Building off of last year’s landmark successes of state Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward and state House Speaker Joanna McClinton, Pennsylvania women have continued to make waves in 2023. In addition to seven women serving in Gov. Josh Shapiro’s cabinet - including Laurel Harry, the first female leader of the state Department of Corrections, there are a record number of women serving in Congress, and a host of committees in both the state Senate and House now being chaired by women as well.
The honorees profiled on the following pages – researched by City & State staff and written by journalist Hilary Danailova – include female public servants, business executives, nonprofit leaders, advocates, academics and others who meet at the intersection of politics and policy.
Kim Ward is the first woman in the history of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to serve as Senate President Pro Tempore – a role she assumed this year – and the first female majority leader of either chamber. Ward, a Westmoreland County Republican, recently championed Pennsylvania’s first-in-the-nation law mandating coverage for reproductive cancer screening and high-risk genetic testing. She also led efforts to enact legislation reforming Pennsylvania’s child abuse laws, as well as a bill expanding the scope of the state sex offender registry associated with Megan’s Law.
Speaker Joanna McClinton hasn’t slowed down since her election as the first woman to preside over Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives earlier this year. McClinton, a Philadelphia-born attorney, is leveraging her party’s control of the chamber to champion legislation mandating breast cancer coverage, a new state minimum wage and other Democratic priorities. The first woman and person of color to serve as chair of the House Democratic Caucus, McClinton later became the first woman elected as a House leader, proving that she is accustomed to breaking ground in commonwealth politics.
UPMC chief Leslie Davis recently debuted the state-of-the-art Mercy Pavilion, which houses the health system’s vision and rehabilitation institutes. It’s the latest in Davis’ expansion of Western Pennsylvania’s major health system, following the unveiling of a 1-million-square-foot flagship hospital, a new cancer facility and Pennsylvania’s first tele-emergency department. At UPMC, Davis also oversees the Allegheny region’s primary medical insurer, with 4 million-plus subscribers, and the commonwealth’s largest nongovernmental employer.
There’s no question that Neeli Bendapudi, Penn State’s first Asian American president, has made her mark on the commonwealth’s higher education landscape. In April, the American Immigration Council honored the India-born Bendapudi with its annual Immigration Achievement Award. At Penn State, the onetime marketing scholar recently launched a data-driven diversity initiative aimed at greater transparency; she’s also co-chairing a higher education collaboration between America and India on behalf of the Association of American Universities.
Pennsylvania’s top law enforcement officer is veteran prosecutor Michelle Henry, who took over from Josh Shapiro as attorney general when he resigned to become governor. Prior to serving as Shapiro’s first deputy, Henry held various roles over two decades at the Bucks County District Attorney’s office before assuming the top job there, including overseeing major crimes and prosecuting child abuse cases; she also launched Bucks County’s children’s advocacy center. Henry received the Widener University Commonwealth Law School’s 2017 Excellence in Public Service Alumni Award.
Cherelle Parker became arguably the most powerful woman in Philadelphia when she decisively won May’s Democratic mayoral primary. Parker is poised to become the first woman to lead Pennsylvania’s largest city, given Democrats’ significant registration advantage. Parker’s victory reflects not only her grassroots appeal – she is a native daughter and a first-generation college graduate – but also her experience as a state representative and longtime City Council fixture, as well as her popular messages around public safety, education investment and workforce development.
Upon becoming the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s first female chief justice last year, Debra Todd described her history-making turn as a victory for commonwealth women. While a Democrat, the steelworker’s daughter and Ellwood City native has emphasized the nonpartisan nature of Pennsylvania’s highest court, where she has been a fixture since 2007 and is currently its longest-tenured justice. Todd previously served on the Pennsylvania Superior Court and, prior to that, was a lawyer with U.S. Steel.
A year ago, Angela Ferritto was elected secretary/treasurer of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO – and ended up as the organization’s president after her running mate stepped down, becoming the first woman to lead the 700,000-strong union. The Erie native, who recently represented organized labor on Gov. Josh Shapiro’s transition team leads the fight for secure jobs, fair pay and stable benefits on behalf of 1,422 locals statewide. Ferritto previously held leadership roles with AFSCME in Erie and Harrisburg and worked at the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.
In the Pennsylvania Senate, women on both sides of the aisle are increasingly at the center of debate.
Lisa Baker, a crusader for victims and veterans, currently chairs the State Senate Judiciary Committee. The Luzerne County Republican championed recent legislation fortifying wiretap and guardianship provisions.
Camera Bartolotta currently serves as vice chair of the Senate’s labor & industry committee and is the GOP caucus secretary. She recently co-sponsored a bill reforming Pennsylvania’s probation system.
Nurses by training, Judy Ward and Maria Collett bring their health care expertise to the Senate Aging and Youth Committee, where they serve as chair and minority chair, respectively. Ward, a Republican, recently pushed for legislation covering cancer treatment and has supported nurse credentialing reform and community-based health centers. Democrat Collett, also an attorney, championed a Senate package aimed at bolstering the state’s nursing workforce through student loan relief, apprenticeship funding and mentoring.
York County Republican Kristin Phillips-Hill, a longtime advocate of statewide broadband internet access, is vice chair of the Senate’s Communications & Technology Committee and is also a member of the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority.
Third-term Republican Michele Brooks chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and serves as vice chair of the Finance Committee. She has co-sponsored a bill creating the Women, Infants, and Children State Advisory Board.
U.S. Army veteran Tracy Pennycuick won election to the Senate last year after one term in the state House of Representatives. The Montgomery County Republican chairs the Senate Communications and Technology Committee and is vice chair of the Veterans and Emergency Preparedness Committee.
Since assuming leadership of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry in January, Nancy Walker has led efforts to bolster the state unemployment compensation system, resolving thousands of pandemic-era claims and cementing services at the state’s CareerLink locations. She also heads the Shapiro administration’s enforcement of state labor laws, having previously served as Pennsylvania’s first chief deputy attorney general in the newly created Fair Labor Section. Prior to joining the Attorney General’s Office, Walker practiced labor and employment law.
