Community champions: We salute 10 women who are going above and beyond — and ask: Why aren’t they on your board?

Recognition comes in a lot of ways — and in a lot of places. Sometimes, it’s when you’re simply shopping in your community.

That’s the way it works for Dr. Suffiyah Webb, a pediatric dentist in Newark who almost single-handedly has brought dental care — and improved overall wellness — to the children and families in the neighborhood around her office on Halsey Street.

“I live just a few blocks from my office,” she said. “So, a lot of times when I’m out shopping, people will come up to me and say, ‘Hey, Dr. Webb, it is so great to see you.’”

The reasons are many. In addition to providing pediatric dentistry, Webb is helping families understand the connection from dental health to overall health. How oral issues can affect your ability to sleep, eat, concentrate — or, worse, how they could be connected to deeper medical issues.

“Although I’m a dentist there to treat their teeth, I’m also there to educate them about total body wellness,” she said. “What I’ve found is that I’m really here as a community staple.”

Her “community” is bigger than you might think. 

Webb takes advantage of her time with children to help diagnose issues with their parents, too — and her manner is such that patients from her first job, which was in South Jersey, will make the trip to Newark so they can continue to see her.

These are just some of the reasons why ROI-NJ is grateful to honor Webb in our 2023 ROI Influencers: Women in Business list.

As you flip through the pages (and the slideshows online), you’ll see hundreds of women deserving of recognition for their work in the business world.

Webb is one of the many whose efforts impact and influence her community in a way that is far deeper than just the bottom line. It’s these women who we are glad to be able to recognize just a little bit more in what we’re calling our community champions.

Women such as:

  • Abby Ayoub, the founder of Optical Academy, which has a business model that ensures all children who need glasses, get glasses;
  • Tara Colton at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, who runs programs whose singular goal is find ways to ensure everyone has enough to eat;
  • Jackie Cornell, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey, who is fighting to ensure women have access to basic health care;
  • Andrea Garcia, who works tirelessly as a volunteer to ensure that those in the LGBTQ+ community are recognized for their efforts in the business community;
  • Lisa Kaplowitz, a top professor who co-founded and heads the Rutgers Center for Women in Business, which is creating the next generation of leaders;
  • Shennell McCloud, the CEO of Project Ready and a social activist who is helping to empower those in underserved communities by encouraging them to vote — and run for office;
  • Michele Meyer-Shipp, the CEO of Dress for Success Worldwide, who left her high-level executive jobs at Fortune 500 companies to work for an impactful nonprofit that has a goal of empowering women looking to enter the workforce;
  • Toni Pergolin, the CEO of Bancroft, an organization whose services include extensive programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, autism and those in need of neurological rehabilitation;
  • And Rana Shanawani, who not only runs the Women’s Center for Entrepreneurship, she has co-founded Refugee Outreach International, a nonprofit that helps refugees resettle in their new countries.

We started our women’s Influencers list at ROI-NJ for two reasons:

  • To recognize a segment of the business community that too often has been overlooked;
  • To prove to the leaders that be that there are so many women who are deserving to be in your C-suite and on your boards.

Here’s the thing: The 10 women above are just part of a much larger group that we are recognizing this year.

Then, there’s this: We’re confident that there is a list of women exponentially larger than who we are recognizing today that are equally deserving.

Yes, recognition comes in many ways. It’s time for more people to recognize not only that the future is female, but the future is now.