The 2018 Women Power 100
The 2018 Women Power 100
New York City Public Advocate Letitia James made history by becoming the first woman elected state attorney general and the first black woman to win statewide office in New York. State Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins is set to become the first woman to lead a majority conference in the state Legislature when the new class of lawmakers takes office in January. And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez just became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
These groundbreaking politicians didn’t do it alone. They are among the headliners of an impressive onslaught of women who shook up this year’s elections. Many of them simply became more engaged in the political process. Many others actively volunteered on campaigns. And a record number of women nationwide jumped into the fray as candidates.
Here in New York, a net of five additional women were elected to the state Senate – although the state’s congressional delegation ended up with slightly fewer seats held by women.
Of course, countless women have been political players in New York for decades. But the remarkable rise of women in the political sphere, driven in part as a reaction to President Donald Trump, makes it an appropriate time to introduce our first Women Power 100 list.
With this list, we recognize 100 women who are key figures in the world of New York politics and government.
We partnered on this project with Jennifer Solomon, a communications professional. Solomon reached out to insiders and experts and worked with City & State to identify the real movers and shakers while ranking each person based on their accomplishments, sway in political and policy matters, economic clout, philanthropic efforts, ties to powerful politicians and the constituencies they represent.
Without further ado, we’re pleased to present the Women Power 100.
When she won one of New York’s most conservative House districts in 2006, Kirsten Gillibrand was immediately marked as a rising star. Within months of winning re-election to Congress in 2008, then-Gov. David Paterson appointed her as the state’s junior U.S. senator, replacing Hillary Clinton, who was named secretary of state.
Gillibrand has since risen to be a powerful counterpart for U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and an outspoken voice on women’s issues, including reproductive rights, health care and ending sexual assault in the military. She was a lead sponsor of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, a law providing health monitoring and financial aid to the first responders, volunteers and survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. She was also instrumental in the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and authored a portion of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, which extended limitations on insider trading by members of Congress. While her stances have not always been in line with the progressive movement, her current voting record paints her as an ideal Democratic candidate, and one possibly poised to seek higher office.
As the first African-American woman elected to statewide office in New York, Letitia James is poised to make waves defending the state’s liberal legacy. From immigrant family separations to rollbacks on climate change policy, Attorney General-elect James will be a force pushing back against President Donald Trump through legal challenges. The office she’s inheriting has already sued Trump’s foundation and could play a key role in investigating his business activities.
James’ record as a progressive New York City councilwoman and public advocate demonstrate her ability to fight uphill battles. She has gone toe-to-toe with the likes of then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg and developer Bruce Ratner, has sued New York City and the state over the city’s foster care system, and has been an advocate for public housing residents and students with disabilities. The challenges she has taken on have elevated her, and as attorney general she’ll be a force to be reckoned with. Although her alliance with Gov. Andrew Cuomo during the 2018 campaign raised questions about her independence, she’ll also have a powerful ally as she takes aim at Washington.
State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins was first elected to the state Senate in 2006, representing New York’s 35th District, which includes areas of White Plains, New Rochelle and Yonkers. In 2012, when she was elected to serve as leader of the Senate Democratic conference, she became the state’s first female leader of a legislative conference. When new members of the Senate are sworn in next year, she is expected to become the first female leader of a majority conference in state history.
Stewart-Cousins is known for her competent and collaborative leadership style, and has helped the conference get past the chaotic period that defined their prior stint in the majority in 2009 and 2010. As a suburban lawmaker, she also reflects the party’s desire not to be seen as solely representing New York City’s interests. Her relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo was strained when she held off on an endorsement during his primary against challenger Cynthia Nixon, due to her exclusion from budget negotiations. They patched up any differences when Cuomo and Stewart-Cousins brought the Independent Democratic Conference back into the mainline fold.
Melissa DeRosa’s fast rise and growing influence in the state Capitol makes her a key player in the state. The top woman on City & State’s 2018 Albany Power 100 list, and only one of two in the top 10, DeRosa is the first woman and the youngest person to hold the title of secretary to the governor, a role in which she is perhaps Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s most trusted adviser.
