positive attitudes, self-confidence and a willingness to try new foods.
  • Growing Matters, which uses gardens to inspire participants to engage with the food they grow and its impact on their health.
  • Wellness Matters, a food education program focused on wellness and engagement in the workplace.

In 2016, Local Matters launched a culinary medicine program to train doctors, medical students and other health care providers on how to help patients manage and prevent disease through healthy food. This is a partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Mount Carmel Health System.
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Renee Cacchillo
Senior vice president, customer, brand & technology
Safelite AutoGlass
Renee Cacchillo is a visionary leader who credits three key principles in driving her career: take risks and embrace change, hire and work with people whose skills are differentiated from your own, and make sure the work you lead supports the company’s vision and purpose.
The ability to listen and be curious about customers is something Cacchillo has been doing throughout her career.
She began her journey with Safelite in 2011, taking on labor scheduling as a service delivery vice president. Cacchillo led a team that developed a technology solution that allowed Safelite to forecast labor needs and then schedule accordingly — ensuring customer satisfaction. She also helped co-author the initial concept of Safelite’s second transformation: becoming customer driven.
In 2013, Cacchillo was asked to step out of her comfort zone to lead the marketing team. She had little experience with advertising, but knew a critical component for any marketer: the customer. She hired bright people, so she could learn from them and build an enhanced strategy, which included a social presence and platform where the company had yet to have a presence.
Cacchillo was promoted to senior vice president, in charge of the customer, brand and technology aspects of Safelite in 2015. In this role, she continues to find new ways to elevate the customer service experience and make convenience a priority. She also was instrumental in developing Safelite’s first innovation lab.
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Melanie Corn, Ed.D.
Columbus College of Art & Design
Melanie Corn became Columbus College of Art & Design’s fifth president in 2016. One of the youngest presidents in her field at age 40, she is also one of six women presidents, according to the Association of Independent Colleges of Art & Design.
Corn faced many challenges, including bringing stability, confidence and vision to a college struggling with previous presidential turmoil. In her two-year tenure, she has won the trust of the CCAD community and board, created and instituted a new three-year strategic plan, and publicly espoused the values of an art and design education in Columbus.
Building a spirit of collaboration and providing strong leadership may appear to come easily, but Corn has overcome significant challenges. While provost of the California College of the Arts in Oakland, where she served for 13 years, Corn embarked on a two-year doctoral program in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania. She completed her long-distance dissertation while working full-time, being an active parent to her then-4-year-old son, Julian, and successfully battling Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Three years after completing her degree, she and her family moved to Columbus.
Corn believes in collaboration, listening and making the changes necessary for CCAD — and Columbus — to flourish. She quickly became part of the community, serving on the Columbus Partnership, fundraising for the Columbus Museum of Art and being a fixture at Julian’s soccer games.
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Sarah Landsman
Senior marketing director, food service and specialty
The Oneida Group Inc.
Throughout her career, Sarah Landsman has been a force behind the marketing efforts of household names like Oral-B, Prilosec OTC, Downy, Luxottica eyewear and currently, glassware, dinnerware, serveware and specialty products with the Anchor Hocking and Oneida brands.
When she took her current position, Landsman knew she was stepping into a challenging role. The Oneida Group, made up of historic brands Anchor Hocking and Oneida, is in the middle of a company turnaround following a series of challenges, including a pre-packaged bankruptcy in 2015 and corporate reorganization. In 2017, the parent company changed its name from EveryWare Global to The Oneida Group.
For several years, due in large part to financial and organizational challenges, Anchor Hocking and Oneida operated without a clear marketing vision, plan or budget. The first thing Landsman set out to do is change that.
She has been leading the development of the first integrated marketing plan for two of the main business units, the specialty market and food service divisions. She is also testing marketing tactics that are new to the company, including social media, print and digital advertising.
Landsman continues to innovate and find solutions to help Oneida customers. For example, after the 2017 hurricanes in Florida and Texas, and the California wildfires, she led a campaign to donate $200,000 in products to restaurants. Then, she led a social media campaign for restaurants in the impacted areas to be nominated and oversaw sales team visits to those restaurants to help pick out products.
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Heather Leonard
Vice president of marketing
Cameron Mitchell Restaurants
Heather Leonard has been with Cameron Mitchell Restaurants for more than 16 years. Before entering marketing for the restaurant and hospitality industry, Leonard was an aspiring opera singer and worked for an advertising agency.
She started with CMR as a marketing manager and six years later, was promoted to regional marketing director. During that time, there was a period where she was the only marketing person for the entire company.
Leonard currently oversees six associates and guides the planning and implementation of marketing initiatives for CMR’s brands. She also oversees the marketing for Cameron Mitchell Premier Events and shares her expertise with the marketing team for sister company Rusty Bucket Restaurant and Tavern. She was instrumental in driving the communications strategy when CMR sold off Mitchell’s/Columbus Fish Market and Mitchell’s/Cameron’s Steakhouse in 2008.
She has seen CMR grow to 32 units and 13 different concepts with locations in 12 states. She continues to develop strategies that will work in different cities. Leonard also started CMR’s marketing internship program and is one of three women on CMR’s 11-person executive leadership board.
