Smart Women: Driving internal change through innovation

The Smart Women Breakfast | Awards

Quick links:
PANELISTS Mary Navarro, Huntington Bank | Elaine Roberts, Columbus Regional Airport Authority | Jenn McClain-De Jong, The Limited | Phyllis Teater, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center | Susan Gueli, Nationwide
PROGRESSIVE ENTREPRENEUR Margie Brickner, Reliant Capital Solutions LLC | Victoria Calderón Nunes and Virginia Nunes Gutierrez, AVANZA Business Solutions; Bottoms Up Coffee Co-Op | Teresa Sherald, Diversity Search Group | Megan Shroy, Approach Marketing | Kara Trott, Quantum Health
PROGRESSIVE ORGANIZATION Cybervation INC. | Kaiser Consulting | Motorists Insurance Group
ORGANIZATIONS THAT EMPOWER Women’s Small Business Accelerator
PROGRESSIVE WOMAN Tara Abraham, Accel Inc. | Trudy Bartley, The Ohio State University | Katie Burgess, Elford Inc. | Natalie Crede, Safelite AutoGlass® | Jill Frey, Cummins Facility Services | Stefphanie Harper, City of Columbus | Shraddha Patel, Marketing and Engineering Solutions (MES) Inc. | Rochelle Seel, Donatos Pizza | Kay Wilson, LeaderSpark | Tami Wilson, IGS Energy

A message from the presenting sponsor

Wexner Medical Center aids unique quest for success

col_sw_WexnerCenter_OSUIntroAs the world changes, women are redefining success in their own terms. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is helping each woman succeed as she moves forward on her uniquely designed path toward success.
For a majority of women, success means family and a happy, healthy home life. Last year, Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center expertly welcomed 4,971 newborns into the world and provided excellent care for moms, dads and siblings. Wexner Medical Center staff provide superb obstetrical care in a state-of-the-art maternity unit for uncomplicated as well as “high-risk” deliveries. In addition, Ohio State shares its expertise, improving the health of families in our community with programs such as Stable Cradle and Moms2B, which encourage healthy starts for at-risk newborns.
Women turn to Wexner Medical Center for help with unique health needs that arise throughout various stages of the life cycle. For example, sports medicine research is examining why females face a higher risk of activity-related knee injury and is creating training programs to help prevent these injuries. Our Women’s Cardiovascular Health Clinic is one of only a handful of programs in the country devoted solely to women’s heart health. More than a third of the cardiology experts at Ohio State are women — covering nearly every specialty of heart and vascular care. In addition, the Women’s Behavioral Health program has particular expertise in the sexual and emotional health needs of cancer patients and survivors. The Maternal-Fetal Psychiatry program provides care to women who are experiencing distress in association with childbearing.
Education and opportunity
Ohio State is a national leader in medical and health care education and training. Women make up 54 percent of the college of medicine’s entering class. The school of health and rehabilitation sciences is a nationally recognized leader in educating allied health professionals.
Wexner Medical Center is one of Central Ohio’s largest employers with more than 20,000 employees. As part of The Ohio State University, employees receive a generous benefits package that includes health and life insurance, retirement benefits, and educational support for the employee and family members. These benefits ensure that women and their family members will have the opportunity to continually redefine success in their own terms and the support to achieve their dreams.
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Attendees at the 2016 Central Ohio Smart Women Breakfast talk about the importance of workforce diversity and driving internal change through innovation in this video.


Leap of faith

Mary Navarro helps lead the shift into unknown territory that paid off big

col_sw_MaryNavarro_0816At Huntington Bank, it seems like Mary Navarro knows everyone — and they all know her. The senior executive vice president, retail and business banking director, has been with Huntington for more than 14 years, but she’s spent over 40 years in the industry.
As a junior and senior, Navarro actually went to high school in the morning, and worked from noon to 5:30 p.m. as a teller. She says she got picked because she had good grades.
Today, she’s responsible for more than 6,000 employees, including 750 branches, business banking, corporate marketing, customer advocacy, card products, deposits and ATM and branch distribution.
“I didn’t expect to have my whole career in banking, and I did not expect to be in the current position that I’m in,” she says.
Navarro has been instrumental in driving the company’s growth through its Fair Play Banking strategy and customer satisfaction rates.
It all started about seven years ago when Huntington’s new CEO wanted to take the company and brand in a different direction, Navarro says.
At the time, the industry was in turmoil. Regulators were taking fees and income away, so banks were adding service charges.
People didn’t know what Huntington stood for and what it was really good at, she says.
Solve the problem
When you’re making a change, Navarro says start by figuring out what problem you’re solving and for whom. In Huntington’s case, it was people didn’t like their banks. They felt that banks were unforgiving and unfair.
“So, we had a pretty clear cut direction — we didn’t want to be a bank like that,” she says. “We wanted to be a bank that was treating people fairly, really transparent in what we were doing and why we were doing it, and we wanted to have a welcoming brand that said we’re doing the right things for customers.”
Once you have a strategy, you can develop new concepts and ideas underneath that. Huntington’s strategy was a differentiated customer experience by differentiated products, which included defining the brand.
Navarro says the bank settled on two concepts. In September 2010, it rolled out 24-Hour Grace®; if customers overdrew their accounts, they had a day to make a deposit. The bank added Asterisk-Free Checking Accounts the following May.
It was a leap into unknown territory, and Navarro had the job of telling 150 investors. Huntington initially estimated it would lose $36 million, but it was actually more than that.
“I was the spokesperson there that got to explain this to them — and you could have heard a pin drop,” she says. “Literally, I would say their mouths were open. ‘You’re going to give up that income to let people who overdraw pay later?’ It was a foreign concept.”
But from the first month, the bank attracted new customers and retained the ones it had.
“When we put the numbers together, we thought we could make it back in a few years,” Navarro says. “We made it back in, I think, five quarters.”
Build on the base
Huntington wouldn’t have been successful, however, without a base, Navarro says. The employees were already passionate about serving customers.
“We had a good foundation of service. We would not have been able to do this if we did not have a good foundation. If your base service is bad, they don’t really care about other things,” she says.
They also learned that the research held true.
“By testing our ideas, just the concept — what do you think, if we did this — with our colleagues and with customers, we had a very clear answer,” Navarro says. “We had lots of concepts that we tested, but the ones that they told us were the best have proven true.”
Your customers and employees don’t always know the solution. But they know the problem, so listen to them to find the answers.
A philosophy of Fair Play Banking also brought to light other things, such as trying to be fair to employees.
“It changed the dynamic of our culture, from being nice and helpful, to putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes and trying to be as fair as possible,” she says.
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Piloting in new strategies

