Occasionally, we ask one of our Top 100 Women or Leading Women winners to name five women who have influenced her, personally and professionally. Do you know a Top 100 Woman or Leading Woman who should be featured here? Email Special Products Editor Patrick Brannan at [email protected].
The five women who have influenced me are Gwendolyn, Gina, Sharyn, Alison and Karen. My relationships with them reflect my growth and development personally, professionally and in my community service and volunteer pursuits.
My mother has been my biggest supporter, my cheerleader and my sounding board. She is an advisor and influencer to many. I was open to a career in the nonprofit sector due to her work for a local affiliate of a national nonprofit for most of her career. After graduating from college in the early 1950s, she moved to Baltimore and worked at a YWCA camp in West Baltimore. Many of her “Y Teens” count her presence as a major factor in their decision to become a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority, Incorporated, which my mother joined in college. Her decision to join AKA started a three-generation legacy of membership and reinforced a spirit of service to the community in our family. She counts her 69-year membership in AKA as one of the most important affiliations of her life.
Gina McKnight-Smith, friend
Gina and I were classmates at Western High School. While all of the young women at Western were impressive, Gina was one of the exceptional scholars in our class. We reconnected in our 20s through our common membership in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Although we are the same age, Gina has always been a trusted mentor and advisor to me. I admire her work ethic, her commitment to excellence, and the way she has balanced her family, a career in a STEM field and community service. I can always count on Gina to say “yes” when I ask for her support or involvement in a project. She is a very strategic thinker and someone you want on your team.
Sharyn Tenn, friend
Sharyn and I met in the second semester of our freshman year at American University. After graduation, we supported and encouraged each other as we navigated the early stages of our careers. I credit Sharyn with connecting me with a racially and politically diverse group of women 20 years ago. We call ourselves “The Brunch Club,” and in the early days we would gather regularly before relocations, children led us to scale back our time together in-person. We celebrate milestones, career successes and have supported each other during challenging times. Sharyn’s sense of humor and her honesty have helped me through some very challenging times. She is a phenomenal, wife, mother and friend. I value the ease of our friendship and our ability to pick up right where we left off, no matter how much time has passed since we last connected.
Alison Riddle Fletcher, friend
Alison encouraged me to run for elected office in our Alpha Kappa Alpha chapter, and helped shape my volunteer leadership style. She introduced me to other women’s social and civic organizations, including The Links, Incorporated, of which I am now a member. Alison was a hard worker and always said “yes” when asked to help with any service project or activity. A Howard University-trained third-generation dentist, Alison was the sixth woman elected to serve as the president of the National Dental Association. Sadly, she was unable to fulfill her term of office as she succumbed to a terminal illness in 2014. I will never forget how she traveled and diligently represented the NDA early that year until she simply was unable to travel. Alison’s giving spirit lives on in scholarship funds for promising students in her name.
Karen Britton, sister-in-law
The oldest of two children of Belizean immigrants, Karen’s professional trajectory is a source of great pride for our family. Karen is driven to succeed and gives her all to everything she does. She has an engineering background, worked as a special assistant in the Obama administration, has served as an adjunct professor and promotes and embraces lifelong learning. She is a faithful and dedicated wife, mother and daughter, and has managed the demands of work and family without breaking a sweat. While we work in different fields, Karen is a role model for me. I have learned so much from her in our conversations about the challenges she has faced and the lessons she has learned throughout her career. I admire Karen’s generosity and humility, and I look forward to celebrating and learning from whatever she accomplishes next.
|This article is featured in The Daily Record’s Women Who Lead: A Woman’s Guide To Business. The mission of the Women Who Lead (formerly Path to Excellence) magazine is to give our readers the opportunity to meet successful women of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs and learn how they define success. Read more from Women Who Lead.|