Leonard excels at her day-to-day responsibilities, manages a marketing team, develops relationships with people at all levels of the company and more, all while battling multiple sclerosis. When she was diagnosed with MS in 2014, she was determined not to let it affect her job or her passions. If anything, it has helped her realize how important it is to take care of yourself and do what you love.
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Joanna Pinkerton
Transportation Research Center Inc., an affiliate of The Ohio State University  |
Joanna Pinkerton began her engineering career in the commercial construction industry where she learned the foundational elements of what it takes to support the built environment. Starting with construction practices, she learned project management, design skills, land development practices, financing and legal contracts, and eventually moved to the public policy arena.
Pinkerton has always been open to learning new and expanded aspects of her industry while on the job. After working in the private sector, she was recruited to work in the public sector where she began to understand the significant gaps between private sector needs and public sector operations.
Today, Pinkerton works to address this challenge directly — bridging the gaps between the private sector, public works and academia, utilizing resources in each of these domains through Transportation Research Center Inc., an affiliate of The Ohio State University, and the Honda-Ohio State Partnership.
With a consensus-building leadership style, she is able to convene the right groups of people, treating them with respect and engaging them in their respective fields of knowledge so they can collaborate to move initiatives forward.
Pinkerton has earned the respect of those in the infrastructure and transportation world because of her extensive technical knowledge and her commitment to leading others to success. This has been a fundamental tenet of hers, bringing others along. She has been inspired to collaborate due to both great experiences with mentors whom invested in her early career and the challenges she has faced as a woman in a highly-technical industry.
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Susan Porter
Executive director
Susan Porter started her law career at Schottenstein, Zox & Dunn, now Ice Miller, in 1986. She was a frequent speaker on employment issues throughout the state and a leader within the firm. Porter has always been active in the community through various nonprofit boards.
In 1997, Porter joined BalletMet’s board and over 18 years, served on virtually every committee. BalletMet needed an executive director in 2015 after Cheri Mitchell announced her retirement. Already board chair, Porter stepped in as interim executive director.
BalletMet is among the 20 largest professional ballet companies in the U.S., so taking on the executive leadership wasn’t easy. The board, however, soon asked Porter to consider becoming the permanent executive director. Porter gave up her nearly 30-year legal career, blending her legal knowledge, negotiation abilities and leadership experience to help BalletMet move forward.
In her two-year tenure, BalletMet increased its annual operating budget by more than 8 percent; developed a proprietary method to enhance patron engagement; and added new Dance Academy programs, including one for students on the autism spectrum.
Porter still faces challenges. When she first started, Mitchell was helping with her transition, but two months later, Mitchell was struck by a car and killed. Mitchell’s death left a hole in the hearts of the BalletMet family and a deficit of historical knowledge and experience. But Porter and BalletMet did not falter.
Porter has won the respect of her BalletMet colleagues and board, as well as leaders of the Columbus arts and nonprofit communities.
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Sarah Simmons
Vice president, sales
Quantum Health
Sarah Simmons joined the Quantum Health team seven years ago as a client executive. She quickly became a rising star on her team and among clients. Simmons has been a part of Quantum Health’s rapid growth and is integral to maintaining the corporate culture and message. The company has grown an average of 38 percent per year and today boasts nearly 700 employees.
After four years as client executive, Simmons transitioned to director of sales operations and now is vice president of the sales team. Along the way, Simmons has taken each advancement in stride, exceeded expectations and continued to develop her skills, personally and professionally.
As an integral member of the client-facing team, she has helped Quantum Health to achieve a client net promoter score of 78, which is almost unheard of in the health care industry. Simmons is also a person everyone feels comfortable speaking with — she’s relatable, funny and always has an open-door policy.
On top of her daily job, Simmons is actively engaged in volunteer opportunities at work and on her own time. She is the co-captain for the inaugural Quantum Health Pelotonia team, and has participated in the event the past several years on her own. She also volunteers with the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.
Whether Simmons is improving processes or helping to stuff envelopes, she’s always ready and willing to roll up her sleeves to get the job done quickly and efficiently.
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2018 Trailblazer Honorees

Vinita Clements
Senior vice president, Nationwide Financial Human Resources
Vinita Clements currently serves as senior vice president of human resources for Nationwide. In this role, she provides strategic human resources leadership and consultation to the Nationwide Financial business. Her team of HR professionals helps to ensure the financial services business can attract, develop and retain talent that helps meet the current and future needs of the business.
In her 15 years at Nationwide, Clements rose through the ranks of human resources supporting various business units: regional operations, Member Services, Nationwide National Partners, Nationwide Bank and Nationwide Pet. While taking on new, greater and different responsibilities, Clements faced challenges. Her dedication, discipline and willingness to learn allowed her to continue to grow and to succeed. She also credits a strong network of sponsors who supported her over the course of her career.
Nationwide’s culture not only helped Nationwide Financial reach $27 billion in sales in 2017, it played a key role in Clements’ own career success.
