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Five Exceptional Women Leaders | Linkage Announces Women in Leadership Executive Impact Award Recipients for 2021

September 22, 2021 Katharine Panessidi

The commitment to advance women leaders is more important than ever. As COVID-19 continues to disproportionately impact women in the workplace, the need to support and advance women into leadership roles is critical. Consider what is on the line: Last year, the UN found that the impact of the pandemic could reverse decades of progress toward gender parity, and Lean In found that one in four women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce due to COVID-19.

That is why champions for the advancement of women are so important to our future. Each year, Linkage recognizes exceptional leaders who are committed toward women’s progress in their organizations and their communities. On November 2–5, 2021, at the Women in Leadership Institute™, Linkage will recognize five extraordinary leaders with the Women in Leadership Executive Impact Award, for their striking examples of women who have empowered their organizations to new heights and for their recommitment to the important work of advancing women leaders at a critical time.


Ashley, Mary Kim, Sally, Carla and Lindsey represent the best of the best. They are inspiring leaders with unique stories of accomplishment and perseverance in the face of truly unprecedented times. They are innovators and changemakers who are committed to developing and implementing new approaches to achieving gender parity within their organizations, and beyond. They work to advance and support women leaders at all levels in meaningful ways. And, their personal stories are case studies of what it takes to achieve results and make an impact.

Here is why I am personally inspired by each of the 2021 recipients:

Ashley T Brundage

VP, Diversity & Inclusion, PNC


Ashley Brundage is changing the world through her personal story and her tireless work to advance awareness and acceptance of gender identity and expression.

As Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at PNC, Ashley is focused on creating and fostering a culture of inclusion that benefits all employees. Beyond her life in corporate America, she is an activist, speaker and trailblazer who inspires everywhere she goes.

“Ashley’s story is so awesome,” writes her nominator. “If you haven’t read about her yet, you will. She overcame discrimination, harassment and homelessness to find a job as a part-time bank teller back in 2010. Then, in less than five years, she was able to grow her career to become the VP of Diversity and Inclusion.”

Ashley, who self-identifies as a transgender woman, has worked tirelessly since 2008 to promote awareness and acceptance of gender identity and expression within the entire community.

She works to accomplish this goal by volunteering and serving in the community. She is the Past President of the Tampa Bay LGBT Chamber of Commerce and held advisory positions with the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority, Equality Florida, and the NGLCC-National LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

She chaired the successful bid to host the NGLCC convention in 2019, and Visit Tampa Bay named her their Tourism Champion for 2017. In July 2019, she was named to the National Board of Directors for GLAAD, the organization protecting LGBTQ voices across all media platforms. She has since been promoted to Vice Chair of the Board.

Ashley’s passion for diversity, equity and inclusion comes to life through her advocacy at PNC. She is also focused on economic empowerment for diverse entrepreneurs. Through the pandemic, Ashley has tracked 400% growth in trans- and non-binary-owned businesses.

She is the author of Empowering Differences and writes and speaks inspirationally about her transition, workplace equality, empowerment and leadership principles.

“She has been changing the game surrounding empowerment and diversity, equity and inclusion,” writes her nominator. “I just can’t think of a more inspirational leader.”

Mary Kim Elkins

SVP, Taxes, Eaton Corporation


Mary Kim has a long track record of championing the development and advancement of women at Eaton, a leading power management company, and serving as a shining example of excellence in leadership.

She is the Senior Vice President, Taxes, for Eaton Corporation and is responsible for Eaton’s global tax function with team members located in over 20 countries.

Mary Kim is the executive sponsor of the largest Inclusive Employee Resource Group (iERG) at Eaton, Women Adding Value at Eaton (WAVE). She successfully integrated the group into the Executive Women’s Council (EWC) and has paved the way for future initiatives that will have a lasting impact on the development and advancement of women within the organization. She has also held the executive sponsor role for Strengthening Our Asian Resources (SOAR) group.

“Mary Kim is always more than willing to provide counsel, time and financial support,” writes her nominator. “Those in the Eaton Tax Department will tell you that she has been an outstanding role model for those of us who aspire to move up in the organization.”

Beyond her involvement as an executive sponsor of formalized groups, she is a sponsor and mentor to leaders within the organization. “As a minority, I have seen many examples where Mary Kim trusts, empowers, challenges, cares for and promotes women and minorities both inside and outside of Eaton,” writes her nominator. “She is great at leveraging her visibility to be a voice for women. She is awesome at identifying women’s potential, and very strategic about guiding their career paths.”

