It’s that time of year when the South Florida Business Journal honors its 2016 class of Influential Business Women. And we couldn’t be prouder of this year’s 25 honorees, who exemplify the region’s growing number of women business leaders excelling in their industries while also contributing to their local communities.
The honorees are a diverse group of women with a track record of success in their respective fields. Women such as veteran banker Teresa P. Foxx, director and general manager of Barclays; Barbara W. Goldberg, CEO/founder of O’Connell & Goldberg Public Relations; Judith Haddad, president/CIO of Patriot Technology Solutions; and Lourdes M. Pineda-Garcia, VP of financial services/CFO of FirstService Residential.
All were celebrated at a May 20 awards luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six in Fort Lauderdale.
Read on to learn more about our honorees’ accomplishments and to gain more insights on what makes them so special.
Special thanks to corporate sponsors Florida International University College of Business, GCI Worldwide Corp., Durée & Co., FPL Fibernet and HSBC.
Congratulations again to this year’s honorees!
Founder/CEO, G. Alvarez Studio
1428 Brickell Ave., Suite 202, Miami 33131
• B.F.A. in interior design, Miami-Dade Community College
• President/senior partner, Slack Alvarez & Associates
• Senior interior designer/head of interior designer, Wolfberg Alvarez and Associates
• Various interior designer posts at Coral Gables designers
“I am an avid snow skier and love the mountains,” she says. “Reaching a mountaintop has always given me inspiration, strength and a sense of accomplishment. In many ways, it’s a metaphor for life and our inner strength.”
Gigi Alvarez defines an influential businesswoman as one who is not deterred by missing the mark and can see the big picture. She is not derailed by mishaps, “but learns from them and becomes wiser because of them,” she says.
Alvarez looks at her own career as an example. She started Slack Alvarez & Associates in 1995 with a partner. In 2012, she bought him out and changed the direction of the company. Since that time, it has grown by 37 percent.
Along the way, she’s run her firm with integrity and humility, which has given her the support and trust of many colleagues and clients.
Alvarez is “tough when I have to be, and I am not afraid to speak my mind,” she says.
And she strives to learn something every day and is fascinated by the digital age.
Alvarez also keeps her employees – and her own personal trials – front of mind in all she does for her business, her clients and her community
“My philosophy is that the employees are more important than the clients for a business to be successful,” she says. “They are what we put out in the world, and we must take care of them and help them grow.”
Alvarez’s advice to other aspirational female executives: Challenges will come, but always look positively for a way forward.
“Fear is a liar. Do not be afraid to fail,” she says. “You need to believe that you have something wonderful to give. We all come with what we need to succeed. It’s inside of us.”
CEO, Memorial Hospital Miramar
1901 S.W. 172nd Ave., Miramar 33029
• B.S. and M.P.A., Rutgers University
“I am the child of a Holocaust survivor and descendent of a slave,” she says. “While at first glance it might seem this would prove to be challenging and perhaps an obstacle, in fact it has been humbling, inspirational and key to building strength of character.”
Leah Carpenter sees in herself the attributes of an influential businesswoman. It’s someone who uses her talent, accomplishments and influence to inspire, motivate and mentor. She makes it her mission to lead by example and always do the right thing for the right reason. She lives with integrity, is compassionate toward others, and is courageous, fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves.
“In our day-to-day activities, it’s easy to get lost in the ‘business of doing business’ and lose track of the human interactions necessary to ensure that those transactions are successful,” she says. “Knowing my people, genuinely caring about their well-being, and supporting them has had an exponential return on investment.”
Carpenter views herself as passionate, focused on the journey of life, committed to her community, as well as committed to reinventing herself with changing times. Through it all, she remains humble, especially when mentoring future leaders.
“As much as I love the business of health care and enjoy seeing all that we have accomplished over the years, what I’m most proud of has been the number and quality of people that I have had the honor and privilege of mentoring and grooming,” she says. “Real success is measured by how many lives you’ve touched, how many people you’ve inspired and the difference you make in the lives of others.
“Live your truth, never compromise your integrity, be courageous, surround yourself with people who are better than you,” she says. “Follow your passion, don’t take yourself too seriously and have fun!”
Senior director of talent and culture, Modernizing Medicine
3600 FAU Blvd., Suite 202, Boca Raton 33431
• B.S. in management information systems, Florida Atlantic University
• Director of technical recruiting, Steven Douglas Associates
• Technical recruiter, Kforce
• Software engineer, Siemens
I started taking tae kwon do with my son last spring as a way to incorporate exercise and wellness into my life without taking time away from my family. It’s been a great way to detach from life’s daily distractions and refocus while spending quality time with my son.
To Diane Dagher, every woman possesses the power to influence. Thus, an influential businesswoman is any woman who can leverage her professional position to bring about positive changes in her community.
“You just have to tap into your passion and use it to serve others,” she says.
Such change and revolve around areas of service, empathy and passion. Genuinely caring for others, having the ability to listen and understand both individual and organizational needs in order to drive informed decisions and results, and having contagious and motivating passion can motivate the executive and influence others.
She’s been able to help nurture people at Modernizing Medicine and preserve that culture through their growth from 25 employees when she started to more than 500 today. The universal sentiment she hears is how great the people are.