DeRosa cut her teeth interning for the state AFL-CIO and then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton’s political action committee. She has also worked as the New York state director of then-President Barack Obama’s political organization and the deputy chief of staff to the state attorney general. Since she began working with the Cuomo administration, she has been credited with negotiating the MTA multiyear capital plan and steering multiple initiatives through the state Legislature, including a $15 minimum wage, a statewide paid family leave program and a college affordability plan. Now, with another election win under her belt, she’ll play a significant role in developing and passing the 2019 budget as well as delivering on the governor’s infrastructure plans.
New York City Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen has long been a part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s inner circle. Her role includes investing in emerging industries, building affordable housing and helping New York families work, live and thrive within the five boroughs. She oversees more than 20 city agencies and is credited with undertaking the most comprehensive affordable housing program in the nation’s history – in addition to launching a new city ferry service. Before joining the de Blasio administration in 2014, she spent 12 years at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., where she led the bank’s investments in social impact projects like Citi Bike, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the Kings Theatre in Flatbush, Brooklyn.
She also leads the nationally recognized New York City Tech Talent Pipeline and the Women Entrepreneurs NYC initiatives, focusing on underserved New Yorkers and women. She has most recently taken the spotlight for creating New York City’s first online portal designed especially for women. Women.nyc is a gateway to all of New York City’s resources for women, with a focus on helping women advance their careers, start businesses and finish their education.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shook the Democratic establishment when she unseated Rep. Joe Crowley, one of the party’s most powerful figures, in the June primary. Her background as a working-class waitress and affiliation as a democratic socialist put her on the leading edge of the “blue wave” this year, with underdog progressive candidates across the country looking to emulate her success.
The 29-year-old is an avid admirer of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and similarly campaigned on plans for “Medicare for all,” housing as a federal right and tuition-free public college. Her new role as a junior member of the House of Representatives may not yet hold a lot of weight, but between her proven ability to mobilize the left wing, and her appeal to millennial voters, she’s sure to find her way to center stage sooner rather than later. Decidedly progressive and thoughtfully rebellious, Ocasio-Cortez is the poster child of the next generation of the Democratic Party, and may pose a major challenge to any holdouts in favor of the status quo.
MaryEllen Elia, the state education commissioner, and Betty Rosa, the chancellor of the state Board of Regents, are the state’s most important policymakers for educators, parents and anyone with a stake in New York’s educational system. Elia oversees more than 700 school districts and 3.2 million students as well as the state offices on higher education, adult and cultural education, and professional licensing. Meanwhile, Rosa leads the Board of Regents and takes the lead in determining educational policies and establishing the rules for carrying out state law relating to education.
The two regularly pair up to address issues like certification requirements, teacher evaluations and the opt-out movement. Under their leadership, the state Education Department has enhanced efforts to better support students in foster care, improve mental health support in schools and increase opportunities for career and technical education teachers as well as teachers of students with disabilities. In 2019, the conversation around the state’s teacher evaluation system is bound to be a hot topic (again), while school security, segregation in New York City schools and education funding remain important matters on their agenda.
Serving in Congress since 1989, Rep. Nita Lowey is the most senior woman in New York state’s congressional delegation (and she is tied with Rep. Eliot Engel for the status of the state’s most senior representative overall). Lowey was also the first woman and the first New Yorker to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as well as the first woman to lead either party on the House Appropriations Committee. With Democrats winning enough seats to retake the House this month, Lowey is now poised to be the first woman to chair the Appropriations Committee, which deals with discretionary spending.
From her post on the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, she has been a constant champion for the U.S.-Israel relationship, women empowerment and education around the world. Even with President Donald Trump in the White House and Republicans maintaining control of the U.S. Senate, in her new role Lowey could wield her influence over spending to fight for the Democrats’ policy agenda in Washington and to aid her constituents in Rockland and Westchester counties.