Pennsylvania’s Eastern District had never had a female U.S. attorney until 2022, when longtime assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Romero was promoted to the top job. She is also the first out LGBTQ+ person to hold the position. Over the past two decades, the Philadelphia-based Romero has concentrated on civil litigation, serving as the Eastern District’s civil rights coordinator for the U.S. Department of Justice. She continues her affiliation with Temple University’s James E. Beasley School of Law, where she teaches in the Law Trial Advocacy Program.
Now empowered by a hard-won majority, these Democratic state representatives are championing their party’s agenda around a $15 minimum wage, greater investment in public education and mental health, LGBTQ+ protections and other liberal goals.
Anita Astorino Kulik is the majority chair of the House Game & Fisheries Committee. The Allegheny County attorney was also recently appointed to the Infrastructure Improvements and Projects Committee of the America250PA Commission.
Donna Bullock, a Philadelphia attorney and longtime children’s advocate, chairs the House Children & Youth and Ethics Committees, as well as the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.
Fifth-term Rep. Morgan Cephas chairs the House Government Oversight Committee and is vice chair of the Democratic Women’s Health Caucus. A member and former chair of the Philadelphia House Delegation, Cephas is known for securing funds for her district.
Mary Jo Daley, who represents Montgomery County, has pushed for bipartisan legislation to protect wildlife and the environment as chair of the House Tourism & Recreational Development Committee. She also serves on the Children & Youth, Labor & Industry and Rules committees.
Patty Kim chairs the House Aging & Older Adult Services Committee as well as the Legislative Asian Pacific American Caucus. She was instrumental in passing the bipartisan $15-an-hour deal, having sponsored a minimum wage bill each session for a decade.
Carol Hill-Evans, a former York City Council president, chairs the House’s newly formed Central Pennsylvania Delegation as well as the Committee on Committees. She also serves as secretary of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.
Sara Innamorato, a Pittsburgh progressive, recently won the Democratic primary to replace Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. Innamorato also locked up the endorsement of U. S. Sen. John Fetterman to lead the commonwealth’s second-largest county.
Since becoming the University of Pennsylvania’s ninth president last year, Liz Magill has launched Tomorrow, Together, a strategic vision, and embarked on a worldwide tour to meet the alumni community. She also announced the expansion of Penn’s undergraduate financial aid program and the Penn First Plus initiative, aimed at supporting first-generation and low-income students. Magill, who heads Philadelphia’s largest private employer, serves on the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s executive committee and on the Schuylkill River Development Corporation board.
This month, legal scholar Joan Gabel became the first woman to lead the University of Pittsburgh as chancellor in its 236-year history. Gabel was previously president of the University of Minnesota, where her tenure yielded the university’s first systemwide strategic plan, record graduation rates and research expenditures, and the conclusion of a decade-long, goal-exceeding $4 billion capital campaign. Gabel, who began her career teaching at Georgia State and Florida State universities, was also provost at the University of South Carolina.
After guiding Morgan Lewis through an ambitious expansion, Chair Jami McKeon was unanimously selected by its board to lead through 2026. Over the past decade, McKeon has more than doubled the worldwide Morgan Lewis team to 2,000 lawyers, with a reported $2.6 billion in annual revenue. McKeon, who joined the Philadelphia-based law firm in 1981, continues her litigation practice for Fortune 100 companies. She was named to Philadelphia Magazine’s 2022 list of the 100 Most Influential Philadelphians.
Recently appointed to another four-year term, SEPTA CEO Leslie Richards has moved aggressively to refashion the transit system’s priorities. She pulled the plug on a planned $3 billion King of Prussia rail extension earlier this year and announced an investment in accessibility upgrades, including $5.8 million for station improvements and a new fleet of ADA-compliant trolleys. Richards also plans to reimagine the system’s bus operations – including a $17 million investment in electric fuel cell buses and an overhaul of the city’s bus routes.
Having made her mark as chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, Val Arkoosh now has a statewide profile as the head of the state Department of Human Services. Arkoosh, an anesthesiologist who began her career in Philadelphia hospitals, crusaded for reform as head of the nonprofit National Physicians Alliance, then led Pennsylvania’s third-most-populous county through the COVID-19 pandemic. Now she’s tackling a Medicaid provider application backlog, helping Pennsylvanians transition from pandemic-limited Medicaid coverage and shaping policy around child welfare, behavioral health and other priorities.
More than 40 years after first winning office – as a committeeperson in her native Glenside – Democrat Madeleine Dean has an increasingly prominent role in Congress. She co-chairs the Bipartisan Women’s Caucus and serves on both the House Judiciary and Financial Services committees, as well as on the Pennsylvania Governor’s Advisory Commission for Women. She recently introduced legislation addressing the opioid crisis and protecting children from gun violence. A former college English teacher, Dean is championing the Biden administration’s efforts for student loan forgiveness.
Before she joined Pennsylvania’s growing progressive chorus in the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon was an attorney who led Ballard Spahr’s national pro bono program. Her commitment to social justice remained evident as she recently joined Democratic colleagues in condemning the Supreme Court’s affirmative action ruling and reintroducing legislation protecting LGBTQ+ rights. Scanlon also brings her lawyerly acumen to the House Judiciary and Rules committees, as well as her role as chair of the Access to Legal Aid and Youth Mentoring caucuses.
Whether championing child care, decrying grocery and pharmaceutical price-gouging or condemning antisemitic rhetoric, U.S. Rep. Susan Wild is attuned to the day-to-day issues facing her Lehigh Valley constituents. Wild, a Democrat, is a ranking member and former chair of the House Ethics Committee and vice chair of the Labor Caucus; she also serves on the Foreign Affairs and Education and Labor committees. Prior to her 2018 election, Wild was Allentown’s first female city solicitor.