Along the way, she has co-sponsored Modernizing Medicine’s Women in Innovation and Technology group. In its inaugural year, the team put together 18 events, including panel discussions, community outreach events and volunteer drives.
“It is exceptionally rewarding to see people come together outside their day-to-day roles to make positive changes,” she says. “My work never feels like ‘just a job’ because I am passionate about what we do and the role each of us plays in accomplishing our mission.”
Darcy J. Davis
CEO, Health Care District of Palm Beach County
2601 10th Ave. N., Palm Springs 33461
• B.B.A. in accounting, Mercer University
• M.S.M. in health care administration, Troy State University
“I’m a passionate soccer mom,” she says. “I make my family a priority and don’t think I’ve ever missed one of my son’s games due to a work conflict.”
Humble, accessible, valued – and seeing the value in others. These are traits Darcy J. Davis believes an influential businesswoman possesses. She makes a difference in her community by excelling in her field, and is a leader who inspires others and who others want to follow.
“I have always been a humble leader, not looking for personal validation, but more results oriented for my organizations,” she says. “No matter my position, I remain accessible and approachable to everyone. I believe that everyone has value; we just need to appreciate the skill sets and talents of each person and make sure that they are in the right role.”
Though she works in the government sector, Davis strives to overcome the “stigma” to find creative responses to the rapidly changing health care industry. By partnering with others in the community, her team accomplishes its mission while driving down taxpayer burdens. She’s equally committed to others. Davis took her children on a mission trip to Costa Rica to help instill in them a sense of service to others. To date, they have been on at least a half-dozen missions each.
These are the lessons future influential businesswomen can take away. While some lessons are harder than others, for every difficult situation, “you will be better, stronger and wiser because of it,” Davis says.
“As executive women leaders, we all have a lot of balls in the air,” she says. “The trick is not learning to juggle, but knowing the difference between a crystal ball and a rubber ball. Let the rubber balls bounce.”
Vivian de las Cuevas-Diaz
Partner, Holland & Knight
701 Brickell Ave., Suite 3300, Miami 33139
• B.A., Florida State University
• J.D., Tulane University Law School
“I was a cheerleader in high school,” she says. “But my passion was coaching junior high cheerleaders who competed nationally for several years.”
Vivian de las Cuevas-Diaz believes there is no definition of an influential businesswoman. Every woman has a different path and a different goal on how she may rise to a position of influence. That said, she believes influence comes when one is able to “harness the fruits of your hard work and passion and help others in your community.”
It comes through hard work – “by hard I mean 150 percent at all times” –dedication and loyalty from yourself and those you surround yourself with, she says.
“I am always most proud of those around me. I believe that working as a team is most important, whether it’s men or women who work directly for me, or in other areas or other offices,” she says. “Seeing people reach their goals and climb the ladders of their choice … their success is my success.”
In the community, de las Cuevas-Diaz has served as past president of the Cuban American Bar Association, a post she calls “a remarkable journey.” During her 10 years on the CABA board and committees, she was able to create and assist in the Art in the Tropics event, for which 100 percent of the proceeds benefit CABA pro bono projects. She helped grow student chapters and their scholarships, as well as strengthen and endow CABA’s own scholarship – all projects that continue today.
“The journey and the people that we, as CABA, were able to assist, and continue to assist, every day make me proud,” she says. These are part of her continued passion and influence. “I believe someone becomes an influential businesswoman because she is working hard and being passionate while remembering how important it is to always guide and lead those around you. A woman who is not looking for this title is most likely the woman who has it and earned it.”
Sheri Fiske Schultz
Co-managing director, Fiske & Co.
1000 S. Pine Island Road, Suite 440, Plantation 33324
• B.S. in accounting, University of Florida
• M.Acc., University of Florida
“I was fortunate enough to serve as a group leader for 100 children, including my daughter, who attended a March of the Living trip to the concentration camps in Poland,” she says. “We listened to Holocaust survivors as they told their horrific stories. Witnessing these sites through the eyes of children affected me in ways that I will never forget.”
Whether in one’s company, industry or community, an influential businesswoman possesses the reputation of a strong leader. For Sheri Fiske Schultz, this has meant getting involved early on and earning leadership positions through hard work and persistent effort.
“If you demonstrate your value and invest your time and effort, you’ll earn the position you desire, along with respect from your colleagues,” she says. “Getting the position you want is not the end of the road. It’s just the beginning. It’s all about what you do with it.”
With passion, dedication and a positive attitude, she remains driven to succeed personally and professionally. She walks into work with enthusiasm and excitement, and is eager to begin a new challenging project.
“I am extremely determined to be the best at everything I do,” she says. “I care about my clients, community and industry, and am always eager to please my clients and the organizations I work with. No matter how difficult a project can be, I don’t give up. I am highly motivated and enjoy working as a team and bringing energy into the workplace or the community.”
Her role as chair of the Accredited in Business Valuation Champion Program Taskforce made Fiske Schultz responsible for working with “champions” in each state to encourage CPAs to seek the ABV accreditation. She also served on the board of trustees for the Jewish Community Foundation, contributing her financial expertise in helping determine how to best allocate an $11 million grant for the community.