Suri Kasirer is the founder and president of Kasirer, the top lobbying firm in both New York City and New York state by revenue. The firm has been involved in some of the highest visibility projects in the state, including modernizing the MTA’s MetroCard system, upgrading the Delta terminals at JFK and LaGuardia airports, and bringing Brooklyn’s beloved Smorgasburg event to Manhattan. Corporate clients include the likes of Target, NBCUniversal and Northwell Health. The firm has solid relationships with a range of influential officials, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
Before landing in lobbying, Kasirer worked as a teacher, a political operative and an aide to then-Gov. Mario Cuomo. One of only four women to appear on both our New York City and Albany power lists, she also serves on the board of directors of the New York League of Conservation Voters, Citymeals on Wheels, the Women’s Leadership Forum and the New York Building Foundation, plus she is a member of the steering committee for the Association for a Better New York.
As the premier voice for the New York City business community, Kathryn Wylde is a regular in “the room where it happens,” whether that room is in New York City or Albany. Prior to her role as president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, Wylde was the founding CEO of the organization’s housing and investment fund affiliates, spending nearly two decades overseeing its affordable housing and economic development programs across the five boroughs. She also led an effort to expand New York City’s role within the growing innovation economy and worked to create a network of like-minded business leaders and investors committed to supporting entrepreneurship in the city.
A longtime champion of congestion pricing and infrastructure improvements, Wylde was recently appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to chair the MTA Sustainability Advisory Workgroup. In that role, she is leading the charge to create a comprehensive plan to improve New York City Transit, achieve stronger goals in terms of revenue generation and traffic reduction, and gain support for such reforms.
As gatekeeper to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Emma Wolfe is a key behind-the-scenes figure in the city’s political landscape. She has been embedded in city politics since 2000, when her professor, then-City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, set her on a path of community organizing, leading to jobs with 1199SEIU, the Working Families Party and the state Senate. In 2009, she helped elect an underdog candidate to public advocate, where she grew to become de Blasio’s most trusted adviser.
As president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten is as much a national figure as a local one. It’s her New York roots and political savvy that make her a player in state politics. From teaching history in Brooklyn, to advising Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to serving as president of the United Federation of Teachers, which now represents more than 200,000 educators in New York City’s public schools, Weingarten has been a champion for educator-led school reform at every level of government.
Representing New York’s 12th Congressional District, which consists of Manhattan’s East Side as well as areas of Brooklyn and Queens, Rep. Carolyn Maloney is a tenacious fighter for New York City. She has gained newsworthy notches in her legislative belt by authoring the legislation safeguarding the health care of 9/11 first responders, funding law enforcement efforts to process DNA rape kits and protecting credit card users. And this year, the longtime incumbent fended off a strong primary challenge from Suraj Patel.
Cathy Calhoun was named director of state operations a year ago, a critical position in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s inner circle. While she has a lower profile than Howard Glaser, who held the post during Cuomo’s first term, Calhoun is charged with leading the governor’s $100 billion, five-year infrastructure plan. With a stint running the state Transportation Department and ties to state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, former U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Gov. David Paterson, Calhoun is connected to decision-makers at all levels.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul has been known to traverse the state on a weekly, and sometimes daily, basis, with press conferences on Long Island in the morning and evening events in her home city of Buffalo by nightfall. In her travels, she touts the governor’s agenda, presses state representatives for support and advocates for underserved communities. She has been fighting for women on issues like equal pay for equal work, banning salary history inquiries in job interviews and supporting women-owned businesses.
The November election was not favorable to New York Republicans, but the outcome could make state Sen. Catharine Young the state’s most influential Republican. If Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan steps aside in the wake of losing the majority, Young could succeed him as minority leader. She has chaired the Senate Finance Committee, which is directly involved in passing the state budget, and is the first woman in that role. Young has the reputation of someone who can get things done.