Her nominator points to several recent promotions of women into key leadership roles at the organization and notes they are well positioned to achieve even greater success through Mary Kim’s support.

“When I talk to her about accomplishments achieved by women and minorities, I can just sense the excitement and passion in her,” writes her nominator. “She is a role model—and proof it is possible for women to climb the corporate ladder.”

Mary Kim was also honored by the YWCA with their Women of Achievement Award in 2020 for her community involvement and passion for helping others succeed.

Sally French Tyler   

EVP & Divisional President, First American Title Insurance Company


Sally is a trailblazer in every sense of the word—a woman who ascended to leadership heights in a traditionally male-dominated field. The first woman to be named a divisional president at First American, she is a key part of the organization’s executive leadership team. In an industry historically dominated by men, Sally is an inspiration—and an active promoter and supporter of women in her organization.

“Sally truly exemplifies a leader whose vision established the platform and was the inspiration for the advancement of women within our organization,” writes her nominator. “As the founder of our Women in Leadership program, Sally’s intention was to increase the visibility of women in the company so they too could be considered for senior leadership roles like she was.”

She has achieved that vision—and more. Sally’s focus on women in leadership, including their support, development and advancement paths, has significantly impacted the lives of women leaders at her organization.

To date, 91 women have graduated from the Women in Leadership program, with a retention rate of 82% and 72 highly active alumnae, and 45% of the cohort has been promoted at least once—with many being promoted multiple times. “Sally inspired an evolving vision to expand the reach of our WIL program with a focus on developing the next level of women leaders at First American,” writes her nominator.

And the lasting impact of Sally’s work to advance women doesn’t end there. In 2019, First American introduced the “Spark Program,” an initiative developed by the Women in Leadership alumnae. The mission of the Spark Program is to create availability of leadership development and networking to a broader group of First American women through regional events and to provide an opportunity for the current WIL alumnae to have an active role in developing women at First American. The results have been tremendous: By the end of 2021, First American will have a total of 217 Spark alumnae.

And, Sally’s work has unlocked the power of mentorship. In April 2021, First American launched the WIL Mentoring Program, a 12-month program that engages the WIL alumnae network as mentors; 68% of WIL alumnae are now active in developing the next generation of women leaders at First American by serving as guides and advisors.

Beyond these formalized programs and initiatives, Sally serves as an example of a woman leader who raises others as she climbs. “I am inspired by her warmth, authenticity and genuine care for advancing women into more senior leadership roles at First American,” writes one of her nominators. “She has an innate ability to be a ‘tough’ and strategic leader, while at the same time being true to who she is. She combines her warmth and authenticity along with her exemplary leadership skills and direct approach.”

Sally’s leadership is a beacon for those she works with, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I have never known such a genuine leader who stays ‘true to herself’ while leading gracefully through, at times, volatile market changes and, most recently, the pandemic,” writes her nominator. “Sally went above and beyond during the pandemic to connect with our Women in Leadership alumnae, and provided support, connection and innovation! She IS the inspiration behind our Women in Leadership at First American!”

Carla Knapp   

National Vice President of Native Services, Boys & Girls Club of America


Carla Knapp is a change agent, focused on empowering women and girls to ascend to new heights and charting a path forward for a more inclusive world.

As National Vice President of Native Services at the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Carla collaborates with federal, state, and tribal partners, as well as private sector businesses to assure that young people are empowered through opportunity. She focuses on engaging women and girls of color, as well as gender-nonconforming and disadvantaged youth.

Her impact is tremendous: Through her leadership and unique vision, Boys and Girls Club in Indian Country has grown to become the number-one Native youth service provider in the US, with 208 facility-based sites in more than 128 tribal communities across the country. Her team supports more than 120,000 Native youth annually, providing a safe place for young people to grow and develop.

A proven visionary, Carla’s unique brand of leadership and her commitment to community has inspired those around her: “As a fellow Native American woman leader within a national organization, Carla Knapp has inspired me with her drive, compassion and commitment to our Native youth and women of color by her constant words of encouragement to all women and men within our Boys & Girls Club movement, and in Indian Country,” writes her nominator.

Carla is a tribal member of the Penobscot Indian Nation, and her nominator highlights Carla’s background as informing her work.