“Become involved in your community and an industry organization,” she says. “This ensures continued education and professionally gives you a step up from your competition.”
Director, Cushman & Wakefield
225 N.E. Mizner Blvd., Suite 300, Boca Raton 33432
• Business and accounting, University of Oklahoma
• Twenty-four years in South Florida commercial real estate
“As a mother of two, wife, and tri-athlete and bodybuilder, my schedule is quite dynamic,” she says. “Attending my children’s swim meets, volleyball games, track meets, choirs and concerts are just an example of the level of importance and source of pride I have for my family.”
With more than 20 years of experience in commercial real estate, Caroline Fleischer is known as one of the top office producers in the region. She was a finalist for NAIOP’s Broker of the Year in 2012, 2013 and 2015, and was recognized as a CoStar Power Broker for four consecutive years.
Yet, being an influential businesswoman is about more than professional accomplishments. She is someone who dedicates her life to helping others, even if there is no payoff, Fleischer says. “It’s simple goodwill.”
It’s a woman who demonstrates she’s not afraid to try something new, and finds joy in mastering a skill. It’s a mentor and coach who helps others grow and master a skill, as well. She shows people who she is by actions, not words.
“A woman of influence becomes involved in charity, and values the time spent in community service,” Fleischer says.
With commitment, determination and true grit, she strives to succeed.
“This is a tough business, representing many different facets of a client’s needs,” Fleischer says. “This requires much mental toughness, rigor and, most importantly, courage. My word is my bond. I do my best to fulfill the obligations I have accepted.”
Her advice to others? She cites William Shakespeare.
“To thine own self be true. Always form a healthy view of yourself and realize your own person worth and capability,” she says. “See value in what you do, and do to the best of your abilities. When self-doubt creeps in, remember this mantra as rule No. 1.”
Director and general manager, Barclays
1111 Brickell Ave., 12th floor, Miami 33131
• B.B.A. in accounting, Hofstra University
• M.B.A. in finance, Fordham University
• High Potentials Leadership Program, Harvard Business School Executive Education
• Audit director, Corporate & Investment Bank, Barclays
• VP of internal audit, Deutsche Bank
• Assistant VP of audit, Credit Lyonnais
• Senior auditor, KPMG
“Running serves as a relaxing personal outlet from my day-to-day professional responsibilities,” she says. “After completing eight marathons, I’ve learned that this endurance commitment not only makes me a better runner, but a better professional and a better leader.
To Teresa P. Foxx, success is about seeing the big picture. Leaders and influential businesswomen focus less on the personal benefits of everyday work and more on the long-term effect it will have on her organization as a whole. She listens to and digests the many voices and opinions of her team, with the intent of making their opinions heard among a larger audience.
She is a respectful, confident, intelligent woman who refuses to accept any setbacks as an end-all, but rather an opportunity to learn and grow from professionally. She is hardworking, focused and passionate.
“Each and every day, I give my very best, regardless of any obstacles,” Foxx says. “My goal is to make contributions that help pave the way for those young leaders that aspire to walk a similar path, ultimately shaping the financial services industry as a whole.”
Foxx helped establish the firm’s Women’s Internal Network, using the platform to exhibit women’s leadership from a managerial perspective and encourage initiatives that focus on gender diversity. She also has helped shape the lives of members of future generations who aspire to be great leaders as part of the Posse Foundation, the Women’s Leadership Committee within FIBA, and Honeyshine.
“I am able to mentor, guide and encourage young adults eager to make a difference,” she says. “Should I achieve nothing else throughout my professional career but opening the doors for others, I’d be satisfied.”
CEO/founding partner, O’Connell & Goldberg Public Relations
450 N. Park Road, Suite 600, Hollywood 33021
• B.S. in communication, University of Miami
• Publicist, Hank Meyer Associates
Though attempts at playing piano, guitar and even accordion as a child never stuck, Goldberg last year began taking lessons on the ukulele. A “fun experiment,” it reminds her about the importance of practicing.
For 23 years, Barbara Goldberg has helped lead the team at the public relations firm she founded. And for 23 years, she has served as a resourceful and intuitive leader who listens more than she talks, collaborates, communicates, enjoys connecting people, and is a natural leader and risk taker. She sees both the big picture and the task at hand.
She is a juggler, a multitasker and someone who is not afraid to ask for what she needs and wants. She becomes one by staying true to herself, while being persistent. And she maintains her core values of a strong ethical character and being a good soul.
“Goodness is where it all starts. From there, good begets good,” Goldberg says. “You naturally want to surround yourself with others who share the positive energy and passion to do what’s right. Never compromise on your values.”
In her 23 years at the helm of her firm – started when she was 27 and had newborn twins – Goldberg has developed several essential abilities. They include the ability to identify and lead others, surrounding herself with creative and talented people, and having the confidence and faith to delegate to others. A positive attitude wraps up the leader’s skillset.
“It forces us to get out of our comfort zone while mentoring the next generation,” says Goldberg, who mentors at-risk high school girls as part of Women of Tomorrow. “Things will not always fall into place. Stuff happens. It’s the resilience to bounce back after being shaken that separates those who have their eye on the prize [from] those who cave in and crawl under the covers. Staying optimistic is a necessity to survive and thrive.”