As New York’s chief judge, Janet DiFiore not only decides cases on the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, but she oversees the entire court system and its $2.3 billion budget. After her 2016 confirmation, DiFiore launched the Excellence Initiative, aimed at evaluating and improving court operations, with a focus on reducing case backlogs throughout the overburdened system. DiFiore, who served for nearly 10 years as Westchester County’s district attorney, also established the nation’s first opioid intervention court.
Though her work as chancellor of SUNY, the nation’s largest public higher education system, Kristina Johnson oversees services that affect more than 1.3 million students and 90,000 faculty and staff each year. In addition to prior leadership roles at Johns Hopkins University and Duke University, Johnson served as undersecretary of energy at the U.S. Department of Energy and co-founded Cube Hydro Partners, a hydroelectric infrastructure company. In 2008, she received the highest award in engineering: the John Fritz Medal.
IBM has been an important employer in New York for decades, and holds the title of the state’s biggest tech employer with 20,000 employees. As the first woman to lead the $170 billion company, Virginia “Ginni” Rometty has risen through the ranks over nearly 40 years with IBM, moving from accomplishment to accomplishment, having most recently been credited with IBM’s pivot from hardware into cloud computing and analytics – including the commercial use of Watson, the “Jeopardy”-winning computer.
The New York City Department of Transportation oversees roads, bridges, traffic, parking, passenger ferry service as well as bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Commissioner Polly Trottenberg oversees 5,000 employees while carrying out a $14.5 billion, 10-year capital plan. Appointed in 2014, her priorities have included the Vision Zero traffic safety initiative, street and bridge rehabilitation, bus system performance and expanding the city’s cycling network. She’ll be a key player in the rollout of congestion pricing, should it pass in Albany.
Land use in Manhattan is a contentious subject, and yet, as Manhattan borough president, Gale Brewer has often successfully navigated the line between business, residential and cultural interests. Her accomplishments include legislation to reform the deed restriction process, add caregivers to the city’s anti-discrimination law and enforce requirements for street numbers to clearly appear on buildings in Manhattan (to aid emergency workers). She has also spearheaded community planning initiatives at the South Street Seaport and in East Midtown.
Elected in 1992, Rep. Nydia Velázquez now represents the 7th Congressional District, which spans Manhattan’s Lower East Side and parts of Queens and Brooklyn. She was the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the House, and the first Latina to be the chairwoman of a full congressional committee. Today, as the top Democrat on the House Small Business Committee, and a senior member of the Financial Services Committee, she has been a voice for economic opportunity and entrepreneurship.
Having cut her teeth as an assemblywoman, Rep. Grace Meng became the first Asian-American member of Congress from New York when she was elected in 2012. Despite her lack of seniority, she is the senior whip and regional whip for New York and was also elected a vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. She serves on two House Appropriations Committee subcommittees. She is a founding member of the Quiet Skies Caucus, which targets excessive aircraft noise in communities like Queens.
Chirlane McCray has gone above and beyond as first lady of New York City. She chairs the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, working to unite decision-makers from government, philanthropy and the private sector to address crucial issues, including mental health, youth employment and immigration. In November 2015, McCray doubled down on her duties by creating ThriveNYC, a comprehensive mental health plan. And, of course, she has the ear of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Heather Briccetti’s career has included stints counseling the state Senate majority, the Assembly and the state Attorney General’s office as well as lobbying on behalf of high-visibility projects like the Javits Center expansion and the new Yankee Stadium. In her current role, as president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, Briccetti is an important voice for some 2,400 companies and a membership that employs more than 1.2 million New Yorkers.
One half of the dynamo political consulting team that founded BerlinRosen, Valerie Berlin is charged with leading the team’s award-winning direct mail, television, radio and online advertising campaigns for a range of politicians at every level. From her roots in Cleveland, Ohio, Berlin worked her way up the political ladder. Over the past 13 years, Berlin and business partner Jonathan Rosen have built the firm into a team of 100 professionals in New York, Washington and Los Angeles.