Elaine Roberts raises engagement by putting people front and center

col_sw_ElaineRoberts_0816When the John Glenn Columbus International Airport’s board recruited President and CEO Elaine Roberts in 2000, it was a different operation.
The airport, formerly known as Port Columbus International Airport, will be officially renamed in September.
“Three things have happened since I came here, very shortly after I came, that were not on the radar,” she says.
Nine months after Roberts started, 9/11 changed the paradigm of airport security. Early in her tenure, city and county politicians also began discussing a Columbus and Rickenbacker International Airport merger.
“I certainly didn’t expect to take over a joint-use military cargo airport,” Roberts says.
About six weeks after the merger, she got a call from her board chairman. The media wanted to know about the airport’s largest airline downsizing.
America West’s hub accounted for one-fourth of all Columbus flights. Roberts says the airline’s CEO was in Columbus to tell employees he was closing the hub, and that daily flights would go from 49 to four, by June of 2003.
“They didn’t tell us. They didn’t tell the mayor’s office. They just did it,” she says.
And of course the change hasn’t stopped — Skybus’ abrupt closure, stunted growth during the recession, and an $80 million terminal modernization are just a few more.
“It seems like change is happening even faster than it has in the past, and I don’t think that’s unique to us,” Roberts says.
Adding transparency
As a service business, two-thirds of the airport authority’s budget is people. That’s why, whether it’s a time of change or not, leadership focuses heavily on employee engagement, Roberts says.
“Having engaged and productive and passionate employees to serve the public is critical. How do you pull that off, and how do you recognize and reward the kind of behaviors we want?” she says.
A 50-page strategic business plan used to sit static on the shelf, Roberts says. But in 2009, the airport authority moved to a balanced scorecard with four key pillars — people, process/technology, financial and customer/community.
With this approach, you identify strategies to build an engaged and productive team to be excellent in operations, to leverage technology and inspire innovation.
“If you do all of those things well, you will end up with good results under the other two pillars,” Roberts says. “You should get a good strong financial result and you should be able to satisfy your customer’s expectations, and in our case, help drive regional economic growth.”
Now, an eight-page brochure and one-page strategy map constitute the entire business plan. Scorecards measure progress toward goals, and leadership shares the quarterly results with everyone.
“We make sure all of the management team is talking about our priorities, our strategies, what we’re doing, and how it aligns to our vision, which is to connect Ohio with the world, whether it’s people or cargo,” Roberts says.
Another tool, a strategic priorities dashboard, identifies key strategies important for long-term success, she says. Those also go on a large board and, again, management tracks whether they are trending red, yellow or green.
Feedback loop
Employees are encouraged to give feedback in extensive surveys.
Last year, Roberts says engagement action teams focused on areas of concern that were raised in the survey. After 100 employees volunteered to help, the three teams met monthly and ultimately provided recommendations that management has started to implement.
When you’ve got employees who are physically in two airports, Roberts says, you need consistent communication, clear direction and a commitment to let people know what’s going on before it’s in the media.
Robert herself meets with all employees twice a year. She goes to their shifts and departments to help employees understand their role in the organization’s success and acknowledge department accomplishments.
She also believes in being responsive. If someone reaches out to one of the airports, typically the staff will respond within 24 hours, which is unusual in a public entity.
“People challenges and people issues tend to be, sometimes, the most frustrating. But they can also be the most rewarding, and that’s really how we get our work done,” she says.
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No longer an afterthought