Having served in the U.S. Air Force, Chrissy Houlahan makes sure Congress takes care of her military colleagues. The third-term Democrat from Southeastern Pennsylvania recently sponsored legislation ensuring reproductive health care for service members and secured support for veterans’ paid leave and small business contractors in the latest National Defense Authorization Act. Houlahan, herself a former businesswoman, currently serves on the House Armed Services Committee and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and leads the House Bipartisan Working Group on Paid Family Leave, which she co-founded.
As Pittsburgh-based Highmark Health’s new chief living health development officer, Cynthia Hundorfean guides and advocates for the system’s holistic blended payer-provider model. Her new role is due in no small part to the success she achieved turning around Highmark’s Allegheny Health Network as its CEO; following Allegheny’s acquisition, Hundofean led a nearly $2 billion capital investment program for the struggling 14-hospital system. Now Hundorfean is promoting AHN as a model for Highmark’s approach to reducing costs while improving outcomes.
The DOJ and the FTC don’t often argue past Wendy Newton, who has successfully handled 100 mergers and acquisitions over the past decade. Newton, the first woman on the executive management team at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, leads the firm’s Antitrust and Trade Regulation Practice Group and is the executive sponsor of its employee of color affinity group. Last year, she was named Pittsburgh Lawyer of the Year for litigation and antitrust by The Best Lawyers in America.
Pennsylvania’s health chief, Debra Bogen, was recently named 2023 Pediatrician of the Year by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Bogen’s health advocacy on behalf of children and families earned her plaudits as director of the Allegheny County Health Department, prompting Gov. Josh Shapiro to appoint her acting secretary of health for the commonwealth. Bogen previously co-founded the Mid-Atlantic Mothers’ Milk Bank, where she volunteered as medical director, and she has also taught pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh.
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections veteran Laurel Harry was recently appointed the first woman to lead that agency by Gov. Josh Shapiro. Harry joined the DOC in 1999 as a drug and alcohol treatment specialist and has served in a variety of roles, most recently as acting Western Region deputy secretary. She holds a Ph.D. in criminal justice, along with a master’s in counseling, and was the Pennsylvania Prison Wardens Association’s 2019 Warden of the Year.
After nearly a quarter-century managing operations at the Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia airports, Rochelle Cameron left the tarmac to help Southeast Pennsylvania’s economy take flight. Last year, she became CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, building on the momentum that has revitalized neighborhoods, attracted world-class events and attracted investment and entrepreneurial activity to the 11-county region. Cameron, a U.S. Air Force veteran, also chairs the Economic and Community Advisory Council for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
This year, Wharton Dean Erika James debuted the Wharton Way, a strategic plan for the University of Pennsylvania’s business school that prioritizes interdisciplinary scholarship and partnerships, pedagogical innovation and an emphasis on diversity and inclusivity. James, who in 2020 became the first woman and first African American to lead Wharton, recently wrapped up the school’s $1 billion fundraising campaign and oversaw the post-pandemic relaunch of its Global Forum. The crisis management expert also co-authored “The Prepared Leader” with Simmons University President Lynn Perry Wooten.
Since becoming Pennsylvania’s first Black woman elected to Congress in 2022, Summer Lee has delivered hundreds of millions in federal dollars to her district, most recently helping to secure $50 million to revitalize Bedford Dwellings and the Hill District neighborhood. Lee, who is frequently spotlighted on social media for her takedowns in committee hearings, has introduced three bills – one of which, the Bipartisan Abandoned Well Remediation Act passed through the Science Space and Technology committee with a unanimous, bipartisan vote last week. She has also co-led over a dozen bills, including legislation to ensure billionaires pay their fair share in taxes.
Quetcy Lozada is one of Philadelphia’s newest City Councilmembers, winning election to her North Philadelphia district in November’s special election – and filling the seat of her former boss, Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, who resigned to run for mayor and for whom Lozada served as chief of staff for over a decade. Most recently, Lozada oversaw community engagement for Esperanza and for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. She is a founding member and chair of the Latino Empowerment Alliance of Delaware Valley.
At Highmark, Deborah Rice-Johnson has guided the company’s health insurance business to $22 billion in revenue and more than 6 million members. Rice-Johnson, a 30-year health insurance industry veteran, also masterminded the company’s 2022 merger with West Penn Allegheny Health System and has guided its alliances with Penn State Health, Geisinger and Lehigh Valley health systems, among others. She also oversees Highmark subsidiaries, including the nation’s sixth-largest dental plan, United Concordia Dental, and Helion, a health technology provider.
Many of Philadelphia’s biggest-ticket real estate deals are the work of Erin Hannan. Last fall, she returned to Cushman & Wakefield’s valuation and advisory team – where she had worked earlier in her career – as senior director. In between, Hannan was a director at CBRE and a member of the firm’s capital markets and institutional properties team, working on high-value office and investment properties. Her transactions collectively total more than $2.5 billion and include Independence Blue Cross’s $360 million Center City office tower.
The political power of UFCW Local 1776 Keystone State is considerable, thanks to the energetic leadership of Secretary-Treasurer Michele Kessler. The veteran labor and LGBTQ+ activist rallies her 35,000 members at election time, mobilizing for, among others, now-U.S. Sen. John Fetterman and Gov. Josh Shapiro (Kessler co-chaired the governor’s inaugural committee). Day to day, she manages operations and finances for a union that represents workers at supermarkets, pharmacies, manufacturers, Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores and long-term care facilities.
As the commonwealth’s treasurer, Stacy Garrity has bolstered financial transparency with an upgraded web portal and gone after waste and fees, returning hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of unclaimed Pennsylvania property. She supervises $150 billion in state assets. Education affordability is bolstered via the PA 529 program, and the department's PA ABLE is a savings program for people with disabilities. Garrity is also the inaugural chair of the national ABLE Savings Plan Network. A former U.S. Army Reserve Colonel, Garrity was one of the first female vice presidents at the Towanda-based Global Tungsten & Powders.
