By S. Voyles
Feb. 23, 2012
Eleven Michigan women were honored at the Michigan Business and Professional Association’s Women and Leadership in the Workplace 16th Annual Conference & Awards Brunch on Jan. 26, 2012. The event took place at The Henry in Dearborn, Mich., drawing 450 guests.
Award recipients were honored in the following categories: Business, Professional, Civic & Community Affairs, Philanthropic, Media, Education, Small Business Achievement, and Shooting Starts. All 11 women honored were clearly leaders, as well as promoters of education and equal advantages for women. The awards presentation was emceed by Rhonda Walker, WDIV-TV4 newscaster.
The first awards were presented in the Shooting Star category, recognizing young women who are already making a difference in their communities and achieving success in their careers.
Shooting Star Margarita Barry is an entrepreneur, designer and blogger, who was inspired to make a change. She launched “I am Young Detroit,” an online publication and movement created to provide resources and inspire Detroit’s young adults. Upon receiving her award, Barry said, “I want to dedicate this honor to my mother. She was my first example of what it means to be a woman in business. We need to show young girls that they can pave their own way.”
Also in the Shooting Star category is Annis Brown, founding executive director of Teach for America, Detroit. Teach For America is growing the movement of leaders who work to ensure that kids growing up in poverty get an excellent education. She leads a team of 17 staff members who support nearly 200 TFA teachers in more than 50 schools across Metro Detroit with an annual operating budget of about $5 million. Brown told the audience, “Service has always been a tradition in my family. My grandmother told me to go out and do things for others. This saying keeps me going every day.”
Theresa Chiang was the next recipient. Chiang is the membership and events marketing manager for the Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce. Her responsibilities range from coordinating chamber events to creating membership programs and working alongside her fellow chamber members. “I’m very passionate to help Asian businesses and also local businesses in Michigan. I believe if you are passionate about what you can do, you’ll succeed,” Chiang said.
The final Shooting Star recipient is Dara Munson, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit. Munson’s nonprofit career is dedicated to serving the needs of at-risk children. She has gone above and beyond to reach out and seek mentors, even kicking off a campaign called 100 Mentors in 100 Days. In 2011, Munson was named one of Diversity MBA Magazine’s Diverse Executive and Emerging Leaders. “For me to receive this award, that was received by my mother is very special,” said Munson. (Vernice Davis Anthony was honored in 1997, the first year of the Women and Leadership in the Workplace Awards program.)
From there the awards presentation moved to the professional categories.
Carol Cain, business columnist for the Detroit Free Press and editorial director at WWJ TV50, earned the Media Category award. Cain is an Emmy Award winning journalist and also senior producer and host of “Michigan Matters” on WWJ-TV. She had a special message for young people:
“I come from a family of strong women. The message I want to give to young people - you don’t get to where you are on your own.”
In the Business Category, Sandra Hermanoff, founder of Hermanoff Public Relations, was honored. Hermanoff was named a member of the College of Fellows in 1994, which is the highest honor in the Public Relations Society of America. Fifteen years later she was inducted into the PRSA Hall of Fame and is a recipient of many awards as a leading woman in communications. She placed a strong emphasis on being proud of ourselves. “We’ve come a long way-¦since Rosie the Riveter. It’s all about relationships at home and work. I think it’s time we all pat ourselves on the back,” Hermanoff suggested.
In the Civic & Community Affairs Category, Hon. Marilyn Kelly was recognized for her long and successful legal career. From 2009 to 2011 Kelly served as chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. She also places education high in her list, and has served 12 years on the state Board of Education with the last two as president. “The push [in my career] came some 45 years ago when I was teaching at the college level and was asked to work with a teacher from France. At the end [of that assignment] I found out he was being paid twice as much as me. That was the pull -¦ that led into a legal career,” Kelly told the audience.
Education Category winner Dr. Susan Martin also advocated the importance of education to the audience. Martin joined Eastern Michigan University in 2008 as its 22nd president, becoming the first woman to do so. Martin also spent 18 years at Grand Valley State University where she served as director of the master of taxation program, director of the international business program, chair of the accounting and taxation program, and left with her last role as executive associate vice-president for academic affairs. Martin put an emphasis on how you can go from next to nothing to fulfilling your dreams to the fullest.
“I grew up on a farm. I’ve gone from pickle packer [her first job] to president,” she said.
In the Professional Category the recipient is Dr. Ora H. Pescovitz, the University of Michigan’s first female executive vice president for medical affairs and Health System’s CEO. Pescovitz is responsible for the leadership and management of the Health System including U-M Hospitals and Health Centers. She is also in charge of $3 billion in revenue. She is a nationally recognized pediatric endocrinologist and was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 2011. “It was my mother who inspired me to pursue a career. Each of us has an obligation to pave the path for the ones who follow,” she said.
Vivian Pickard, honored in the Philanthropic Category, was named president of the General Motors Foundation and director of corporate relations for General Motors Corp. in 2010. Pickard is also a big advocate of the community, serving on the board for the Washington D.C. Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial, Friends of African and African American Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts and much more. Pickard is a 33-year veteran of General Motors. Pickard’s award was accepted by Sheri Marshall, assistant secretary, GM Foundation, who told the audience, “Vivian has an all-female staff. We see her passion and work ethic and are inspired every day.”
Judy Zehnder Keller, president of the Bavarian Inn Lodge & Conference Center, as well as president of Frankenmuth Cheese Haus, Frankenmuth Gift Shop, Inc., and the Frankenmuth Motel, earned the Small Business Category award. Keller told the audience, which included her 90-year-old mother and Bavarian Inn co-founder Dorothy Zehnder, “I tell the young children at the Lodge that I have the best job in the world. Every day, I have to swim in our five pools, play over 100 video games -¦ [But] it gets even better. I work with a team of people who really care about each other and our guests.”
Attendees at the Women and Leadership in the Workplace Conference were also treated to an inspiring keynote presentation by Dr. Patricia Maryland, president and CEO of St. John Providence Health System. Growing up in a military family, Maryland said her first mentor was her mother.
“You can do anything you want to do, but you need to invest the time and have the discipline to finish your education,” said Maryland, a mother of two.
Six months into Maryland’s position at St. John, she led an $80 million cost reduction. To do this, she needed as much help from her team as possible. Maryland had set a very high goal, and committed partnerships with team members were a must.
“First, you have to model the way as a leader,” Maryland said. “When you lead, you have to be able to answer the question ‘why are we doing this?'”
She explained that keeping yourself accountable first and then applying that standard to the rest of your team is a key to success. When speaking about women committing to a career, she noted, “It’s important to have fun; you’re going to be spending a lot of time with your co-workers and you need to love it.”
The Women and Leadership in the Workplace event was sponsored by AT&T, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Corp! magazine, Davenport University, Detroit Free Press, DTE Energy, Dykema, MGM Grand Detroit, Oakwood Hospital, Pepsi, Staples, Styleline Magazine, Executive Vehicle Sales and St. John Health System, as well as a distinguished advisory committee of leading businesswomen and community leaders.