Kathleen A. Grace
Managing director, United Capital Financial Life Management
925 S. Federal Highway, Suite 125, Boca Raton 33432
• B.B.A., University of Miami
• Certified Financial Planner, Nova Southeastern University
• Certified Investment Management Analyst, Wharton School of Business
• Principal/managing member, Excelsior Capital Advisors LLC
“I am technically considered an introvert,” she says. “Every self-assessment test I’ve ever taken has resulted in this personality type, but after meeting me, you would definitely think otherwise.”
Kathleen A. Grace sees herself as a catalyst for change and improvement – in her industry and her community. She inspires big ideas that can positively impact others, and the confidence to execute on them – along with the conviction to never give up, and the determination to make a difference.
She helps redefine women’s roles while empowering other women to break the mold, either in their careers or personal lives. They are true and passionate activists for their cause, and have achieved their success through thinking outside the box.
Maybe it takes thinking outside the book, too. Grace, who authored the book “Prince Not So Charming,” combined a love story with advice based on her role as an adviser. She sought to empower women to become financially independent and be prepared for a less-than-fairytale situation.
“Working in a traditionally male-dominated industry for the past 25 years, I’ve faced my share of challenges brought by societal and cultural biases,” she says. “I’ve had to acquire deeper skills and expertise, and garner the fortitude to work harder than some of my male colleagues in order to achieve the same success.
“I have a very introspective mindset and believe that improvement is a lifelong journey,” Grace says. “While some may view attention to detail as borderline obsessive, my critical eye has always served me well in working with my clients, whether it’s through identifying opportunities or helping them avoid potential pitfalls. It helps me go truly above and beyond for those around me.”
President/CIO, Patriot Technology Solutions
401 E. Las Olas Blvd., Suite 1650, Fort Lauderdale 33301
• B.S., Clark University
• M.B.A., Nova Southeastern University
• Executive Management, INSEAD
• Executive VP, CTO, Patriot National
• VP of IT, NYMAGIC
• Executive consultant, Blue Cod Technologies
• Division executive, eBusiness Office, NCCI
“I was president of my class in 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 12th grades,” she says. “I guess my desire to lead began when I was very young.”
Judith L. Haddad is a change agent. Throughout her career, she has created, managed and achieved successful outcomes by helping her organizations transform themselves by focusing on such matters as organizational effectiveness, improvement and development.
“To become influential in business, you must be able to help bring change for the greater good of the organization by creating a vision, believing in your people and delivering successful outcomes,” she says.
She believes integrity, insightfulness and natural leadership are key traits of any influencer. Deliver on your word, create a shared vision, and seek to lead from within. In fact, she learned years ago that leadership is not taught in a classroom.
“It made me realize that leadership is something you do naturally,” she says. “It is something that you have to be passionate about, especially knowing that it is perhaps one of the toughest roles.”
Haddad was part of the “roadshow team” that helped the company launch a successful IPO on the New York Stock Exchange – a rarity for a technology executive, she says. “It gave me the experience I needed to be confident in front of investors when speaking about a topic that I love so dearly, technology.”
Equally important is her role as a foster parent, which has allowed Haddad to give back to society in a way that is “the most important accomplishment in my lifetime,” she says, adding that she also works with Kids in Distress. “I was blessed with my two beautiful children, as a result.”
Co-owner, California Closets
290 S.W. 12th Ave., Pompano Beach 33069
• B.B.A. in accounting, SUNY Brockport
• M.S., SUNY New Paltz
• Cost accountant, Nestle
• High-school business teacher
“When I was in middle school and high school, I was very active in fundraising for charities,” she says. “I would sell for Deborah Hospital, a New Jersey hospital that helps children, and later ran a walk for the March of Dimes.”
From humble beginnings in upstate New York, Lori Hoyt never thought designing closets was in her future. Yet, today she leads a multimillion-dollar South Florida company and serves a role she believes all women can hold: to be influential in their own sphere.
“If you are a mother of your children, become the most important part of that sphere and from there we branch out to others,” she says. “Power is not so important. Having compassion and understanding creates success, respect and the opportunity to influence others.”
Not surprisingly, Hoyt believes her commitment to family – including her family of employees – creating a network of “movers and shakers” in their respective industries, and “listening to my gut” are keys to her success.
That intuition and focus on the long term helped the company survive the worst economic downfall she ever experienced as a business owner. As closets and home design became luxuries and not the norm, “we were able to triple our business, employ more people and continue to build a solid brand that keeps our clients happy.”
Meanwhile, Hoyt maintained her focus on the community. The company partnered with Dress for Success to collect gently used shoes for women re-entering the workforce. With the help of the company’s designers, clients and local media outlets, California Closets donated close to 500 pairs of women’s shoes.
Hoyt believes women rising the ladder must “find your footing in your life, make a difference, and enjoy the journey,” she says. “Stay grounded, humble and never forget those that helped you along the way.”
Virginia A. Jacko
President and CEO, Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
601 S.W. Eighth Ave., Miami 33131
• Degree in finance
Jacko won the city of Racine, Wisconsin’s golf tournament at age 13, and earned a college scholarship as a high-school debate champion. Debate skills learned as a student help her every day.