“We invest in the development of our associates,” she says. “I’ve benefited from it and that commitment to supporting our associates improves business results and empowers our associates to do — and be — something great at Nationwide.”
Clements is an active, dedicated member of the community and currently serves on the board for the Ohio Foundation for Independent Colleges and is an adviser for the All Women’s Associate Resource Group within Nationwide. She is passionate about the arts and promotes education and support for talented youth in the community.
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Sarala Pandey
Quality Assurance Manager, Digital Channels
Huntington Bancshares
Born and raised in Nepal, Sarala Pandey’s brothers went to boarding school and U.S. universities. She and her sister had very limited exposure to English. After complaining, one brother offered to help her financially, while another would host her in the U.S.
At age 20, Pandey had six months to learn English and pass her TOEFL test. She took English as a second language at Tallahassee Community College, while earning a barber license.
When her fiancé got into Capital University Law School in 1991, she moved and started at Columbus State Community College. Pandey recorded every lecture, so she could listen back to try to understand it.
She transferred to Capital University and found scholarships to pursue a computer science degree. When her funds ran out with two semesters left, Pandey appealed to then-president Josiah Blackmore. He created a work opportunity and let her pay on a monthly basis.
Pandey’s self-discipline, work ethic and dedication continue to serve her well. She has worked for the last seven years at Huntington, taking a lead role in creating and implementing digital strategies for five applications and managing a team of 30.
Since her success stemmed from the support of her brothers, husband, Blackmore and mentors at work, Pandey gives back by volunteering in Columbus’ Bhutanese refugee community.
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2018 sponsor notes

At Nationwide, we recognize the power of inclusion. Our 90-year history of being “more than a business” is anchored in our No. 1 enduring value of “We Value People.” This is evidenced by our commitment to our members, associates’ experience, as well as community support and involvement. Our workplace inclusion efforts have lifted all 33,000 of our associates, while focusing on advancing women and diverse associates.
These efforts have resulted in industry-leading representation of women at Nationwide. We are proud that Catalyst, a global nonprofit organization with a mission to accelerate progress for women with workplace inclusion initiatives, has recognized Nationwide’s efforts by selecting us as a 2018 Catalyst Award recipient.
We make every effort to ensure our associates have what they need to catapult their potential through various opportunities such as sponsorship, development and exposure. Fostering an inclusive culture where everyone knows they matter and can thrive is our continued focus. It’s simply who we are and what we do.
Headquartered in Columbus, Nationwide is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the U.S. The company provides a full range of insurance and financial services, including auto, commercial, homeowners, farm and life insurance; public and private sector retirement plans, annuities and mutual funds; banking and mortgages; excess and surplus, specialty and surety; and pet, motorcycle and boat insurance. Nationwide employees more than 33,000 associates and is ranked No. 68 on the Fortune Top 100 and No. 53 on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list.
Welcome … to an institution that embraces diversity and inclusion in all its forms.
Diversity and inclusion are part of Huntington Bank’s overall business strategy. We benefit from an inclusive culture that includes capable women on the board of directors, the executive team and throughout the organization, while working hard to leverage our inclusion in ways that make us a better organization and community partner.
Chairman, President and CEO Stephen Steinour often says it best: “One of our biggest opportunities to invest comes in the form of people. Whether it’s our customers, our shareholders, our colleagues or within our communities, we have a responsibility to make a difference in the lives of others.”
By including women, millennials, veterans, LGBT and people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds in the life of our organization and in our community engagement, we build a culture fueled by diversity of thought. And that informs how we treat our partners, how we contribute to our communities, and how we provide our customers with the products and services they want and need.
Clark Schaefer Hackett
As we grow and innovate, Clark Schaefer Hackett recognizes the critical role women play in our firm. So we actively work to provide opportunities for their professional advancement and increase the diversity of our firm’s leadership.
Our Advancing Women in Leadership program focuses on mentoring, leadership, networking, business development and building on personal strengths to achieve career goals. Our objective is to increase gender diversity in our management levels, providing women with equal opportunities for impact and influence throughout the firm.
The efforts we make to develop the women in our firm will help us fulfill our mission to better the lives of our clients, people and communities.
Hilton Columbus at Easton
The Hilton Columbus at Easton empowers women by being in support of women-based programs, leadership and diverse opportunities.
Women in leadership roles, such as general manager, director of sales and catering, director of human resources, chief engineer and controller, set the Hilton Columbus at Easton apart from other local companies.
We proudly partner with the Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association’s Women in Lodging by donating our time and effort to its mentoring programs, as well as its speaker series. We are honored to support and mentor up-and-coming women as they progress in their lives and careers.
In continuing with our Sophistication Redefined concept hotel, we have completely renovated and modernized our lobby. Easton Social, our sleek, sophisticated bar, is not only inviting and open, but also fosters social connectivity among our guests. There you can find craft cocktails to sip and unwind while watching Ohio State on one of our four 65-inch flatscreen TVs.
Keeping up with today’s on-the-go mentality, our Herb N’ Kitchen features fast and friendly service. Cooked to order and pre-made daily, our Herb N’ Kitchen features chef’s exclusively created dishes with seasonal twists, while incorporating local ingredients.
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