Jenn McClain-De Jong educates others as e-commerce comes into its own

col_sw_JennMcClainDeJong_0816Jenn McClain-De Jong started as a financial analyst at Enron — where she thought she would work forever. After going back for her MBA, however, she found her way into online e-commerce and marketing.
“I think it was a good balance of my analytical background in finance, as well as some creative on the marketing side,” she says.
McClain-De Jong worked at both Ann Taylor and Chico’s to help build online marketing and set the brand strategy. She was wondering what was next when The Limited reached out. It wanted to bring its e-commerce back in-house.
McClain-De Jong is now the executive vice president of e-commerce and all of marketing.
Overall, retail is becoming more value oriented, she says. Millennials spend more on technology than clothing and don’t care much about brands. Retailers have had to re-examine their channels, and e-commerce isn’t the redheaded stepchild anymore.
“It was more of an afterthought (before). We were only 12 to 15 percent of the business, and it was just like ‘Oh, just stick that on e-comm’ when talking about product,” McClain-De Jong says. “Now we have a full strategy, because some of our days in sales are bigger than retail.”
Positioned to change
The change hasn’t been all industry related, either. When McClain-De Jong was approached to lead the marketing team, she realized that within the four years she’s been at The Limited, she’s the fourth leader.
“So you can imagine every leader comes in with a new vision, a new strategy, and it’s the same team, so they’d had a lot of turnover,” she says.
McClain-De Jong already knew the team’s strengths and weaknesses, though. Her goal has been to have marketing viewed as a visionary, strategic team that builds the stories, and then executes the marketing vision.
“We are doing more storytelling where we’re speaking to our clients, versus just putting more product out,” she says.
With change, McClain-De Jong also uses an 80/20 rule because there’s always too much work. This is especially helpful for younger employees, who can equate being busy with importance.
“If an associate comes in to my office, and says ‘Jenn, I’m overwhelmed. I can’t do this. I can’t do that,’” she says. “OK then, here is a new change that we have to do. It’s a business strategy we all agreed on. What’s on your plate that’s not going to move the needle for the business?”
Everyone can find things on his or her to-do list that won’t drive the business, and scratch those off. McClain-De Jong says this allows the time to accept a change.
Minimize conflict
McClain-De Jong’s approach to challenges is to educate.
“It’s very easy to go down the defensive path — I can’t believe he or she said that,” she says. “What I have found nine times out of 10 is that it’s usually a comment made because they are not informed.”
When this happens, she takes a step back and gives the full color of the context.
“I over communicate because I want to make sure everyone on my team knows all the moving parts,” McClain-De Jong says.
The big thing is the why. If you tell your team or a vendor, the reasons why, it helps with the workload or the re-work, she says. People don’t want to change just to change. It’s never easy, so focus on what part of the change is important.
Politics also can be a barrier. McClain-De Jong says she’ll usually hear about a problem from a third party, so she responds by setting up a meeting. Something might have gotten lost in translation.
“I just want to level with them. OK, here are the reasons why. Here is my viewpoint,” she says. “And I want to hear their viewpoint but I’d rather have them just come tell me, versus going a roundabout way.”
A direct meeting can be hard, but it’s the best way to nip it in the bud and be aligned, McClain-De Jong says. Or, it can be the best way to come up with a joint plan with both of your ideas.
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Keep calm and change on

Phyllis Teater maintains a level head as a change agent

col_sw_PhyllisTeater_0816CIO Phyllis Teater started at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center as a programmer the week she graduated college. Twenty-five years later, she leads the same department she used to program in, which includes about 400 people.
Technology is an area where change is constant, and that takes patience and an ability to keep your cool.
“You will have, without a doubt, people that are concerned or upset or don’t understand why we’re doing something,” she says.
When you hear a concern, reach out. Don’t try to avoid those hard conversations. Often, that act itself helps the situation to a better place.
“I’ve been in front of meetings, and I think probably every leader has, where people are yelling at me. If I start yelling back, it’s not going to get better,” Teater says.
Also, always start with why you’re doing something — and keep repeating that. If people can understand, they’ll put up with a lot.
When Teater first worked with end users, she didn’t always take enough time to understand what they were saying.
“Users are not usually crazy — usually there’s a really good reason. If it doesn’t make sense to you, it’s probably because you haven’t asked the right questions,” she says.
Change on a large scale
In the fall of 2011, Wexner moved to paperless patient charts, and a lot of the shift happened in one weekend.
Over the two-year project, IT trained about 14,000 people on the new systems. The training had to be specific — a nurse would use the system differently than a registration clerk.
Teater says her team offered more than 2,000 classes, and one of the first to train was the CEO and senior leadership. In their class, first they might be doctors, and then they would switch to using the system as nurses, and later as billing clerks.
“Our leadership was able to understand the changes we were asking all of our staff to make — and then be able to talk about the fact that they’d already been trained, when we were trying to put the other 13,950 people through it,” she says. “We got them little badges that said: I’ve been trained. Have you?”
It’s critical to get engagement, and that starts at the top of the organization, Teater says.
Also, you have to meet people where they are. For example, some staff hadn’t worked with a computer much.
“We offered preparatory classes that helped folks learn how to use a mouse, learn how to navigate Windows. We worked with leaders in all the areas to try to find and recognize those folks that needed that extra help before they could even start on the system training,” she says.
For the most part, everyone knew this was coming, Teater says, and messaging helped people understand why.
“We felt by the end, of course, we’d said it a million times. ‘What do you mean you don’t know why you’re doing this?’” she says. “You have to remember when you’re the change agent there’s always somebody that’s going to be hearing that for the first time.”
Coordinated and consistent
Wexner has many people and levels, but Teater uses the structures of the organization to help with communication.
If an area is undergoing a lot of change, the IT staff often talks directly to the end users, down at the detail level. So, Teater or someone from her leadership team reaches out to the leader in that area, to make them an ally. The trick is being coordinated and keeping the messaging consistent.
“One way to try to keep communication flowing in an organization this large is to go at it at a couple different levels,” she says.
Even though leaders don’t use the system daily and the change may only affect their staff, they need to be part of the process. That way, you’re all in it together.
“No leader wants to be surprised by their staff saying, ‘IT is making me do something different,’” Teater says.
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Different perspectives