Gretchen Moore was the first woman to be elected president of Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky, the century-old Pittsburgh firm that, as of last year, is majority women-owned. Moore, a shareholder, also chairs the firm’s e-discovery group and co-chairs its investigations group, focusing her practice on commercial and civil litigation, independent investigations and municipal law. Last year, she was named an eDiscovery Special Master by the U.S. District Court and the Western District of Pennsylvania Board of Judges.
Nina Ahmad’s run for Philadelphia City Council is the latest move in a life defined by ambition. Raised in Bangladesh, Ahmad earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania before serving as Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s deputy mayor for public engagement – a role in which she established Philadelphia’s Commission for Women – and leading the National Organization for Women’s Pennsylvania chapter. After finishing fourth in May’s 27-person Democratic primary, Ahmad is now vying for one of seven at-large Council seats.
Across six terms in the State Senate, lifelong Lehigh Valley resident Lisa Boscola has championed economic growth and property tax relief. She recently celebrated the bipartisan passage of her co-sponsored legislation ensuring health care for women veterans, and was also prime sponsor of a major voting modernization bill. Boscola, currently Democratic chair of the Senate Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee, also co-chairs the Senate’s Economy, Business & Jobs and Community College caucuses.
Penn State Health COO Deborah Addo provides oversight to the hospital presidents and ensures consistency and efficiency across the health system’s acute care facilities. Addo, who is also an executive vice president, has initiated numerous projects designed to improve performance, including a bimonthly forum for PSH’s 1,500 managers. She currently serves as interim president for the system’s Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and sits on multiple boards for medical and social service organizations.
Jamila Winder is the first Black woman to serve on the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, an influential organization with oversight of the commonwealth’s third-largest county. Appointed in January to replace Val Arkoosh, who resigned to lead the state Department of Human Services, Winder is currently the board’s vice chair. The lifelong East Norriton Township resident previously chaired that municipality’s Board of Supervisors; she also currently leads U.S. operations for a global digital medical education company.
At Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha, President and CEO Nilda Iris Ruiz heads a nonprofit catering to Philadelphia’s fast-growing Hispanic population – nearly a quarter-million residents, up from fewer than 100,000 at the turn of the century. Under Ruiz’s leadership, the 53-year-old organization has broadened from its Puerto Rican roots to serve a diverse constituency with bilingual offerings that include health care, early childhood education and job training. Ruiz has also steered nearly a quarter-million dollars in affordable housing investment and community infrastructure.
At Penn Community Bank, CEO Jeane Vidoni leads the largest mutual bank in eastern Pennsylvania and its 300 employees. The 40-year financial industry veteran was also recently appointed president of the National Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Vidoni serves as Pennsylvania Member Director for the board of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh, supporting homeownership programs throughout the tristate region, and sits on the Bucks County Workforce and Economic Development Board.
Last year, Kadida Kenner’s New Pennsylvania Project registered more than 20,000 voters. Kenner, who founded the voting rights nonprofit, maintains that momentum as she looks to upcoming elections – advocating for a higher state minimum wage, rallying with the League of Women Voters and reaching out to the many Pennsylvanians of color who remain underserved and underrepresented. On Twitter, she regularly reminds voters of the importance of the judiciary as co-chair of Why Courts Matter - Pennsylvania.
Since 2011, Stephanie Catarino Wissman has made the economic and workforce development case for Pennsylvania’s oil and gas producers. She directs the American Petroleum Institute Pennsylvania, a division of the American Petroleum Institute, where she represents myriad stakeholders in the commonwealth’s vigorous energy industry. Prior to this role, Wissman oversaw government affairs for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and for Embarq, a global communications provider.
Longtime Republican state Rep. Sheryl Delozier, the GOP caucus administrator, fended off a serious Democratic challenge last fall to win her eighth term representing Cumberland County. Delozier is a crusader for victims’ rights, having sponsored numerous bills around criminal justice reform, including bipartisan legislation allowing nonviolent offenders to seal their records and a legal rights bill for crime victims. She also serves on the House Rules Committee and represents the chamber on the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
From downtown to outlying neighborhoods, Stefani Pashman champions Pittsburgh’s regional vibrancy as head of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. She recently oversaw the completion of the conference’s 10-year strategic plan and is currently engaging stakeholders on its implementation. Pashman was previously CEO of Partner4Work, a Pittsburgh nonprofit workforce development organization. She has also directed policy for the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and served as an analyst in the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Earlier this year, Susheela Nemani-Stanger became the first woman to be named director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh. Nemani-Stanger has more than a dozen years of experience at the agency – most recently as deputy executive director, and previously as director of economic development, a role in which she created and financed the commonwealth’s first transit revitalization investment district. During the pandemic, Nemani-Stanger led WQED’s COVID-19 vaccine campaign in partnership with the Black Equity Coalition.
Lynne Fox learned about workers’ rights from her father, legendary labor leader John Fox. The younger Fox is herself now an august figure in Philadelphia labor circles – leading Workers United’s Philadelphia Joint Board for 20 years and, since 2016, serving as international president of Workers United, the SEIU affiliate that counts nearly 90,000 North American members. Fox, who is an SEIU executive board member, has also led the Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee and was the first woman chair of Amalgamated Bank.
Community pillar, ordained minister and wearer of fabulous hats, Lorina Marshall-Blake heads the Philadelphia-based Independence Blue Cross Foundation. She has overseen $70 million in community impact grants in the 12 years since establishing the foundation a dozen years ago as the philanthropic arm of Independence Blue Cross, where she is vice president for community affairs and previously spent 20 years overseeing government relations. Under Marshall-Blake’s leadership, the foundation funds more than 200 area organizations that address disparities in health care access and outcomes.