With previous tenures at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York City government in construction contract procurement, Denise Richardson is a shoo-in when it comes to New York power lists. As executive director of the General Contractors Association of New York, Richardson is the voice for contractors on bridge, tunnel and housing projects throughout the state. She also serves as the New York City secretary for the New York League of Conservation Voters and a member of the Regional Plan Association board.
The Trump administration’s policies have given groups like the New York Civil Liberties Union new energy and renewed urgency. Donna Lieberman, who has led the NYCLU since 2001, is an important voice in the evolving local and national conversations on racial profiling, immigration, criminal justice and more. During her tenure, the NYCLU has grown to more than 190,000 members, with eight offices around the state. Prior to becoming executive director, Lieberman founded and directed the NYCLU's Reproductive Rights Project.
A former reporter for the Daily News and the New York Post, Laura Curran covered education, politics and crime before embarking on a political career that culminated in her current role as Nassau County executive. In her previous work as a legislator representing Nassau communities, Curran focused on making government work for taxpayers and rebuilding communities after Superstorm Sandy. A member of several Nassau business and civic organizations, she previously served as a trustee on the Baldwin Board of Education.
It’s no wonder Crain’s New York Business ranked Mary Ann Tighe No. 1 on its list of the most powerful women in New York. As New York Tri-state Region CEO of real estate firm CBRE, Tighe brokered Conde Nast’s $2 billion lease at One World Trade Center, among other notable deals. Prior to entering the field of real estate, Tighe worked in broadcasting – helping launch the A&E network – and served as deputy chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.
The New York City budget impacts the lives of all 8.6 million people in the five boroughs, hitting hot-button issues ranging from body cameras for all NYPD patrol officers to the quality of life for NYCHA residents to universal prekindergarten. As budget director, Melanie Hartzog is responsible for overseeing all $89 billion of it, and with federal spending cuts looming, she’s tasked with being the budget’s prime advocate in front of the City Council, who ultimately vote on its approval.
Since taking the helm at the New York State Nurses Association in 2012, Jill Furillo has helped build the state’s largest professional association and union for nurses into a progressive voice – leading a successful campaign to keep hospitals open while the health needs of distressed communities were being assessed. Previously, Furillo lobbied for safe nurse-to-patient ratios as government relations director at the California Nurses Association and as chief negotiator at National Nurses United. She has been a registered nurse since 1985.
Patricia Harris is a pro in New York City politics, having served as first deputy mayor for Michael Bloomberg and as an aide to Ed Koch in his roles as congressman and mayor. Today, as CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies, she manages Bloomberg’s charitable giving – which is no small job, as the billionaire pledged to donate most of his wealth. With Bloomberg possibly gearing up for a 2020 presidential run, Harris – and her work – may soon be under renewed scrutiny.
Reaching a monthly audience of 26 million listeners through eight public radio stations (and partially syndicated on more than 800 public radio stations nationwide), New York Public Radio is the largest public radio station group in the nation. As an independent nonprofit, it relies on the leadership of President and CEO Laura Walker to expand its reach, produce quality journalistic content and promote creative talent. Walker has received a Peabody Award for Broadcast Excellence, the industry’s highest honor.
Marisa Lago served two New York City mayors before being appointed as city planning commissioner and chairwoman of the city’s planning commission in 2017 by Mayor Bill de Blasio. In fact, her career has included top-level positions at the U.S. Treasury under the Obama administration, Empire State Development, Citigroup and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Today, she leads New York City’s primary land use agency and works to improve urban planning, infrastructure, sustainability and community communications.
Lovely Warren is Rochester’s first female mayor and as recently as this year was rumored to be a possible candidate for lieutenant governor, had Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul opted not to run. Thanks to support from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, she was able to launch the ROC the Riverway Program, a plan to focus development along the Genesee River, with an initial state investment of $50 million. Her administration has prioritized job creation, decreasing crime and improving education in Rochester.