Susan Gueli collects new experiences to help drive change and innovation

col_sw_SusanGueliSusan Gueli started at Nationwide as an entry-level programmer. Today she is a senior vice president and CIO of infrastructure and operations, where she leads 2,000 associates and manages a $500 million budget.
Like other successful business leaders, she had a boss in one particular stretch of her career that gave her opportunities. When Gueli thanked him for the investment in her, he told her that he’s given a lot of people a lot of opportunity, but not everyone takes advantage the way she did.
“His response to my appreciation helped me to understand the importance of seizing the moment,” Gueli says. “Think of assignments as an opportunity to demonstrate your leadership. Be deliberate about what you want to get out of an experience and commit to learn.
“I’m not saying that I’ve always gotten it right, but I listen for clues or any evidence that I’m getting it right or I’m not, and I respond. I make changes; I adjust,” she says.
Gueli has been in her current role just a few months, so she’s focused on applying her skills in a new context to drive near term value.
She says being deliberate in her role is something she’s always done. That doesn’t mean innovation isn’t in play, but it’s about doing the opportunity justice and pushing her potential.
For example, in order to prepare for additional exposure to the board and executive level, Gueli took on more responsibility with not-for-profit boards. This helped her fine tune her executive skills.
“There is no ‘there’ when it comes to your development and growth,” she says. “I’ve always focused on growing in place and being ready for the next step even when a position is not available. One of the worst things that can happen is you aren’t ready for a new opportunity where it presents itself.”
Be curious
As part of the IT team, Gueli is helping drive change via the capabilities that Nationwide delivers, like working with cloud technology.
“We see things changing all around us — not just at work. The pace of change is accelerating everywhere,” she says. “Using that change as an advantage in business is key, and is exciting.”
Gueli seeks to keep her individual and team’s skills sharp and to harness the macro-level change in technology and society for the benefit of Nationwide.
She has found that collecting a variety of experience and learning to see things through different lenses and perspectives will help you be innovative and drive internal change.
You want to showcase your attitude of innate curiosity.
“Share your ideas and be willing to allow other people to build on the ideas and make them better,” Gueli says. “Ask a lot of questions and then be willing to listen to the answers. Be a hearer. Be curious. Expose yourself to new and different opportunities and experiences inside and outside of work.”
Gueli has seen technology from all different sides: application development, cyber security, infrastructure and operations, aligned directly against a business, etc. That variety of experiences helps her problem solve and stay focused on even better outcomes and efficiency levels.
“When you are thinking about change and innovation you have to be clear on the ultimate destination and outcome, and then you can be creative about the how or the route for getting there,” she says.
Boosting up others
Gueli has also built a strong network with her colleagues, which allows them to work together in a collaborative way.
“I have the trust and respect of my peers. I’m very proud of that. Being an SVP in IT makes me feel more passionate about wanting to see other women reach this level,” she says.
“Being a factor in unlocking or maximizing the human potential of another woman is fuel to me — and it’s a great reward,” Gueli says. “It’s not hard to invest in people. It just takes time and a willingness to help be a source or booster of confidence for others. I’ve learned that you get more out of people through encouragement and helping them see the good in themselves.”
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Progressive Entrepreneur Honorees

col_sw_MargieBricknerMargie Brickner
President and CEO
Reliant Capital Solutions LLC
After 25 years at a collection agency, Margie Brickner, president and CEO of Reliant Capital Solutions LLC, was ready to start her own accounts receivable management firm. So she leveraged her industry knowledge and network and ventured out on her own.
Reliant specializes in the higher education industry. The agency now represents nearly 400 U.S. colleges and universities, including public and private schools, proprietary schools and a variety of student portfolios with student populations ranging from 1,000 to more than 100,000.
After starting with small university clients, Reliant won a game-changing contract with the Ohio attorney general’s office. To be an approved vendor for the state, Reliant was thoroughly vetted, and its security and systems had to be top-notch. This lent credibility to the firm and opened many doors.
Among these opportunities is a recent federal contract — Reliant’s first — that is one reason for plans to expand into a larger office. But no matter how large Reliant becomes, Brickner insists that the agency maintain its original entrepreneurial spirit and personal touch.
Reliant has a reputation for treating employees well, which allows it to recruit top talent. Most collection agencies focus on sales; Reliant delivers unparalleled service that ultimately helps it win, and retain, clients.
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col_sw_VictoriaCalderonNunescol_sw_VirginiaNunesGutierrezVictoria Calderón Nunes
Co-founder and CEO
Virginia Nunes Gutierrez
Co-founder and COO
AVANZA Business Solutions; Bottoms Up Coffee Co-Op
Sisters and co-founders, Victoria Calderón Nunes, CEO, and Virginia Nunes Gutierrez, COO, came together two years ago to build social enterprises that promote community and economic development. They started with AVANZA Business Solutions, a multicultural marketing and tech firm.
Nunes is a marketing professional, entrepreneur, blogger and author with more than 10 years experience. Gutierrez is an international entrepreneur and health care professional; for the past five years she has helped connect underserved Columbus populations with critical resources through advocacy, education and training.
AVANZA Business Solutions has two signature products: AVANZA business leaders™, a social enterprise business development program for Latinas and millennials, and BidQuest™, an online platform designed to match woman and minority-owned businesses with corporate and government contracting opportunities.
Their second venture, Bottoms Up Coffee Co-Op, uses coffee and co-working as a means to social change in Franklinton, with a mission to reduce infant mortality.
The sisters recently purchased a 100-year-old building and restored it to serve as a public coffee shop and office space for AVANZA’s headquarters.
Nunes also published a bilingual safe sleep baby book to raise awareness about infant mortality, and Gutierrez is an instructor at The Ohio State University’s College of Nursing, which trains community leaders about infant mortality.
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col_sw_TeresaSheraldTeresa Sherald
President and CEO
Diversity Search Group
Teresa Sherald, president and CEO of Diversity Search Group, has elevated her company to a top performing and award-winning corporation, while helping other women realize their entrepreneurial dreams.
In 2005, Sherald needed a change. She’d spent 15 years in government as a project manager and consultant but saw a need for a company that could provide highly qualified candidates. So, she established Diversity Search Group.
At first, Sherald found it difficult to build relationships and discover new business opportunities because many of her male competitors had long-term relationships with clients. Furthermore, as a black woman, Sherald didn’t feel a strong connection to other women entrepreneurs who were often white.
The network of women entrepreneurs and leaders that she eventually built around her were instrumental to the success of the company. Those mentors and industry trends led Sherald to switch from executive search services to temporary staffing services.
The shift increased revenue and word of mouth. Diversity Search Group is now one of the largest staffing firms in Ohio, operating in several states and providing services to governments, private entities and nonprofits.
Today, Sherald “pays it forward” by coaching women and minority small business owners in a variety of ways.
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col_sw_MeganShroy,Megan Shroy
Founder and President
Approach Marketing
Through calculated risk and a hard work ethic, Founder and President Megan Shroy has achieved success without following a traditional career path. She founded and runs Approach Marketing, a public relations and marketing agency that consults with top brands. She also has been named the personal publicist to a variety of C-Suite executives.
In 2010, after working at global and local PR agencies, at age 26, Shroy identified a demand in the PR industry. Clients needed access to top PR and marketing talent but often couldn’t afford the agency overhead and large retainer-based relationships. She decided to start her own business.
Approach has a virtual agency model, where Shroy and all team members are independent contractors who opted out of fast-paced and demanding careers to gain more control over their time. Situated throughout the U.S., they work a set number of hours each week. This has drawn many women — mothers in particular — who strive to achieve a stronger work-life balance.
Plus, with no office space or big benefits packages, savings are passed on to clients.
Approach has doubled in size every year since opening and grew financially by 130 percent in 2015.
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col_sw_KaraTrottKara Trott
Founder and CEO
Quantum Health
When she was a consultant for health systems, Founder and CEO Kara Trott observed parallels between the challenges people had with the health care journey and other industries. There isn’t a clear pathway. People are bewildered and bounce around; they get lost and stuck and from what she observed, when this happens, additional costs are incurred.
In order for the health care system to think about what the consumer experiences, she put her background in market research to work. In 1999, Quantum Health was born, as the first consumer behavior-based company in the health care benefits industry.
As a part of a self-insured company’s health care benefits plan, Quantum Health offers a single point of contact, connecting employees to a multidisciplinary team of customer services and clinical experts.
The concept took off. Quantum Health has grown its client membership at an average annual rate of 46 percent over the past four years and has averaged 37 percent annual revenue growth.
The business Trott created is making the health care system and health benefits navigation and coordination less confusing and less expensive for employers and employees. Her impact on the health care market, directly and indirectly, continues to grow — she’s truly visionary.
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Progressive Organization Honorees