Elizabeth Preate Havey, a partner in the Philadelphia office of Dilworth Paxson, is a transactional attorney who assists corporations, nonprofits and municipalities in matters involving public and project financing, such as bond issues. Havey, the daughter of former state Attorney General Ernie Preate, is also the first woman to serve as president of the Pennsylvania Society. She formerly chaired the Montgomery County Republican Committee and currently serves as secretary of the Pennsylvania GOP and as general counsel and secretary at the National Constitution Center.
At Tower Health, CEO Sue Perrotty recently brokered the sale of Brandywine Hospital to Penn Medicine and Chestnut Hill Hospital to Temple Health – a $28 million deal – and divested Tower of its 17 urgent health clinics. It’s all part of her ongoing turnaround effort for the West Reading-based health system, which had racked up substantial losses before hiring Perrotty in 2021. In addition to cost-cutting measures, the veteran banker has attracted new investors and spearheaded collaborations – including with Quest Diagnostics – to stabilize the $2 billion system.
Over nearly a quarter-century in administrative leadership roles at WellSpan Health and its predecessor, Summit Health, Niki Hinckle has helped steer the evolution of health services in Central and Western Pennsylvania. Hinckle, who currently oversees WellSpan’s West region, supervises operations at the system’s Chambersburg, Gettysburg and Waynesboro hospitals, along with other facilities throughout Western Pennsylvania and Northern Maryland. Previously, as vice president for that region, she guided a partnership to provide on-campus services at Shippensburg University.
After a long Harrisburg career in both public and private sectors, government relations strategist Kim Pizzingrilli recently launched One+Strategies, a public affairs firm. Pizzingrilli draws on her experience as a Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner, as the commonwealth’s secretary of state under then-Gov. Tom Ridge and in positions at the state Treasury Department and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission. Most recently, she chaired the State Government Relations Practice Group at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney.
When nurses at Wills Eye Hospital recently fought for a new contract, Geisinger medical workers protested anti-union activity, and her own Temple University Hospital colleagues picketed, Maureen May was there supporting them. May heads the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, representing nearly 10,000 workers in the state’s fastest-growing health union. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing labor shortage, May has led advocacy efforts across the commonwealth for better working conditions and increased state investment in health care.
Attorney General candidate Keir Bradford-Grey is a partner in Montgomery McCracken’s litigation department, where her practice focuses on white-collar and government investigations and criminal defense. Bradford-Grey, who leads the firm’s executive leadership practice group, also chairs its DEI committee. She previously served as chief defender at the Defender Association of Philadelphia – leading a 500-person staff, managing a $50 million budget and helping establish a network of community justice hubs.
Over two decades with Jones Day, class action specialist Rebekah Kcehowski has been recognized by virtually every legal organization, including Chambers USA, Best Lawyers, The Legal 500 and ALM’s Legal Intelligencer. Kcehowski serves as partner-in-charge and leads litigation for the firm’s Pittsburgh office, where she has scored numerous seven-figure victories in cases involving torts, insurance, fraud and consumer matters. She has also held leadership roles with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development – including, currently, as co-chair of its affiliated Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh.
From DoorDash and Lyft to labor unions, prominent clients call on Teresa Lundy for strategic public relations and crisis communications. Lundy is the founder and principal of TML Communications, a firm known for its community engagement focus – including, during the COVID-19 pandemic, partnering with members of its client base to deliver food to 20,000 families. More recently, Lundy has supported major local clients such as the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office and Brown’s Super Stores, as well as Temple University’s $1 million racial equity investment.
Christie Brown Tillapaugh shattered a glass ceiling this year as the first woman poised to lead Dentons Cohen & Grigsby – a member firm of Dentons, the largest international law firm. Tillapaugh, who will assume the role of president and CEO later this year, chairs the firm’s Nonprofit and Tax-Exempt Organizations Group and has served on myriad management committees. A graduate of Penn State and its law school, Tillapaugh recently endowed Penn State Law’s Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Public Interest Law Award to benefit summer law fellows.
Lindy Li has been mobilizing Democrats and fellow Asian Americans since first running for Congress at age 25. Now a commentator on MSNBC, Li also co-chairs the AAPI-focused Justice Unites Us SuperPAC and serves on Gov. Josh Shapiro’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans. A key Biden booster since the 2020 campaign, Li helped organize the White House’s first Asian American Heritage Month celebration last year. She currently serves on the DNC’s National Finance Committee as its Women’s Chair and as DNC Ethnic Council Mid-Atlantic Chair.
After a successful turn at the helm of Clarion University, Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson steered its merger with two other state universities to create PennWest University. As that institution’s founding president, Pehrsson launched new academic offerings and spearheaded outreach with local high schools.
With Pehrrson recently retired from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, PennWest’s leadership is now in the hands of its erstwhile chief operating officer, Laurie Bernotsky. On loan from West Chester University – the system’s largest, where she’s served as provost – Bernotsky helped PennWest get off to a smooth start by implementing strategies to stabilize long-term finances, enrollment and operations.
In her second year as Harrisburg’s mayor, Wanda Williams has prioritized investment for affordable housing, public safety and infrastructure, including a new water park. Hoping to leverage federal COVID-19 relief funds for these projects, Williams has been lobbying her former colleagues on the City Council, where she served for years before running for the top job. The 70-year-old mayor has made it clear she’s not backing down in Harrisburg’s battles against entrenched violence, poverty and substandard housing.
For the second year in a row, Key Financial CEO Patti Brennan was ranked Pennsylvania’s best high-net-worth wealth adviser by Forbes magazine, which also ranked her No. 137 among America’s top wealth advisers. Brennan, who began her career as an ICU nurse, has run the West Chester financial planning and wealth management firm since its founding 33 years ago and currently supervises nearly $2 billion in assets. She is also a commentator on CNBC and was recently inducted into the Chester County Hall of Fame.
