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International Women’s Day 2022 | Women Leaders Who Inspire Us

March 3, 2022

This International Women’s Day, the Linkage team is reflecting on the women leaders who inspire us every day.

This year’s theme is #BreakTheBias: “Imagine a gender-equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together, we can forge women’s equality.”

That’s powerful. The incredible women leaders featured here come from diverse backgrounds and their unique voices inspire us to new heights. Their professional lives and personal characters challenge bias, empowering each of us to live courageously and fully.

“I’m inspired by seeing the heights that Nazzic Keene, CEO of SAIC, has reached. I worked for Nazzic back in the early 2000s as part of an IT consultancy called AMS in the Telecom business. Nazzic was an inspiration then—leading our business unit as one of the few women at that senior of a level while supporting the development and growth of other women. When my boss, a very successful salesperson, decided to leave for a higher-paying role at a competitor, Nazzic was gracious and wished her well and told her to do great things. She supported women advancing. While I haven’t connected with Nazzic in many years, I’ve followed her impressive rise within the male-dominated world of government contracting and applaud the amazing work she’s done to become the CEO of SAIC. She is an inspiration for all of us.” – Kristen Howe, Chief Product Officer

“I am inspired by Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx. Her story is fabulous and funny—she is wildly successful and incredibly relatable. I saw her speak in December 2016 and have followed her on Instagram since then. I love all that she shares—great stories, wisdom, courage, and a spirit for living life to the fullest with her family and friends. The mission of Spanx is “To help women feel great about themselves and their potential” and that speaks to me. She is as generous as she is successful, and when she sold the majority of her company in 2021 to Blackstone, she gave her employees two first-class plane tickets and $10,000 each. When asked once what her favorite thing about success is, she without hesitation answered, “Spoiling the people I love!” I admire the goodness generated from the life she leads and all that she contributes to women along the way!” – Kristin Barrett, Director of Strategic Accounts

“The woman leader who inspires me is Megan Rapinoe. As captain of the US women’s national soccer team, Megan led the team in 2019 to another World Cup Championship, where she also received all the individual best awards and scored the winning goal in the final. Most importantly, Megan has tirelessly fought for equal pay and working conditions for the USWNT and equal rights for the LGBTQ community. Recently, Megan’s efforts led to a historic agreement and settlement with the US soccer federation in a gender discrimination lawsuit. Megan Rapinoe inspires me every day as she uses her platform to fight for justice and equity!” – Doreen Mosher, Director of Strategic Accounts

“I am inspired by a newer mentor in my life, the indefatigable Edie Fraser, who has spent more than seven decades advancing progress on gender equity and diversity. She most recently founded the Women Business Collaborative (WBC), a nonprofit to accelerate “equal position, pay, and power” for all businesswomen. Linkage recently joined as a resource partner to WBC, and Edie immediately “adopted” me as her own, investing time and brokering connections to help Linkage and me succeed, all in the spirit of a shared mission to change the face of leadership. She commands respect and admiration through her expertise, strategic networking, and her inclusive leadership style, making everyone she touches feel important and heard. Her comments in a recent documentary demonstrated her passion, resilience and humor. She said, “The World Economic Forum projected that it would take 117 years to reach gender parity, and we say, ‘NO—we’ll all be dead by then!’” – Jen McCollum, CEO

“As a former Boys & Girls Club member, I grew up in a large inner-city neighborhood and experienced the importance of the leadership and full spectrum of services the Boys & Girls Club offers to the youth of America. There are so many great club leaders dedicated to the BGCA mission, and one example of a Purposeful Leader who is committed to supporting the next generation of leaders in our communities is Carla Knapp, National Vice President of Native Services of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. I would like to recognize and express my gratitude for her visionary and dedicated leadership for over 20 years where she has grown the service area for youth and partnered with five federally recognized tribes to expand programming for all Native youth, ensuring that Native girls have access to culturally appropriate curriculum as well as increasing inclusivity in education for girls at a critically important age. Thank you for all you do for the future leaders of America.” – Scott Gavriel, Director of Strategic Accounts

“Michelle Obama has made it her mission to champion women and adolescent girls around the world. Michelle serves as a role model for women, and works tirelessly as an advocate for poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity and healthy eating. While preparing to graduate from high school in the top 10% of her class, a young Michelle Obama was told by her guidance counselor that they weren’t sure she was “Princeton material,” her first choice for college. Michelle didn’t allow one person’s opinion to dislodge everything she knew about herself. Michelle was not only accepted to Princeton but later became First Lady of the United States.” – Tiffany Edwards, Director of Strategic Accounts

“Head Coach Pat Summit was an inspiring woman leader. I was a graduate student at the University of Tennessee during the final years of her tenure, and Coach Summit set the standard as a leader at the university and in the world of sports. A trailblazer for female sports, she took the helm of a little-known women’s basketball program at the University of Tennessee in 1974 and turned it into a powerhouse. From 1974 until her retirement in 2012, Coach Summit’s team, the Lady Vols, won 1,098 games and 8 national championships. She never had a losing season, never missed the NCAA tournament, and her athletes had a graduation rate of 100%. She won a silver medal as an Olympic athlete, and a gold medal as a coach. At her retirement in 2012, she was the winningest coach in college basketball history, regardless of gender. That same year, President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.” – Chuck Wurl, Director of Strategic Accounts

“Michelle Obama. Smart, poised, clear. As a Princeton undergraduate and Harvard Law School graduate, she brings gravitas to any situation, while still remaining approachable. She is inspiring to me because in the face of such “bigness,” she ‘leaned in’ to support the larger cause of her husband’s tenure as president, while advancing her own causes and efforts (poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity—all leading to wellness). With such strength! This is a woman I’d love to invite to a dinner party with my friends; scintillating conversation but I know that I could really have a great time with her, let my hair down and relax over a glass of wine, talking about the struggles of managing it all as a woman in this world.” – Laura Lewers, Director of Strategic Accounts

“Sally Helgesen is a premier expert on women’s leadership. She was researching and advocating for women leaders long before it was vogue. She has inspired me by her example and body of work. While women are her primary focus, she has also helped men become better leaders. I am one of the men she has helped, and I am eternally grateful to her for her support, mentorship and leadership.” – Eddie Turner, Principal Consultant and Executive Coach

“The woman leader who inspires me is Hallie Bregman, VP of People at CUUP, a direct-to-consumer startup that has opened up a conversation for and between women by creating essential bras for women. Hallie pushes the boundaries with her innovative approach to the people practice. At CUUP, she is combining her background in data science with a passion for inclusivity to support both the company’s mission and culture and to create personalized employee experiences. She is clear and bold: Hallie asserts herself courageously with her visionary ideas, walking into her new role with 5+ strategic ideas that she put into practice in her first 90 days. She actively manages a professional image as a trusted thought leader in the talent space, and has been featured in various conferences and publications. Beyond her day-to-day job, Hallie also acts as a startup advisor. Hallie is an inspiration to me every day!” – Katharine Panessidi, Director of the Women in Leadership Institute

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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