The traits and attributes Virginia A. Jacko taps to be an influencer are somewhat different from those others may tap. But, she’s quick to add, not by much. Though her own blindness occurred late in life, she relies on traits common to many sighted people: the ability to think on her feet, speak well and be engaged.
“A blind person can do anything a sighted person does, only a little differently,” she says. “An influential businesswoman is a person who has built a career based on hard work and relationships. Eighty percent of the people do 20 percent of the work. You have to be willing to be part of the 20 percent of the people.”
Her 2010 book, “The Blind Visionary,” discusses four takeaways any executive can pursue for success. Based on the acronym RANK, they are: reach out aggressively, act on opportunities, never let fear win and keep things in perspective. Seeing her own attributes help Jacko, who arrived at the organization as an administrative assistant to the CFO. She later was named CEO after a national search.
When she first joined Miami Lighthouse, it was serving fewer than 500 people. Today, it serves more than 15,000. When she was interim CEO in 2005, it had $2 million in revenue. Today, it has $10 million.
“The biggest assets I have are the ability to think on my feet and a lot of self-confidence,” says Jacko, who also serves as president of Miami Lighthouse subsidiary Heiken Children’s Vision Program LLC, an initiative she helped launch to provides free eye care to underserved children statewide. The organization also is launching a pre-kindergarten for blind children. “People give themselves a disability when they don’t have a disability because they don’t believe in their potential. So when you have a true disability, you have to dig deep inside and work around it.”
CEO, Ygrene Works Program
3390 Mary St., Suite 124, Miami 33133
• B.S. in chemical engineering, University of Washington
• B.A., Harvard Business School
• Founder and fellow, UC Berkeley Center for Entrepreneurship & Tech
• VP/GM, Siebel Systems
• Senior VP of marketing, Parametric Technology Corp.
• Founder and president, InPart Design
• Chemical engineer, IBM
“I support the education of 100 children in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu,” she says.
A pioneer in clean energy finance, Stacey Lawson has been instrumental in the design and adoption of the PACE model in the U.S. Prior to joining Ygrene as CEO in 2012, she ran for Congress in California, advocating for PACE as a leading environmental policy initiative. She co-founded the Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology at the UC Berkeley School of Engineering, and has held executive positions with a host of tech companies.
“Becoming an influencer starts with looking beyond personal interests, and choosing ventures that come from a heartfelt place,” says Lawson, who started in business at 25 and with $80,000 in student debt. After five months, she raised enough funding to grow the company. Two years later, she sold it for $60 million. Being an influencer can be done “at any time in your career. If your goal is to be influential, then you should be aware of how your efforts impact the broader community, and consider how to involve as many people as possible.”
With tenacity, collaboration and that commitment to service, Lawson believes in “sticking to your guns, no matter what stands in your way,” possessing the endurance to build meaningful ventures, and working toward “something that matters” deliver the potential to achieve more.
“There will be many low moments, and you will have to weather them and be the leader during all of those times for those who rely on you,” she says. “If you are working hard toward something that matters, and trying to incorporate and help as many people, then your efforts have the potential to go much further.”
Regional healthcare director for South Florida, Walgreen Co.
11650 Miramar Parkway, Suite 101, Miramar 33025
• B.S., Albany College of Pharmacy, Union University
“I wake up every morning and think to myself: How can I help my family, friends and team members make their day a great day, how can I give back and how can I help people succeed?” she says.
Georgia Lehoczky has found her path in life and work by never taking the path of least resistance, but instead striving for selflessness and serving people. “Selflessness is strength, and this empowers me to influence people to do great things by encouraging, caring and mentoring them to be strong and successful leaders,” she says.
Her passion, determination and commitment stem from, as a young child, watching as her mother and father ran their business with those same characteristics.
“I emotionally connected to whatever they were doing,” she says, “and clearly understood what my focus and purpose was in life going forward.”
In the business world, Lehoczky helped build the grassroots strategy and operations of more than 40 HIV specialized pharmacies in South Florida called the Red Ribbon Stores. The company adopted the program, which now has more than 700 of the HIV-Specialized Centers of Excellence Pharmacies.
In the community, her mission isn’t too different. Lehoczky seeks to “leverage my work to be able to help people in the community through education, mentoring and fundraising efforts,” she says. “My efforts do not feel like work; they feel like life.”
Her advice to others: “Take risks, do things that you are not ready to do and push through what you may think is impossible. Everything is possible if you set your mind to it,” says Lehoczky, whose teenage daughter recently reminded her that life is full of opportunities to make a difference. “As a young girl, I believed in this when I played sports, academically and interacting with my friends. As an adult, I practice this daily. An influential businesswoman herself is not afraid to be influenced by anyone, including her teenage daughter.”
Wendy S. Link
Managing partner, Ackerman, Link & Sartory, P.A.
777 S. Flagler Drive, Suite 800E, West Palm Beach 33401
• B.S., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
• J.D., Duke University School of Law
• Attorney, Gunster
• Various law firms in Los Angeles
Her twin sons were born early, weighing less than 2 pounds each, and continue to overcome challenges. “They inspire me every day with their perseverance and can-do attitudes,” she says.
