EWNJ honors 32 influential women at annual gala

Susan Chapman-Hughes said she dares to be the person to do things differently.

“When there is an open position on my team, I am committed to making sure women and diverse candidates are considered,” she said. “It is so important that we don’t buy into the myth that there is a lack of qualified candidates — I mean, just look at this room.”

Chapman-Hughes, senior vice president of global digital capabilities, transformation and operations in the global commercial services division at American Express, delivered her keynote at the Executive Women of New Jersey’s biennial “Salute to the Policy Makers” gala held Wednesday at The Palace at Somerset Park in Somerset.

“We need to ensure that our girls and young women can be successful in life, no matter what path they choose, and programs like this make that possible,” she said. “So, before you leave here tonight, you should have the name and contact information for all of these fabulous women, especially all the men in the room who are board chairs looking for their next board member.”

Committed to increasing the presence of women on corporate boards and in the top leadership of New Jersey companies, EWNJ, a statewide senior-level executive women’s organization, recognized 32 of New Jersey’s most influential women leaders in business, government and academia.

“It is undeniable that there is an abundance of talented and highly capable women leaders, yet women continue to be severely underrepresented on boards and in the senior leadership of public companies,” Michellene Davis, president of EWNJ and executive vice president and chief corporate affairs officer for RWJBarnabas Health, said. “Tonight’s event is reflective of the fact that we want to keep ensuring that individuals have a good opportunity to see the wealth of talent and growth within executive women’s leadership across the state of New Jersey and across every silo.”

Davis, who recently joined Gov. Phil Murphy at his signing of the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act, said the time is now.

“We have just begun to make certain that we really are applying a laser eye to ensuring equity, not just for an instant, but for the long run,” she said. “Being at the table is nice; having a voice that is listened to is nicer; and getting paid equitably is best.”

Barbara E. Kauffman, gala chair and president-elect of EWNJ and executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Newark Regional Business Partnership, said that is exactly the kind of sentiment young women in the workforce need to hear.

“The proceeds from tonight’s event, which go toward our Graduate Merit Award Program, allow us to help women with nontraditional paths and barriers to overcome to move up in their careers,” Kauffman said. “Tonight’s dinner is symbolic of the fact that as our scholarship makes a difference for women advancing in their careers, we also are honoring the women who already have achieved that desired level of success and can serve as inspirations to others.”

Salute to the Policy Makers honorees

  • Nicole Alexander, McElroy Deutsch Mulvaney & Carpenter
  • Paulette Brown, Locke Lord
  • Sarah Clarke, DEVCO
  • Lori Colineri, RWJBarnabas Health
  • Melinda Colón Cox, Parker Ibrahim & Berg
  • Kelly Strange Crawford, Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti
  • Catherine Doherty, Quest Diagnostics
  • Carolyn Dolci, EisnerAmper
  • Kathleen Fennell, Delta Dental
  • Mary Grace Finn, Wells Fargo
  • Mary Clare Garber, Princeton Legal Search Group
  • Elizabeth Garner, Agile Therapeutics
  • Bonnie Geissler, Clara Maass Medical Center-RWJBarnabas Health
  • Phoebe Haddon, Rutgers University-Camden
  • Lisa Hetfield, Institute for Women’s Leadership at Rutgers University
  • Ann Kappler, Prudential Financial
  • Amanda Mullan, New Jersey Resources
  • Tammy Snyder Murphy, First Lady of New Jersey
  • Valerie Murray, Beacon Trust Company-Provident Bank
  • Melissa Naple, Deloitte
  • Jessica Ortiz, MoloLamken
  • Grace Park, PSEG
  • Judith Reich, Drinker Biddle & Reath
  • Leah Sandbank, McManimon, Scotland & Baumann
  • Stephanie Schwartz, Chilton Medical Center-Atlantic Health System
  • Judith Ann Sheft, NJ Innovation Institute at NJIT
  • Michele Siekerka, New Jersey Business and Industry Association
  • Deanna Sperling, Barnabas Behavioral Health Center-RWJBarnabas Health
  • Eileen Urban, RWJBarnabas Health
  • Camelia Valdes, County of Passaic
  • Penelope Vance, PNC Wealth Management
  • Deirdre Wheatley-Liss, Porzio Bromberg & Newman

EWNJ also named two companies, Prudential Financial, a financial services leader in Newark, and South Jersey Industries, an energy services company in Folsom, to its Business Honor Roll on Wednesday.

The Business Honor Roll identifies firms that acknowledge systemic barriers to gender diversity and have made women’s development a priority through sponsorship and mentoring, goal setting, and hiring initiatives.