In 2020, Lori Klein Brennan returned to lead the Pennsylvania and Delaware chapter of The Nature Conservancy, where she began her career as its inaugural public relations specialist. In between, Brennan oversaw marketing and communications for Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences and University City District and held leadership roles at CCS Fundraising, a leading global consultancy for nonprofits. From her Philadelphia-area base, Brennan oversees a 50-strong team that has mobilized to champion historic climate legislation and advance the organization’s conservation and carbon-reduction goals.
Since helping establish Centric Bank in 2007, CEO Patricia Husic has grown the Enola institution’s assets to $1.2 billion. Husic, a trailblazer in a field where women rarely make it to the executive level, was an inaugural member of the American Bankers Association’s inaugural DEI Advisory Group and is also a former chair of the Pennsylvania Bankers Association. Under her leadership, Centric was recognized as a “Best Bank to Work For” and a Top-200 Financial Institution by American Banker, an industry publication.
Sophia Z. Lee, a noted legal historian, assumed leadership of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School this month. Lee, a longtime Penn law professor with a secondary appointment in history, previously served as the law school’s deputy dean, overhauling the legal practice skills program and expanding Penn Carey Law’s commitment to a diverse faculty and student body. Her scholarship on civil rights and labor has informed her civic engagement at Penn Carey Law, where she has served on the Social Responsibility Advisory Committee.
At Pursuit Advocacy, attorney Laura Kuller helps corporate and nonprofit clients navigate state bureaucracy to achieve goals involving policy, procurement, regulation and other agency matters. Kuller draws on her Capitol experience as a longtime legislative staffer, former chief of staff to a House majority leader, partner at a large law firm and attorney at a boutique lobbying outfit. Her successes include obtaining complex government permits, securing grant funding for capital projects and updating a statute to facilitate e-commerce for commonwealth businesses.
As chief operating officer of Firstrust Bank and chief technology officer of the holding company, Peggy Leimkuhler’s responsibilities include oversight of the bank’s operating infrastructure, including strategic and operational technology, operations, marketing, and operating risk. At the holding company level, Peggy is responsible for guiding the identification and adoption of technology solutions that support the evolution of banking and financial services and promote best practices for efficiency and for world-class customer and employee experiences.
In 2023, Peggy was named the first woman chair of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia. Since 2008, she had served as vice chair and executive committee member of this organization. Peggy joined the board of WHYY, Philadelphia’s public media service in 2022. She is also a member of the executive committee of the board of the Committee of Seventy.
First-generation college graduate Nichole Duffy brings a special perspective to her role heading government relations for the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania. Duffy, who graduated from AICUP member school Susquehanna University, is devoted to ensuring other Pennsylvanians have the opportunity to fulfill their educational goals. She previously held numerous positions in higher education, working in the Governor’s Budget Office and state Department of Education as well as the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, where she focused on education policy, budget development and implementation.
As executive vice president and chief academic officer of Geisinger, Julie Byerley has been instrumental in growing the health system’s scope and prestige. Byerley, a pediatrician and public health expert, united the schools of medicine, nursing and education to launch the Geisinger College of Health Sciences, where she serves as president and dean of the medical school. She also upgraded Geisinger’s nursing school from diploma- to degree-granting, expanded residency and research and unveiled a strategic plan promoting GCHS as a model for value-based care.
If you’ve seen the ads for Sara Innamorato’s campaign for Allegheny County executive or Rue Landau’s groundbreaking campaign for Philadelphia City Council, you’ve seen the work of Anne Wakabayashi. A vice president at BerlinRosen, Wakabayashi specializes in political ad-making and campaign management up and down the ballot, including a stint as Pennsylvania senior strategist for Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. Wakabayashi was also the founding executive director of Emerge PA and is a longtime advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.
When Philadelphia’s Gayborhood recently unveiled a rainbow crosswalk for Pride, Sheila Hess was there. As Mayor Jim Kenney’s city representative, Hess is Philly’s chief civic booster, her smile a ubiquitous presence as she raises the Georgian flag at City Hall for that country’s Independence Day, toasts America’s largest African American Street festival or celebrates the Year of the Rabbit in Chinatown. Hess, the first woman to chair the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professionals Network, previously oversaw the $65 million Independence Blue Cross Foundation.
Community engagement specialist Tiffany Tavarez heads the technology diversity, community and sustainability effort at Wells Fargo, where she has held numerous outreach roles. Tavarez also facilitates transatlantic engagement as a 2023 Marshall Memorial Fellow, part of the German Marshall Fund’s young leadership cohort. Closer to home, she was recently named a 2023 Love Ambassador with Philadelphia’s Love Now Media, a Black-owned social justice enterprise. Tavarez currently chairs the Monument Lab board of directors and serves on Gov. Josh Shapiro’s Advisory Commission for Women.
In September, Karen Kim will become the first female dean of Penn State College of Medicine – and, as the first Korean American woman in such a role, one of few Asian women in U.S. medical college leadership. Kim, a prominent voice calling out racial health disparities, was most recently vice provost for research at the University of Chicago, where she is the founding director of the Center for Asian Health Equity and has overseen community engagement for the university’s cancer center.
As a youth pastor, Carol Kuniholm was inspired to political action by the resource inequities she witnessed between urban and suburban schools. Kuniholm, who had long been active with the Pennsylvania board of the League of Women Voters, founded Fair Districts PA in 2016 to fight the gerrymandering that she believes fosters these inequities. With the nonprofit coalition, Kuniholm leads ongoing advocacy for fairer redistricting and better representation, including public events and a team of speakers.
Christine Toretti, the state GOP’s national committeewoman and a prodigious fundraiser, is positioning the Keystone State for Republican wins next year. Toretti founded the Anne B. Anstine Excellence in Public Service Series in 2002 to train Republican women as civic leaders and also established Women Lead PAC, which supports conservative women running in federal elections. Her previous roles include leading S.W. Jack Drilling Company, chairing the RNC’s finance committee and heading Pennsylvania Women for Trump in 2016.