After an already impressive legal career, Wendy S. Link and her partners founded her boutique law firm in 1996. Throughout her career, she has strived to be someone with the desire and the ability to make a difference in her own workplace, while also setting her sights on finding a way to make the community and the business environment better, healthier places to live and work.
Link sees herself as a problem-solver who’s earned a reputation for having passion and integrity. She surrounds herself with bright, talented and dedicated colleagues who complement her strengths “and fill in the gaps.”
“Our working environment is supportive, friendly and we all have a shared goal of perfection for our clients,” she says. “You have to earn the respect of your peers, and be willing to make fair decisions, no matter how difficult that may prove to be. Your integrity must be foundational in your approach to life.”
That includes the work she does with Palm Beach State College, the University System Board of Governors, and the Education Foundation, the Economic Council of Palm Beach County and chambers of commerce.
“Serving as a leader in a business community … is rewarding and so important to the future of our community,” she says. “My advice for a woman on her way up the ladder is to take advantage of the many mentors, especially other women, who are willing to lend a hand and help you achieve your goals. Develop a reputation for working hard, being the go-to person who gets things done, being forthright and being honest. Be grateful, and always thank and appreciate those who helped you along the way.”
President and CEO, Celebrity Cruises
1050 Caribbean Way, Miami 33132
• Studied accounting, Bentley College
• Spent 17 years in the sales organization for both Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International, holding progressively senior roles
Though she has no two-legged children, the huge New England Patriots fan has five dogs, two of whom are named Tom and Brady.
An influential business executive is someone others want to follow, who finds a way or makes a way, and who gets results. She’s someone who surrounds herself with a smart and winning team, and someone “whose influence, regardless of gender, is based on your track record, results, success and purpose,” Lisa Lutoff-Perlo says. “Accomplish those and you will have as much influence as you could ever want.”
Lutoff-Perlo has accomplished these feats by always being open in life – to new experiences, challenges and learning. The will to learn is so important, and she has absorbed many important lessons along the way, like being fearless, paying it forward to help others, and that all paths of life are not linear.
“I am a big believer in opening up the world in every way possible, and to people, opening up career possibilities not historically available to women,” she says. “I never gave up, no matter what happened. If I faced rejection, I carried on and created even better opportunities. If I faced assumptions or stereotypes, I challenged them.”
That “disruptor” status was clear when the executive, who believes she broke through the industry’s glass ceiling, hired another pioneer, Kate McCue, the first female American cruise ship captain. It’s an event Lutoff-Perlo called “an incredible moment in my career. She deserved it. She is highly accomplished, and I helped her realize her dreams, and she helped me further drive gender diversity in a predominately male profession,” she recalls.
Her advice to others? Don’t put limits on your dreams and aspirations.
“The only thing standing in our way to success and results is ourselves,” she says. “Dream big. You will get further, do more and challenge yourself beyond the limits you have set for yourself. Work hard and be great at what you do. Success breeds success.”
CEO, Tenet Florida Physician Services
9960 Central Park Blvd. N., Suite 400, Boca Raton 33428
• B.A. in foreign language, Adelphi University
• M.B.A. in finance, Long Island University
• CFO, Good Samaritan Medical Center, North Ridge Medical Center and West Boca Medical Center
• Director of finance, Delray Medical Center
• Regional director of finance, Coral Springs Medical Center
“I learned to tie my shoes using only my non-dominant left hand after skateboarding with my daughter and having an unfortunate encounter with the asphalt,” she says.
Business intelligence alone doesn’t make a woman influential. She also must garner the support of others by demonstrating their compassionate and caring characteristics, Cynthia McCauley says. She supports her belief with a quote from Teddy Roosevelt: “‘People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care,’” she says. “If you want to be an influential businesswoman, you must truly care about others.”
McCauley’s found her success by following sayings of her own: Don’t be afraid to fail, build a network and ask for help. It’s not about the failure, she says, it’s about how quickly you get back up on your feet. Networking is valuable, low cost and fun, she says. Asking for help should come naturally.
“No one expects you to know everything,” she says. “Keep learning and be smart enough to know when to ask for help.”
In her position, McCauley feels privileged to positively impact employees’ lives. The organization recently began a financial education program for all interested staff.
“Empowering them to take control of their finances and eliminate debt has been life-changing for many of them,” she says.
A new leadership development program encourages work-life balance.
“With debt behind them and happier, healthier personal lives, our employees have blossomed,” she says. “It is also mission-critical to encourage career growth and promote those who have the drive to climb the ladder.”
Executive VP/chief administrative officer, Vitas Healthcare
201 S. Biscayne Blvd., Suite 400, Miami 33131
• Bachelor’s degree in human resource management, University of East London
• Successive roles, Vitas Healthcare
• Associate superintendent, Broward County Schools
• VP, of human resources, FPA Medical Management
• VP of human resources, Capital Bank
“I have traveled to five of the New 7 Wonders of the World, hiked the Himalayas twice and the Inca Trail in Peru where I climbed Macchu Pichu, visited the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Great Wall of China, the Colosseum, Chichen Itza and the Taj Mahal,” she says.