col_sw_Cybervation_logoCybervation INC.
Cybervation INC. is a company that understands the symbiotic relationship between community investment in women and girls and resulting economic prosperity. Through a myriad activities targeted toward the nonprofit arena, Cybervation is improving the lives of women and girls in our community.
Under the leadership of CEO Purba Majumder, Cybervation leveraged its extensive tech industry background and passion for community service to launch one of the hottest new organizations in Central Ohio, CoolTechGirls.
CoolTechGirls distributes valuable career-related information to students and parents through interactive and educational programming. It addresses the disparity between girls and boys interested in STEM/STEAM coursework and careers by introducing them to role models and career pathways and providing a shared collaborative environment. To date, more than 500 girls have attended its programs.
Cybervation built the website, videos, graphics and newsletters and has provided regular website updates since CoolTechGirls’ inception.
In addition, Cybervation deploys its resources and brain trust to support other nonprofit organizations. For example, Cybervation provided pro bono work (marketing, technology and fundraising) and support for organizations that focus on women and children, such as See Kids Dream, Women for Economic and Leadership Development, The Wellington School and The Ohio River Valley Women’s Business Council.
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col_sw_KaiserConsulting_logoKaiser Consulting
To Kaiser Consulting, “family-friendly” isn’t a bullet point on a list of company benefits — it is the reason for the company’s existence.
Lori Kaiser, founder and CEO, started her business because she wasn’t happy working 50-60 hours per week as a CPA at an accounting firm after her first child was born.
She wanted to take the great things that people liked about public accounting such as training, variety of projects and industry, but eliminate what made it difficult: travel and long hours.
Kaiser Consulting recruits either former accountants/consultants who are now stay-at-home parents or working professionals who are looking for work-life balance. Kaiser offers a competitive, professional salary, a rich employee benefits package and a flexible schedule with minimal/no travel.
The schedules are reviewed quarterly for any adjustments needed, and employees have the freedom to, for example, work a full-time schedule during the school year and part-time, or no time, during the summer. Kaiser Consulting accepts client projects based on its employees’ availability.
Most accounting firms experience a 25-35 percent turnover rate per year. But Kaiser Consulting’s visionary model has resulted in virtually no employee turnover.
Kaiser also has organically grown and doubled in size since 2013 to more than 50 employees.
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col_sw_MotoristsInsuranceGroup_logoMotorists Insurance Group
The Academy of Risk Management and Insurance, Saint Joseph’s University, recently found that 85 percent of insurance companies have no top executives who are women and just 8 percent of senior leadership positions are held by women.
Motorists Insurance Group is working to change that, under the leadership of President and CEO Dave Kaufman.
At Motorists, 43 percent of the senior leadership team is women, and 58 percent of associates are women. Prior to 2002 women weren’t represented on any of Motorists’ boards; now the board is 27 percent females, more than double the industry average.
But Motorists isn’t done. A diversity and inclusion project was created in 2015 to assess and focus on Motorists’ diversity.
One reason for the change is a family-friendly, flexible workplace, which is a top priority for Kaufman. More than 10 percent of associates work from home on a full-time basis and many more utilize these opportunities weekly.
For instance, when Navata Baddam found out she was pregnant, her managers, both of whom are male, were so excited they threw her a work baby shower. She worked from home during her ninth month when she felt tired and sick, and after her daughter was born and her leave was up, she worked at home until her baby was six months old.
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Organizations that Empower Honoree