When Maggie Moran became Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s campaign manager this summer, she put her consulting work on hold at public relations firm Kivvit – a company she launched in 2010 as M Public Affairs. Previously, Moran served as the New Jersey campaign manager for Al Gore in 2000 and as director of rapid response for President Bill Clinton in 1996. Her work earned her a spot on the Influencers 500 list published by Campaign & Elections magazine, among other accolades.
As president and CEO of EmblemHealth, a New York City-based nonprofit health insurance company, Karen Ignagni is the face of an organization that serves more than 3 million people. She made headlines for launching a new set of health plans for New York City employees that eliminate out-of-pocket costs when members use the Hospital for Special Surgery and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. She also has valuable Washington experience, having led America’s Health Insurance Plans, a national trade group representing health insurers.
Citibank has 2,649 branches in 19 countries, including 723 branches in the United States – but when it was founded in 1812, it was called the City Bank of New York. As CEO of Citibank, Barbara Desoer manages approximately 75 percent of Citigroup’s total assets and oversees most of its 16,000 employees in the five boroughs. Previously, Desoer made a name for herself at Bank of America, moving around as the head of several different divisions.
Whether it’s through her work lobbying for Verizon, her campaign for state attorney general or her history in Washington and New York politics, Leecia Eve is no stranger to New York power. She served as legislative counsel for then-U.S. Sens. Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, and two years as deputy secretary for economic development under Gov. Andrew Cuomo. She’s qualified for a range of elected offices, and though this wasn’t her year, her number is bound to be called eventually.
As a partner to the first biotech venture between the United States and Cuba, the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo has elevated its profile from a Western New York institution to a national one. President and CEO Candace Johnson led the charge to advance joint research on a promising new treatment for lung cancer, joining Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a visit to the island in 2015. Johnson believes Roswell will “make history” in its effort to “slay” cancer.
The first woman to lead United Way of New York City, Sheena Wright started as president and CEO of the organization the day that Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012 – and she met that challenge by raising $11 million in disaster relief. Since then, Wright has worked to refocus the organization’s support of low-income New Yorkers with initiatives that promote self-sufficiency. In 2013, she launched ReadNYC, a program that aimed to strengthen families and improve children’s reading proficiency in the city’s underserved communities.
Described by The New York Times as “one of the best-connected and most popular lobbyists at City Hall and in Albany,” Emily Giske has successfully lobbied for multimillion-dollar projects in a variety of sectors – including hospital renovations, energy deals and New York City’s largest private land use project. A partner at Bolton-St. Johns since 2008, Giske played a leading role in the passage of New York’s same-sex marriage law in 2011. She is a vice chair of the New York State Democratic Party.
During her first year representing New York’s 4th Congressional District, in 2014, Rep. Kathleen Rice passed two bills – measures that aimed to boost employment for veterans and improve airport security – with broad bipartisan support. Since then, Rice has continued to work across party lines. A career prosecutor, she made history in 2005 when she became the first woman elected district attorney in Long Island. She began her career as an assistant district attorney in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office.
Cristyne Nicholas co-founded Nicholas & Lence Communications in 2007 and, over the past decade, she has built the startup into one of New York’s top public relations firms. Nicholas is a former communications director for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and later served as CEO and president of NYC & Company, where she helped rebuild the city’s multibillion-dollar tourism industry in the aftermath of 9/11. In 2012, Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed Nicholas to chair of the state’s Tourism Advisory Council.
The appointments of U.S. Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh have forced Planned Parenthood’s advocates, educators and health care professionals into overdrive to protect Roe v. Wade. In New York City, Laura McQuade will lead the charge to protect the sexual and reproductive rights of all New Yorkers. Serving more than 60,000 clients annually, the organization operates health care centers throughout the five boroughs, offering services that include basic gynecological care, abortion and STD and HIV testing.
Known throughout the state as a capable, strategic and well-connected operative, Jennifer Cunningham has been influential in a number of New York projects and political campaigns. She is often credited with helping same-sex marriage become a reality in New York and has advised politicians from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to Hillary Clinton, while being a vocal critic of the conservative agenda and President Donald Trump. Cunningham has provided C-suite messaging and communication strategy for many Fortune 500 corporations.