Under the leadership of Women’s Initiative Chair Sarah D. Schlossberg, Philadelphia-based Cozen O’Connor garnered a first-time spot on Seramount’s Best Law Firms for Women and Diversity list. Schlossberg is of counsel at the global firm, where she focuses her practice on class actions and commercial litigation across various industries. Schlossberg has also been honored by The Legal Intelligencer as a Best Law Firm Mentor and with the Samuel E. Klein Pro Bono Award for her service with children, prisoners and other vulnerable populations.
“Whoever tells the story writes history” is Anne Deeter Gallaher’s motto – and that’s just what she does at the helm of Deeter Gallaher Group, her award-winning marketing, PR and digital media firm. She also co-hosts the podcast Grit & Gravitas, co-authored “Women in High Gear” and “Students in High Gear,” and increased funding and services as recent chair of The Salvation Army Harrisburg board. Her commitment led Shippensburg University to recognize her as one of its 2023 Communications/Journalism/Media Alumni of the Year.
Over a decade leading the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, Becky Bradley has helped foster what she describes as the nation’s fastest-growing manufacturing economy. Along with steering a $2.8 billion regional transportation plan, Bradley recently welcomed a $1 million federal grant to fight climate change, citing the need to balance infrastructure and economic growth with environmental sustainability. Bradley, who also teaches planning at Lafayette College, won the 2020 National Association of Regional Councils’ Walter Schreiber Leadership Award for her work on transportation, housing and economic development.
Building on Democratic electoral momentum across the commonwealth, Lisa Rhodes is gearing up for 2024 as director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, rallying support to ensure Donald Trump won’t repeat his 2016 victory here. Rhodes previously served as the state party’s deputy director and was a member of the 2020 Democratic National Convention platform committee. She has also led the Women’s Christian Alliance, the nation’s oldest African American foster care and adoption agency.
Since becoming Philadelphia’s chief defender in 2021, Keisha Hudson has brought local and national attention to public defenders’ critical role in America’s criminal justice system. Drawing on experience as a lawyer, civic leader and activist, Hudson worked to upgrade the Defender Association’s client services, prioritized an inclusive culture, achieved pay parity for employees and expanded the staff of attorneys, social workers, investigators and mitigation specialists. Hudson has also partnered the association with national organizations like Gideon’s Promise, Partners for Justice and Zealous.
Two years after taking the reins of Pittsburgh Technical College in 2019, Alicia Harvey-Smith was named the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s CEO of the Year for her pandemic stewardship and DEI initiatives. The Baltimore-educated counselor recently debuted PTC’s first health and wellness center, created the PTC Education Foundation and launched the college’s first endowment campaign. She also spearheaded partnerships with West Liberty and Robert Morris universities and published “Higher Education on the Brink: Reimagining Strategic Enrollment Management in Colleges and Universities.”
Shepherding the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education through a period of streamlining and transition are Cynthia Shapira, the longtime chair of PASSHE’s board of governors, and Vice Chancellor Denise Pearson, its DEI chief.
Shapira has supervised a system redesign to ensure access, affordability and financial sustainability. She also vice-chaired then-Gov. Tom Wolf’s transition team and served on his education and workforce development advisory board. For her part, Pearson is currently planning this fall’s 2023 PASSHE DEI Summit, an annual event she spearheaded. She is also guiding efforts to improve student retention and outcomes based on the results of her first-ever campus diversity survey.
Together, Chandra Robbins and Theresa Savage lead NextUp Pennsylvania, the 14,000-member state chapter of a 21-region national network committed to gender equity and the advancement of professional women. Robbins also oversees e-commerce and East regions for Beam Suntory, the beverage company, while Savage serves as a senior talent consultant in the project recruitment division at Juno Search Partners. Under their executive leadership, NextUp Pennsylvania received a 2022 “Powering the People Award” from its national organization, recognizing Robbins’ and Savage’s success recruiting corporate and regional sponsors, promoting diversity and coordinating professional opportunities for their membership.
Over a four-decade career, Christine McClure has held leadership positions in legal associations throughout the commonwealth and beyond, and distinguished herself in cases before the Pennsylvania and United States Supreme Courts. McClure previously practiced with Erie-based McClure & Miller and is currently of counsel at KnoxLaw, where her practice focuses on estate planning, business, real estate and government law. Last year, the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession honored her accomplishments with the Anne X. Alpern Award.
Since Molly Kunkel assumed leadership of the Centre Foundation, she has tripled its assets and granting and expanded outreach to maximize grassroots engagement. Kunkel, who joined the organization in 2008, previously led several children’s charities and a charter school. She is currently updating the foundation’s strategic plan to incorporate impact investing and emphasize community arts and outdoor projects. Kunkel, a recent graduate of the CFLeads Executive Leadership Institute, is also a member of the Pennsylvania Community Foundation Association.
Lynette Chappell-Williams’ best practices for diversity and inclusion have led her to speak at DEI forums internationally, won her recognition as a DEI Officer to Know by Becker’s Hospital Review and earned her a spot at Harrisburg Mayor Wanda Williams’ inaugural equity roundtable. As Penn State Health’s chief diversity officer, Chappell-Williams supports initiatives to diversify the system’s workforce and suppliers and make patient care more inclusive. An attorney by training, she previously led diversity programming at Cornell and George Washington universities.
Radian is a financial services firm – but its chief people officer, Mary Dickerson, knows that finances are all about relationships. The longtime corporate human resources expert is currently senior executive vice president at the Wayne-based company, overseeing recruiting, training, DEI and other aspects of workforce development. Dickerson, who has degrees in both law and business, is also a volunteer attorney with the Montgomery Child Advocacy Project.
Pittsburgh native Kendra Ross joined Duolingo two years ago to create its social impact program. While the language app forges connections between foreign cultures, Ross, who holds a Ph.D. in community engagement from Point Park University, oversees philanthropy and inclusion efforts closer to Duolingo’s Pittsburgh home. These include employee volunteerism, partnerships with local nonprofits, an affinity group for Black employees and support for artists of color and public art projects through the company’s Community Arts Program.