If an executive can inspire positive change and transformation in others, earn the respect of peers and co-workers, gain knowledge and wisdom, and possess the courage to endure difficult situations – all while leading by example – she “has the power to become influential in business,” Kal Mistry says.
Throughout her career, she has developed tools to help employees further their growth and refine their skills. For instance, she developed the Vitas Cares management retention initiative that focuses on appreciation and recognition of employees; the Vitas Employee Success Tool, which measures performance; and employee wellness programs with tools and techniques for employees to take charge of their health.
Mistry is also involved in humanitarian projects and creating greater awareness for poverty, illiteracy and disease management.
“I have been able to leverage my knowledge and resources to help a greater cause,” says Mistry, a certified yoga instructor who teaches yoga and meditation techniques that help her students create a balanced lifestyle.
The key to her own success is rooted in one question Mistry asks herself daily: How can I make a difference in the lives of others?
“It is this question that has given me the strength to endure hardships and help me stay focused on my goal, which is to share, serve and make a difference,” she says.
Florida market tax leader, EY
5100 Town Center Circle, Suite 500, Boca Raton 33486
• B.S. in accounting, Indiana University
• Staff manager, Geo. S Olive & Co.
“I sang in a barbershop quartet and chorus for more than a decade,” she says. “I have competed at the regional and international level in both.”
Asked to define an influential businesswoman and how someone becomes one, Heather Nisbeth is uncertain about the answer. After all, she says, women are influential in many different ways. “Influential” can mean having the confidence to share your thoughts and vision, in addition to listening to the thoughts of others. And having the ability to influence decisions at a company, to Nisbeth, stems from knowing how you personally define your success, and then believing in that idea success.
Yet, some of the traits are the same. For Nisbeth, it has meant communicating effectively to clients and teams alike, and having what she calls the “teaming spirit.” She also believes that saying “yes” to new assignments and opportunities has impacted her career more than anything.
“There are many times in your career when you are asked to work on a project that you don’t believe you will learn from or will challenge you,” Nisbeth says. “What I have learned is that, with any assignment or project, you will always learn something that will make you a better professional.”
In the community, she is on the board of the United Way of Palm Beach County, and is co-chair of the Tocqueville Society.
To other aspiring female executives, Nisbeth says to never be afraid to share ideas; different perspectives will always lead to the best solutions.
“It can be challenging to offer solutions or ideas that are different from the group, so it is important to remember that your perspectives are important and should be heard,” she says. “Your ideas may or may not be part of the final solution, but they certainly will have allowed the group to validate or change the overall solution. Either way, you contributed to the best solution.”
VP of financial services/CFO, FirstService Residential
2950 N. 28th Terrace, Hollywood 33020
• Bachelor’s degree in accounting, Florida International University
• M.Acc., Florida International University
• Associate VP, adjunct professor, Florida International University and Miami-Dade Community College
• CFO, Seabourn Cruise Lines
• VP/Controller, Carnival Cruise Lines
• Controller, Renex Corp.
• Various positions, PriceWaterhouse Coopers
“Thirteen years ago, when my son was born, I stopped running races,” she says. “In 2014, I decided to take it up again and train for half-marathons and 5K/10K races. It’s never too late.”
Lourdes M. Pineda-Garcia has a simple measure for how someone becomes an influential businesswoman: Do your best. Be passionate. Have the courage to “ask the difficult question: ‘What can I do to make it better?’” she says. “Then execute and follow through with discipline.”
With passion, resilience and the guidance of mentorship, she has discovered attributes that helped her achieve her own success, and help others achieve it in kind. Resilience is the strength to bounce back after a setback, quite possibly stronger than ever.
“The status quo is unsustainable in business and life,” she says. “Any turn or obstacle leads to an opportunity for growth. Additionally, it creates muscle memory for professional and personal development.”
In mentorship, Pineda-Garcia sees a “two-way street” that has helped her and others learn together, grow and become more effective leaders and team players.
“The success of my mentors and those I can share the experience with of coaching and driving them to greater achievements fuels my desire to improve all that needs to be accomplished in any role,” she says.
Her advice to others harkens back to her resilience: “Mistakes will happen,” she says. “Regroup, strategize, create an action plan and find the opportunities. You’ll be on the right track to getting things done.”
Director, Miami International Boat Show
9050 Pines Blvd., Suite 305, Pembroke Pines 33024
• B.S., Montana State University
• Successive roles from receptionist to show manager to current post, National Marine Manufacturers Association
Raised in Hardin, Montana, and proficient in sign language, Rick-Joule intended to become a teacher for deaf children and adults. Instead, she moved to New York City, landed a job with her current employer, and her career set sail.
Who would have imagined that a girl from rural Montana would one day run one of the world’s largest boat shows? Cathy Rick-Joule finds herself in that post, but looking back, it’s little surprise. Along her course, she has stayed true to her roots, and always strived to learn more and help those around her. This has made her successful.
“An influential businesswoman is someone who enjoys and excels at watching those around her grow,” she says. “My dad raised my sister and me to believe there are no boundaries. He taught us to be individuals and not feel held back or boxed in in any way because we were girls. He taught us to be soft-spoken, but also straightforward. His support early on helped make me the professional I am today.”
