During MBJ’s annual Super Women in Business, each honoree receives a cape. It seems appropriate, given their respective accomplishments.
Consider the superpowers of women in different universes. To a certain extent, they are agile. They are strong and flexible. Their speed and endurance are well-known. The Super Women in Business Program, now in its eleventh year, recognizes the most innovative, talented and influential women in the region.
After nominations from the public, MBJ's editorial board selected the Super Women in Business. Independent Bank is the sponsor of the Super Women in Business Awards for 2023. Super Women in Business Awards were presented at a ceremony at Memphis Botanic Gardens on April 20. - Susan Ellis
Shelby County Commissioner, President and CEO of Women's Foundation for a Greater Memphis
Her career is a shining example of leadership. She was the first woman to be appointed as the program director of Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis. In 2022 she was the first woman to be elected Shelby County commissioner for the newly created District 5 of Cordova. She served as a member of the Memphis-Shelby County Schools Board before that.
She is now changing lives as the president and CEO of Women's Foundation for a Greater Memphis. Her programs are geared towards the economic security for women and their families.
She uses her leadership every day to improve the economic security for thousands of women in the greater Memphis region. Her Super Women nominee wrote that it's a testament to her dedication to the betterment for women and children.
Avant claimed that her greatest strength is her honesty.
She said, "Being true to me and God's plan for my life helped me achieve things that I never dreamed possible." I can only be my best self. Women who are authentically themselves are limitless and have endless possibilities.
What superpowers could someone who is entering your field today benefit from? Attunement, authenticity. My job is to create relationships. These relationships allow me to raise money and create policies that support our community's needs. I need to connect with people and listen to their concerns and interests. I also have the responsibility of protecting the trust that they place in me.
What is your greatest mentor? Ruby Bright, the former president of Women's Foundation for a Greater Memphis. She taught me to include every disappointment and failure in my learning tree.
A modern-day 'woman of Steel' is...? Resilient and unapologetic. Flexible, caring, and ambition.
VP, Integration, Smith & Nephew
She was hired as a salesperson by Hibbett Sports. She has made major progress in her career since then. Today, she is the VP of Integration for Smith & Nephew.
Brown-Woods is also the leader of Smith & Nephew’s Global UNITY Employee Inclusion group. This group focuses on ensuring that diverse talent in the company is included.
Brown-Woods' busy schedule doesn't stop her from being involved in the community. She has served on the Leadership Memphis board for five years and is also active with Habitat for Humanity and Dress for Success.
What glass ceiling are you still trying to overcome? I think I've made great progress in breaking through. But I want to continue to dispel the perceptions which are limiting other women and minorities' access to senior roles. I will do this by showing what is possible with strong relationships and an commitment to learning agility.
What superpowers do you think a Super Woman would need to overcome this glass ceiling and break the barrier? Telepathy, the ability to switch lives temporarily and experience life through someone else's eyes or emotions. These powers could help to build empathy and understanding and increase awareness of the need for a fair process and policy that would impact access and breakthrough.
What superpower is most useful for someone who wants to enter your field today? You need to be able to read people and have the ability of influence.
What are your greatest mentors? My mother and grandmothers are proof that anything is possible when you have faith and tenacity. Many women have inspired me, but I measure my success by whether I can make these three women happy and continue the legacy they started.
Dr. Kathleen Forbes
EVP, MLH Academic Group, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare
Dr. Kathleen Forbes is a Cleveland Ohio native who has made an impact in Memphis during the past five years.
She founded and ran a primary-care practice after graduating from medical school. Forbes began a career that has lasted more than 20 years as a physician's executive. She held a number of high-level positions at medical systems located in Ohio, Illinois New York and Texas.
She is now the EVP for Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare (MLH), an academic group. She is responsible for Methodist University Hospital, Le Bonheur Children's Hospital as well as MLH's physician enterprise, service line, institutes and affiliated services.
She is the MLH incident commander. This became more difficult to do during the pandemic. Forbes, among other things developed and implemented an telehealth plan. Her Super Women nominee said that COVID's response involved a seven-day week to cover everything from visitor policies and elective surgery to the oversight of PPE inventory.
Forbes is also a member of the board of Church Health, Methodist Medical Group and Methodist Alliance.
What is your greatest mentor? My maternal grandmother. She taught me how to deal with people and had a passion in health care, because she worked in that industry. She showed me how to overcome major challenges and adversity.
What superpowers do you think a woman would need to have to be considered a "woman of steel"? Resilience, authenticity, encouraging, being a mentor, developing others, patience and an innovative spirit.
Senior policy advisor for Mayor Lee Harris of the Shelby County Mayor's Office
She is a senior advisor for Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris. She has improved the lives of thousands in her brief time as mayor.
Her feats of strength include: helping to achieve a vaccination rate of 70% among Shelby County's inmates; creating a gunlock-by-mail program that was the first of its kind; and ensuring county government employees were paid a living wage.
She is also a member of a number of local boards including Girls Inc., the Humane Society of Memphis & Shelby County and others. She was previously president of the Democratic Women of Shelby County, and a member of the Tennessee Higher Education Institute for Prisons.
What are your greatest mentors? I was fortunate to have many seasoned lawyers and judges help me in the early stages of my career. Over time, I also had colleagues who shared their wisdom with me, and bosses that gave me opportunities to improve and provided insights. When I need help, I can call on many people.
What were your childhood idols? True story: For Halloween, I dressed up as Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Her achievements were so impressive. As I grew older, I also felt the same admiration towards Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Both of them influenced my decision to become an attorney. Dolly Parton was also a Tennessee girl who I admired from an early age. I am still in awe of her generosity, whether it's through the Imagination Library or donating money to COVID vaccines research.
What is the modern-day equivalent of a 'woman made of steel'? Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, and the former First Lady Michelle Obama are both examples of class when under pressure. Both are extremely accomplished in their careers, but they haven't lost sight of the importance of giving back to the community.
BLP Film Studios, Partner and Chief Financial Officer
She was the oldest sister of three siblings, living in Clarksdale with a family that earned $6,000 a year. But she didn't let her circumstances determine her destiny.
She graduated with an associate degree from Coahoma community college, becoming the first member of her family to do so. She also earned a B.S. She earned a B.S. in Accounting at Christian Brothers University.
Henry held senior financial roles with ServiceMaster, FedEx and now BLP Film Studios. The studio is aiming to build the second largest Black-owned movie studio in the U.S.
She is also a part of the CBU School of Business Advisory Board, which aims to increase awareness of the school and the opportunities that it offers.
What superpowers are most important for someone who is entering your field today? Strength in people skills, agility, and integrity. She must possess drive, initiative and the ability to increase efficiency through automation. She must be able to understand the importance of finance and how it affects the bottom line of the company.
What is a modern-day 'woman of Steel'? Women who are able to support their family, peers, and friends and yet know and understand their worth.
What superpowers must one possess in order to be your definition of a "woman of steel"? I define a woman of Steel as someone who is always looking for opportunities to offer guidance and support to the downtrodden. She should have the ability to be a good listener, a mentor and able to offer reassurance when necessary. She should be unshakeable and believe in her own abilities and self-confidence. She should also be open and thankful for the opportunities that have been provided.