It’s not your imagination: Many more women are running for office across the state. A good deal of that momentum comes from political science scholar Dana Brown and the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University. Since assuming the directorship in 2010, Brown has expanded influential programs, including Ready to Run, a nonpartisan women’s campaign training program in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, as well as NEW Leadership PA, an intensive leadership and public policy institute.
Betsy Chivinski, a certified public accountant by training, has been with Fulton Financial Corporation for nearly 30 years and currently serves as senior executive vice president and chief risk officer. Chivinski, who holds an accounting degree from Franklin & Marshall College, previously oversaw accounting and served as chief audit executive for the $21 billion financial outfit, which is based in Lancaster and has locations throughout the mid-Atlantic region.
With real estate increasingly scarce and expensive, Robin Wiessmann heads efforts to ensure housing access across the commonwealth. She leads the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, a state-affiliated entity and public corporation with a $45 million budget and a mandate to increase affordable rental housing as well as homeownership. Wiessmann, who served on the Shapiro transition team, is a former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities, state treasurer and Philadelphia deputy director of finance.
Colleen Kopp knows state government from the inside out. Senior vice president for government affairs at Wojdak, Kopp is a seasoned lobbyist, especially in the areas of education, health care, state budget negotiations and the gaming industry. The Clearfield County native begin her career in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, where she was chief of staff; she later served as secretary for legislative affairs in the Rendell administration.
Nicole Ayala Fouron is a trailblazer at BNY Mellon, where her 18-year career has led to recognition as a Rising Star of Latinas in Business and a Top Latino in Wealth and Investment Management by Latino Leaders Magazine, as well as a 2023 Woman of Influence by the Pittsburgh Business Times. She currently leads the bank’s relationship management and global asset servicing and champions DEI initiatives. Fouron is also a past president of the Association of Latino Professionals for America.
PNC’s diversity chief, Gina Coleman, knows that inclusion is not only good manners; it’s also good business, shaping positive interactions and fostering collaboration. Under Coleman’s leadership, PNC last year became the first financial services institution to achieve the Management Leadership for Tomorrow Black Equity at Work certification. Coleman, a senior vice president, had previously worked for nearly a decade at PNC in Michigan, where, as client and community relations director she co-founded the bank’s Women’s Connect Employee Business Resource Group.
The Philadelphia Bar Association’s next chancellor, Jennifer Coatsworth, is an increasingly familiar figure in Keystone State legal circles. Coatsworth, a partner at Margolis Edelstein, is an expert in liability and focuses her litigation on defense in motor vehicle, dealer fraud and lemon law cases. She has held a number of leadership positions with the PBA, is an immediate past chancellor of the Louis Brandeis Law Society and serves on the Philadelphia Association of Defense Council’s executive council and the leadership council of Community Legal Services.
Gynecologist Marcia Klein-Patel chairs the Women’s Institute at Allegheny Health Network, whose West Penn Hospital OB-GYN program was top-ranked regionally in 2022 by U.S. News and World Report. Also last year, Klein-Patel was named a Woman of Influence by the Pittsburgh Business Times for her leadership, which includes co-founding AHN’s first midlife gynecology and menopausal medicine practice. Klein-Patel, who holds a Ph.D. in immunotoxicology, has also served as the health network’s principal investigator in a countywide program to reduce infant mortality.
Since 2008, Antoinette Kraus has guided the Pennsylvania Health Access Network into becoming the state’s largest consumer-driven health advocacy organization. Kraus has championed quality, affordable health care over a 15-year period when that cause has taken on national resonance, leading campaigns to increase access and advance consumer protections. She is on the board of the Pennsylvania Health Exchange Authority and served on the transition teams for both Gov. Josh Shapiro and then-Gov. Tom Wolf.
Moriah Hathaway has headed the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Women since 2020, the first out lesbian woman to do so. Under her leadership, the commission worked on a recent human trafficking initiative with PennDOT, the State Police and the state Departments of Health and Labor and Industry. Hathaway also led the commission in co-hosting the Capitol’s first Black Maternal Health Day. She is president-elect of the Shippensburg University Alumni Board of Directors.
At Sojourner House – named for the legendary African American preacher Sojourner Truth – De’netta Benjamin-Miller helps Pittsburgh’s most vulnerable families on their own sojourns toward wellness and healing. Benjamin-Miller heads a nonprofit that provides residential treatment, faith-based community and supportive housing for women in addiction and trauma recovery, as well as their children, with the aim of breaking cyclical poverty. Benjamin-Miller also has a private Pittsburgh practice, Focus on Life Counseling Center.
As CEO of Gwen’s Girls, Kathi Elliott continues the legacy of her mother, who founded the nonprofit to coordinate social and educational services for at-risk Pittsburgh girls. Elliott oversees an expanding suite of partnerships with area organizations, including Caring Connections for Youth, a youth violence prevention coalition that aims to reduce juvenile justice referrals. A doctor of nursing by training, Elliott also works closely with local colleges and businesses to provide career training, tutoring and other extracurricular opportunities.
Retired U.S. Navy Two-Star Rear Adm. Janet Donovan keeps the momentum – and the cookies – going at Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania, where she has led the 13,500-member chapter of the national girls’ organization since 2019. This year, Donovan appointed new chief operating and membership officers and unveiled public environmental learning facilities at the scouts’ Halifax campsite. Donovan also celebrated the post-pandemic revival of the chapter’s annual cookie rally and its all-day, statewide Girl Scout cookie event.
Ruby Mundok wants young Pennsylvanians to have “a seat at the table,” as she puts it – and she’s helping ensure that seat as the new director of Gov. Josh Shapiro’s Advisory Commission on Next Generation Engagement. Mundok got her political start by creating a Students for Shapiro chapter at Millersville University, where she will graduate next year; she served on the governor’s inaugural committee and was a digital media intern in his administration. She also hosts the Hyper Talkative podcast.