With kindness – not to be confused with weakness – and a desire to keep learning, Rick-Joule has developed an approachable and open style that has opened doors in kind.
“I have been very lucky to have worked with several leaders at the NMMA who have wanted to help me thrive,” she says. “Their mentorship, coupled with my desire to learn, was the perfect recipe for success.”
As the Miami International Boat Show took to a new location at the Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin, she and her team overcame obstacles, complex logistics and “a huge risk” on a tight schedule.
“In the end, the show was a resounding success at its new home, with increased attendance and sales for exhibitors,” she says. “A true learning experience” behind her, Rick-Joule is focused on 2017, and exceeding its annual economic impact of $597 million.
Traci H. Rollins
Regional managing partner, Squire Patton Boggs LLP
777 S. Flagler Drive, Suite 1900 W, West Palm Beach 33401
• B.S., University of Michigan
• J.D., University of Pittsburgh
• Squire Sanders
• Steel Hector & Davis LLP
“When we traced my family history, I discovered that I am the descendant of the personal physician to Queen Isabella, who disguised himself as a woman to sneak out of Spain during the start of the Inquisition,” she says.
Asked to describe an influential businesswoman, Traci H. Rollins offers a quote from Miami native and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg: “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.”
“In business, a woman needs to seek out and take advantage of every opportunity that comes her way and step outside of her comfort zone,” Rollins says. “You have to set the tone by performing at your highest, and letting your actions and work product speak for themselves. No one reaches their goal by sitting on the sidelines.”
With empathy, listening skills and attention to detail, Rollins finds the attributes essential to meet the needs of her clients and build key relationships.
“Once you’ve figured out the right balance between them,” she says, “then you’ll start building relationships with clients and seeing repeat business come in.”
It’s been six years since Rollins was elected to her firm’s global board of directors, while maintaining an active law practice and raising her twin boys. She also serves as president-elect – the first woman to be elected president – of the Palm Beach County chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, bringing awareness to a disease that has affected her family.
For her, it’s been an example of how she has been able to “lean in,” as Sandberg wrote, to enjoy both her career and personal life.
“Not only was [being named to the firm’s board] an extremely fulfilling opportunity,” she says, “but I showed myself and, I’d like to think, other women professionals, that, while you can’t have it all, you can come darn close.”
VP/chief nursing officer, Holy Cross Hospital
4725 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale 33308
• M.S.N., Florida Atlantic University
“I was captain of the volleyball team at J.P. Taravella High School in Coral Springs and earned a volleyball scholarship to Broward College,” she says.
With perseverance, honesty, open communications, recognition of the contributions of others and a willingness to try new ideas without fear of risk, Taren Ruggiero has personified the influential businesswoman.
Listening and communicating allow her to expand her perspective and vision, while fostering the respect of those around her. As for taking risks, “a willingness to stretch and challenge myself has helped me get where I am today,” she says.
Yet, it is by encouraging and recognizing the work of her team that reminds Ruggiero that she does not travel her path alone.
“I am most proud of my team. We have open, crucial conversations,” she says. “We constantly operate from a place of trust and see the best in each other.”
She leads the nursing corps at a facility that is the first and only American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet Hospital in Broward County. Currently seeking its fourth redesignation, the accomplishment has communitywide implications, she says.
“Our community can trust that they will receive excellent nursing care at Holy Cross,” Ruggiero says, knowing her – and her teams’ – skills made it happen.
Michele L. Stocker
Co-chair, Consumer Financial Services Litigation, Greenberg Traurig, P.A.
401 E. Las Olas Blvd., Suite 2000, Fort Lauderdale 33301
• A.B. in politics, Princeton University
• J.D., Columbia University School of Law
“When I was in college, I followed the Grateful Dead and have been to over 100 Dead concerts,” she says. “I gave up my tie-dye shirts for business suits.”
Michele L. Stocker lives her life and career asking an essential question: What impact can she have on the lives and careers of others? She realizes that through her position, she can touch the lives of others, whether by serving as a mentor or leading a team. She has the power or authority to effect change, and inspire others to take risks, speak up, find mentors and build one’s network.
Stocker has found success, in part, through her “5 P’s: proper preparation prevents poor performance,” she says. Such organization, a focus on excellence, and projecting yourself as a self-confident problem solver, will encourage trust from others.
“People will view you as you portray yourself. If you project confidence, people will be more likely to have that same confidence in your abilities,” she says. “My parents taught me that if you aren’t the smartest, be the one who tries the hardest. When clients seek my advice, they are looking for guidance and answers to their problems and by keeping that simple goal in mind, I have been able to forge great client relationships.”
Those relationships and her success leave Stocker mindful of her accomplishments. “I am very proud that, as an African-American female attorney, all of my achievements – from my shareholder elevation to leading a global practice – serve to break barriers and create opportunities for other women of color in the profession,” she says.
“Growing up, my parents, and my father in particular, stressed the importance of getting a good education,” says Stocker, who has been recognized by the Crockett Foundation for advocating literacy for low-income children in Broward County. “In order to reach the top, you need to be passionate about what you do.”