col_sw_WomensSmallBusinessAccelerator_logoWomen’s Small Business Accelerator
The Women’s Small Business Accelerator, co-founded by Mary McCarthy, Your Management Team Inc., and Caroline Worley, Worley Law LLC, strives to provide women entrepreneurs the resources to grow large and successful businesses.
The WSBA utilizes two signature programs to do this. The Inspired Entrepreneur Education Program is a six-month intensive course designed to assist an upcoming woman entrepreneur develop and validate her business concept. The Mentor Match program pairs an existing woman business owner with a successful entrepreneur in order to think bigger and be more strategic when planning for growth.
What sets the WSBA apart is its ability to produce outcomes with its firsthand knowledge as business owners, its experience in developing and teaching curriculum, and its meaningful connections and collaborative community partnerships. For example, 75 percent of the WSBA board is women business owners with an average of 20 years experience within their respective industries.
Since 2012, the WSBA has assisted more than 1,000 Central Ohio women business owners; provided about 200 hours of specialized mentoring and technical assistance; hosted over 100 workshops and educational programs; and secured nearly $20,000 in scholarships to provide educational programming for business owners who are unable to cover the cost but have a strong commitment to growth.
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Progressive Woman Honorees

col_sw_TaraAbrahamTara Abraham
Chair and co-CEO
Accel Inc.
Tara Abraham was working as a merchant for Bath & Body Works, where she outsourced multiple promotions to local contract packaging companies. But even with her diligence and dedication, product either arrived late or not to the high quality standards expected. Abraham realized there was a need for a high-quality contract packaging company in Columbus.
In 1995 Abraham’s vision was realized when Accel Inc. opened and became BBW’s 33rd contract packaging company. The 1,500 square foot facility had four associates: Abraham, who now serves as chair and co-CEO, her mother, her soon-to-be husband and one other.
Since then, Accel expanded its service offerings to include product engineering, 3D printing, plastics thermoforming, batch and lot coding, shrink-wrapping, fin-sealing, flow wrapping and a software program for end-of-season clothing sort.
Accel’s expanded offerings enabled it to grow to more LBrands’ subsidiaries and other companies.
Recently, Accel approached LGS Preferred, a staffing agency, about working with the United Way of Licking County (Buses of Hope), the YWCA and homeless and transitional shelters to provide job opportunities. LGS arranges buses to pick up workers and transport them to Accel and other companies in the New Albany campus. Breaking the transportation barrier has been a major accomplishment in getting people to work.
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col_sw_TrudyBartleyTrudy Bartley
VP for government affairs
The Ohio State University
Trudy Bartley joined The Ohio State University in February 2011, as the VP for Government Affairs, where she provides leadership for the university’s relationships with local government officials and staff, as well as economic and community development projects.
She also directs Partners Achieving Community Transformation, an Ohio State affiliate working to revitalize the Near East Side community, alongside the city, the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority and Near East Side stakeholders.
Bartley is an example for many young women on how to break glass ceilings and make it to the boardroom as a C-level executive, not just an assistant.
She is well known for her impeccable fashion sense and ability to get the job done by treating others well and encouraging them to buy into key strategic initiatives. Facing many challenges, including often being the only female executive making strategic decisions around operations, Bartley does it with strength, grace and diplomacy.
Even before her role at OSU, she served the Ohio Department of Development as COO, interim director of the Minority Business Enterprise Division and federal stimulus coordinator. She also spent time in the city of Columbus, Department of Development, for more than 11 years.
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col_sw_KatieBurgessKatie Burgess
Director of Business Development and Marketing
Elford Inc.
While construction continues to be a male-dominated industry, Katie Burgess’s mastery of her craft, ability to influence and persuade, determination and tenacity earns her respect from business partners both inside the organization and out in the community.
Burgess joined Elford Inc. in 2011 as a marketing manager. In 2015, she earned a promotion to director of business development and marketing. Then in 2016, Burgess joined Elford’s senior leadership team.
Growing up in a small town in southern Ohio, she brings to her role a conviction about the value of hard work and sticking to the plan.
Burgess also has been a major contributor to the growth of Elford, when it has grown from a $100-million company to a $300-million company. She was an integral part of winning the biggest projects in the company’s 106-year history (at Ohio University, the Greater Columbus Convention Center and the Delaware Area Career Center). Through the messaging she created, Elford can compete on projects of $50 million and above.
She also takes Elford’s core value of “build community” to heart. She is the president elect of the local chapter of the Society of Marketing Professional Services. She’s also involved with Local Matters and Women for Economic and Leadership Development.
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col_sw_NatalieCredeNatalie Crede
SVP People & Leadership Development
Safelite AutoGlass®
Natalie Crede, SVP People & Leadership Development at Safelite AutoGlass®, is the heart and soul — and the strategic direction — behind Safelite’s cultural transformation to what it calls a People Powered organization.
Crede first joined Safelite in 2009 as director of learning and development. She helped move HR from a functional department to a strategic arm. She did this by developing an integrated talent management program and ensuring Safelite has the best talent possible — and empowering them to do a great job.
Crede and her team have challenged the senior leadership team to define the “why” behind the company and developed leadership development programs and workshops.
Two-way communication is essential, so she helped launch a company-wide survey, as well as monthly “pulse checks” that are randomly emailed to survey employees’ feelings about the organization.
In order to bring together the many remote employees, Crede’s team created iLearn on the company intranet. It houses all career growth and development information, including internal job postings, career path information, tips for building personal development plans, suggestions for stretch assignments, reading materials and supporting tools, along with e-learning courses.
Since implementing the integrated talent management program, Safelite’s employee engagement scores have been above average for five of the past six years.
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col_sw_JillFreyJill Frey
President and CEO
Cummins Facility Services
At 22 years old, President and CEO Jill Frey assumed leadership at Cummins Facility Services. The company had 15 employees and customers exclusively in the Marion, Ohio, area.
Frey became the 100 percent owner in 2010, and today CFS has more than 500 employees, operates in 13 states and Mexico, and has revenue of more than $11 million. The company recently became one of only two distributors of a new induction-charged cleaning technology that is expected to revolutionize the industry.