“Carla has demonstrated the ability to lead in an ever-changing environment, while not losing site of the cultural values and traditions that were passed down by her family and community,” writes her nominator. “She has come from a humble upbringing on the Penobscot Indian Reservation in Maine, and was determined to be a change agent for Native youth and be a strong advocate for Native issues. These values and traditions provide a solid foundation that contributes to her strong work ethic, perseverance and resiliency.”

Within the Boys & Girls Clubs of America organization, Carla is committed to the advancement of women. She participates in the organization’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Fast Action Committee Practitioners Summit, and reviewed and improved the National Trainers Initiative training—ensuring that women and women of color have a voice. She has also ensured that Native girls have access to culturally appropriate curriculum, increasing inclusivity in education for girls at a critically important age.

Beyond empowering girls and women to succeed, Carla is focused on driving broad, institutional change that will improve the lives of women and girls. She is a strong proponent of the Violence Against Women Act and is focused on highlighting missing and murdered indigenous women. “Carla knows that American Indian women face murder rates that are more than 10 times the national average,” writes her nominator. “Homicide is the third leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native women between 10 and 24 years of age and the fifth leading cause of death between 25 and 34 years of age. She is a voice for not only Native women but also women of color. By modeling the way for them and our Native youth, she demonstrates that they too can succeed and lead in their own communities.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and during a time of intense economic challenges and racial inequities, Carla has been dedicated to the advancement of women in the workforce. As planning committee member and conference facilitator for the Multicultural Women’s Conference, she led truthful, impactful sessions that built community and equipped multicultural women with tangible tools for navigating the workforce. “She helped women to redefine their space and tap into their power, and provided them with the tools and resources to reimagine a playbook of what is next, with support of other women.”

Lindsey Otradovec   

Lindsey Otradovec, Clinical Vice President of Sales, Intuitive


Lindsey Otradovec has a winning recipe for success, by creating a seat at the table for women—and engaging male executives in the critical work of supporting and advancing women leaders.

As one of the first women vice presidents at Intuitive and the first woman Clinical VP, “she has shattered the glass ceiling” writes one of her nominators. “She is helping to bring other women up, and her influence will forever change the culture and perception of the commercial organization.”

Lindsey is a true champion for the advancement of women leaders; her leadership sets an example both inside and outside of her organization. She serves as the chair of the organization’s women-focused Employee Resource Group (ERG), serves as an integral member of the Inclusion and Diversity Board, and chairs the WISE board, a committee for women’s recruitment and advancement.

“As a member of the board for WISE, Lindsey has made a significant impact on our organization since she joined several years ago,” writes one of her nominators. “There are now men eager to participate in the WISE mission to advance women. People are constantly asking how to get more involved, and external women candidates are reaching out to recruiters about our organization after discovering the promotion of inclusion and diversity in WISE.”

She initiated a strategy to engage women leaders in dynamic and timely content that would empower them to scale the hurdles to advancement in the workplace, and nominated cohorts of women leaders to attend Linkage’s Women in Leadership Institute. “She has broken down barriers to allow us to excel in our roles, and more and more women are now holding leadership positions,” writes one of her nominators.

Lindsey approaches her work to advance women leaders with an eye to diversity, equity and inclusion. She most recently spearheaded a collaborative initiative through her work with the WISE and Black ERG to launch a campaign called “Black Girls Code.” The mission of the program is to change the narrative around racial and gender diversity in STEM, with a fundraising goal to train one million girls to code by 2040.

Lindsey’s highly accessible and engaging leadership style—and the example she sets—has personally impacted the people she works with.

“Lindsey has shown me what it means to be a powerful, vulnerable, compassionate and inspiring leader at Intuitive,” writes one of her nominators. “In her large position as Clinical VP, she takes time to mentor and coach individuals throughout the organization, no matter the title. Her consistent accessibility and genuine ability to listen and coach others is unparalleled. She cultivates excellence in others and asks for no praise in return. She also demonstrates leadership in action—she is hardworking and dedicated to her job and family simultaneously.”

This fall, we will honor these inspiring women leaders during the 22nd annual Women in Leadership Institute.

In 2021, the conference is more accessible than ever before, empowering women leaders to grow and learn together in-person in Orlando, Florida, or virtually.

Dark haired woman watches from audience of conference event

Women in Leadership Institute

NOV. 13–16, 2023 | Orlando, Florida, or Virtual
A 4-day immersive learning experience designed to equip women leaders with actionable strategies to overcome the hurdles women often face in the workplace.

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