Earning respect and embracing authority was no easy feat for a recent college graduate commanding a team of older and more experienced employees.
Also, from the beginning, Frey recognized the unique value and skills that women bring to business. Whether seeking out experienced female leaders to serve as mentors or learning from women already serving in her company, she has successfully harnessed the wisdom, energy, creativity and tenacity of the women by whom she is surrounded.
The company’s senior management team is comprised exclusively of women and 33 percent of the management team is female. Since 2010, CFS has promoted four females into management roles. The company’s accounting, marketing and payroll teams are comprised entirely of women and the field team is 53 percent female.
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col_sw_StefphanieHarperStefphanie Harper
Digital and Chief Marketing Officer
City of Columbus
Stefphanie Harper, an active community leader, volunteer and mentor, could have let her skin color, gender or the fact that she became a teenage mom hold her back. Instead her challenges taught her to never give up.
Harper, who became a mother at 17, was at first a nail technician. Harper soon started working for Capital South, which inspired her to go back to school. She was recognized for her creative thinking and ability to cultivate relationships. It was then that she created the Pearl Alley Farmer’s Market.
Harper next worked at Rev1 Ventures (Tech Columbus at the time), where she helped create an outreach program to educate women and minorities. She held more than 200 events in 15 counties and promoted successful tech startup stories.
Six years after returning to school, Harper had her undergraduate degree and a master’s in public administration.
Harper then started a consulting company, Sharper Strategies, finding her passion for marketing and communications. Witnessing her success, former Mayor Michael B. Coleman tapped Harper to oversee the city’s Bicentennial Celebration planning.
Shortly after, Harper was named digital and chief marketing officer. She led the ColumbUS branding project, redesigned the city’s website and created social media platforms across the 13 city departments.
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col_sw_ShraddhaPatelShraddha Patel
Marketing and Engineering Solutions (MES) Inc.
Shraddha Patel started at Marketing and Engineering Solutions (MES) Inc. in 2008. She’s handled accounting, supply chain, purchasing logistic and warehousing management, before growing into the controller position.
At only age 34, Patel is responsible for MES’s global accounting and finance, with senior accountants in Hong Kong, China, India and Mexico reporting to her. She works with them to ensure that the company adheres to finance standards and requirements.
MES’s offshore staff has called Patel the hardest working team member, because she makes herself available at all hours to handle questions and issues.
Closer to home, she helped with successful projects such as software launches, purchasing processes and cost reduction initiatives. Patel manages the company’s finances as if they were her own. She is conservative with debt, generous with team incentives and fair to partners.
Patel also has successfully overcome health issues. She had a bike accident that broke her elbow in six parts. She went through a difficult surgery and implant, and then had another surgery after developing complications. But now full arm movement is coming back.
In addition, Patel volunteers at Hindu Temple in Powell during key festivals, has helped the Jain Center of Central Ohio manage its finances, and is very close with her parents.
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col_sw_RochelleSeelRochelle Seel
Donatos Pizza
Prior to joining Donatos Pizza in 2009, Rochelle Seel’s past was a troubled one — checkered with drug problems and incarcerations.
When given the chance to join Donatos as an hourly associate at the Bexley location, Seel was thankful to be given the opportunity to turn her life around — and turn it around she did.
According to a Channel 10 story on Seel’s turnaround, Seel had a prison supervisor who told her that with her work ethic, Seel wouldn’t have a problem. She wouldn’t be back. That was something Seel never forgot.
Since 2009, Seel has risen steadily through the ranks of Columbus operations. She came in early and stayed late, and worked well with customers.
She now serves as the general manager of the Donatos’ restaurant at Cassady Avenue and I-670.
Seel has run the highest volume restaurants in the chain impeccably. Her attention to service, quality, prosperity and delivering on the Donatos’ mission to promote goodwill through product and service, principles and people has made her one of the most decorated general managers in the Donatos system, says Tom Santor, executive director of marketing, who nominated her for the award.
Seel’s story is of making the absolute most of her opportunity to succeed.
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col_sw_KayWillsonKay Wilson
Executive Director
Kay Wilson, executive director of LeaderSpark, has been a huge inspiration. She started working at the nonprofit in 2014, where she coaches youth in leadership and workforce development. But she also continues to support her community through many other organizations, dealing in areas of substance abuse and domestic violence.
Wilson’s influence has spread far and wide. As author of the book “Holding on to Somewhere,” she courageously shared her experience in overcoming a domestic violence situation. She has introduced both men and women to the effects of domestic violence and has inspired people with her openness, compassion and vision of a more accepting and diverse community.
Wilson has come a long way from her humble roots as a heroine-addicted newborn who was adopted by a white family in Westerville. Raised by her adoptive family, she struggled with issues of self-identification and low self-esteem. She often masked her feelings on the track, and became a state track champion in hurdles.
Wilson inspires those at LeaderSpeak and the youth she works with each week with her strong will to rise above her life circumstances, her role modeling to teen girls about how to take charge of their destiny and her willingness to serve as a great leader in her community.
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col_sw_TamiWilsonTami Wilson
Chief Finance and Risk Officer
IGS Energy
Many people who work closely with Tami Wilson agree that one of the best words to describe her is balance. Not surprising that the chief finance and risk officer of IGS Energy would understand balance in an industry that begs for constant vigilance to achieve equilibrium in an often unpredictable market.
While work-life balance is always a challenge, Wilson strives to take a measured approach in all that she does. From a professional outlook, she executes impeccable balance: whether it’s acquiring a new company, leading her teams toward successful outcomes, reigning in her own unstoppable work ethic or even how she weighs risk in the face of opportunity, Wilson handles herself with endless poise and grace.
One of the most difficult decisions of her career was selling Vectren Retail, where she was CFO and president. Now at IGS, Wilson translates that same steadiness to overseeing the finances of a billion dollar company.
Since her arrival, IGS’s employee count has doubled in size to more than 400, and Wilson has managed the financial strategy for the opening of nearly 20 new offices, the acquisition of two competitor businesses, the launch of two start-up companies (IGS Generation and IGS Solar) and ongoing support for IGS CNG Services.
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Sponsor notes

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is one of America’s top-ranked academic medical centers. Our mission is to improve people’s lives through innovation in research, education and patient care. As an integral part of one of our nation’s largest and most comprehensive land grant institutions, Wexner Medical Center is home to more than 20 research centers and institutes and 25 core research laboratories that promote collaborations and discoveries benefiting humankind.
Educational opportunities abound within our nationally ranked college of medicine. We are one of the few schools in the world to offer five dual medical degree programs, where a doctor of medicine degree can be earned along with another professional degree. Our school of health and rehabilitation sciences educates and trains a cadre of health care specialists who are positively impacting the lives of people around the world. More than 65 accredited graduate and residency programs train more than 800 residents and fellows annually. In addition, Ohio State’s web-based continuing medical education programs support physicians in 130 countries each year.
Clinical excellence is the norm at Wexner Medical Center, which was ranked ninth among the 104 academic medical centers by the University HealthSystem Consortium; is one of 13 academic medical centers to receive a 2015 Quality Leadership Award by UHC; and has been nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report for 24 consecutive years. With more than 1,300 beds, Ohio State delivers care in every medical specialty, supports numerous regional and state health care programs and provided more than $170 million in community benefit annually.
Huntington Bank
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, ethnic minorities, disabled individuals, veterans, LGBT and people of diverse backgrounds into the life of our organization and our community engagement, we build a culture fueled by diversity of thought. And that reflects how we treat our partners, how we contribute to our communities, and how we provide our customers with products and services they want and need.
At Nationwide, we recognize the power of diverse perspectives in an inclusive environment; all voices are heard and valued. This diversity of thought is good for women and good for our business. We are proud of our sustained and intentional focus on advancing women at all levels within our organization. Our efforts have resulted in industry-leading representation of all women at Nationwide complimented by award winning efforts with our internship initiatives, development and sponsorship programs, purposeful recruiting and hiring and diverse supplier programs.
We make every effort to ensure that women have access to resources that will catapult their potential. Making sure Nationwide has a culture where all of our associates can succeed is our constant journey.  Ensuring women succeed is a critical part of our future success. It’s simply who we are and what we do.
Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, 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; pet, motorcycle and boat insurance. Nationwide employees over 34,000 associates and is ranked No. 69 on the Fortune Top 100 and No. 71 on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work for list.
Sequent is a consulting business that focuses on helping companies achieve optimal performance through their people. We do this in four main service categories: organizational change management, leadership development (including training, mobile and eLearning) recruiting and staff support and culture and engagement.
At Sequent we believe you hire the person first, then create the function. Our focus is to create a sustainable culture where every voice matters. We do this by ensuring work-life balance for not only female employees but men, too. We spend much of our time on talent — recruiting, retaining and developing talent.
Another goal is to help foster, empower and promote solid and capable women to assume leadership roles. We do this by promoting learning opportunities for not only our staff but also our client companies to encourage women to grow. We believe in order to truly understand the key drivers for business success, it’s critical to examine and measure the true impetus — your employees. They are the face of your brand.
Clark Schaefer Hackett
Clark Schaefer Hackett is one of the Top 100 CPA and advisory firms in the U.S., offering expertise in audit, tax and business consulting services. Women are increasingly the leaders and owners of the organizations we serve, so CSH is proud to support events like the Smart Women Breakfast and Awards — which recognizes women who are making positive changes to the business landscape.
As CSH strives to grow and innovate, we recognize the critical role women play in our firm’s future. We actively work to further develop our female staff, provide additional opportunities for professional advancement and increase the diversity of our firm’s leadership. These efforts will help us fulfill our mission to better the lives of our clients, people and communities.
Hilton Columbus at Eaton
The Hilton Columbus at Easton strives to support women-based programs, diversity, and leadership.
Our Sophistication: Redefined concept hotel proudly retains multiple women executive leadership roles on our team, including General Manager, Director of Sales & Catering, Director of Rooms, Chief Engineer, and Controller, just to list a few.
Our team members proudly support many women-based initiatives like Power of the Purse with the American Red Cross.  We are proud to donate our time, resources and energy to help these programs.
We have recently finished a complete renovation of our interior guest rooms.  The renovation was designed to improve the overall guest experience. With these new renovations, the hotel has taken on an entirely new, refreshed look.  The hotel’s guest room  is entirely redesigned with rich fabrics, alternating textures, and bursts of saturated color that lend warm layers to the feel of the updated contemporary guest room décor.  Responding to the most wished items of today’s busy traveler, each room is furnished with a 55” television, compact refrigerator, additional bedside power outlets to provide increased functionality for charging electronic devices and new, and innovative digital check-in and room selection technology.
Engagement doesn’t happen overnight. It is the result of a long-term commitment by your organization to connect with and invest in the wants and needs of your target audience.
Convero develops content marketing programs that increase engagement and performance. Our five-step process delivers detailed plans — from strategy and planning to execution and measurement — for organizations across a wide range of industries, including banking and finance, health care, higher education, manufacturing and associations.
Digizoom Media
We are visual storytellers who believe that creativity should arise and flourish without boundaries. Whether it’s bringing your brand, your value proposition or your organization’s culture to life, we accompany our award-winning visuals with carefully crafted scripts that support your messaging objectives, engage your audiences and inspire action. Telling your story, engaging your audience and driving results is what we do best. Your vision is our passion.
We amplify your presence by providing high quality, cutting-edge video content. We are dedicated to warm, professional standards of service, and guarantee satisfaction with our products and your experience. Our primary focus is to serve the business community through producing content engineered to expand your reach.
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