Since founding the New York Taxi Workers Alliance in 1998, Bhairavi Desai has become an influential player in the labor movement. A critic of Uber’s labor practices, Desai foresaw the recent wave of taxi driver suicides, and scored a major victory earlier this year when New York City put a cap on for-hire vehicles. In response to President Donald Trump’s January 2017 executive order barring entry to citizens of several predominantly Muslim countries, Desai organized a taxi driver strike at JFK Airport.
In March, Mara Gay became a member of The New York Times editorial board, where she is now the lead opinion writer on New York City and state politics. It’s a position of enormous influence, given the newspaper’s singular ability to sway opinion around political campaigns and public policy issues – and in making candidate endorsements. Prior to joining the Times, Gay was The Wall Street Journal’s City Hall bureau chief. She has also covered City Hall for the Daily News.
As Queens becomes a more important destination for developers, land use issues will continue to rise to the surface, making Borough President Melinda Katz a key decision-maker for conflicting parties. Between the need for affordable housing, the Willets Point redevelopment project and LaGuardia Airport’s facelift, Katz’s voice has nimbly balanced the needs of the existing Queens community and the necessity to modernize the borough’s buildings and infrastructure. She has also been vocal on broader issues like immigration and domestic violence.
Though it wasn’t until October 2017 that the #MeToo movement burst onto the world stage, the phrase was first coined a decade earlier by activist Tarana Burke. In recognition of her work on behalf of victims of sexual assault, Burke would be named as part of “The Silence Breakers,” the group named 2017 Time Magazine Person of the Year. To mark the one-year anniversary of the movement, the Bronx native is unveiling three new initiatives, including a series of public service announcements.
Despite Nasdaq’s global reputation as the second-largest stock exchange in the world and a technology company with operations on six continents, it remains deeply connected to New York. Adena Friedman, who has served as the organization’s president and CEO since 2017 and was previously its chief operating officer, has helped it expand through key acquisitions. She recently spoke to The Washington Post about the importance of making the marketplace more competitive for young high-growth startups, and expanding opportunities for average investors.
During her 30 years with New York City’s public hospital system, LaRay Brown has mastered everything from corporate planning and community health to intergovernmental relations. In 2015, she made headlines when she became CEO of Interfaith Medical Center, and the first African-American woman to be named president of a private hospital in New York City. Now, as CEO of One Brooklyn Health System, she is spearheading a $664 million state-funded plan to unite several Brooklyn hospitals.
Since then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani appointed her in 2001, Hunter College President Jennifer Raab has boosted enrollment, raised the institution’s standards, increased philanthropic giving, and modernized and expanded both the school’s infrastructure and its programming. Leading the largest college of the City University of New York, Raab announced a new partnership with the New York State Mentoring Program, which is chaired by Matilda Raffa Cuomo, in order to encourage more K-12 students to remain in school.
Ranked among the country’s top 10 CEOs by recruitment site Glassdoor – where she has a 97 percent employee approval rating – Wegmans Food Markets President and CEO Colleen Wegman started working for her family’s grocery store chain in 1991. After climbing through the ranks for the past few decades, Wegman assumed the leadership posts last year, following in her father’s and her grandfather’s footsteps. She will lead Wegmans, one of the Rochester area’s largest employers, as it continues its East Coast expansion.
In 2010, Michelle Adams resigned as executive director of the Association for a Better New York to join Tishman Speyer in the wake of its highly publicized default on a mortgage payment for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. In her role as a top aide to President and CEO Rob Speyer, Adams has helped the firm rehabilitate its image and transition to developing new projects, including a $3.2 billion, 65-story skyscraper at Hudson Yards.
It’s been a busy year for Laurie Tisch – a philanthropist, art collector and part owner of the New York Giants. Tisch, whose father started Loews Corp. and made a fortune, is the founder of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, which seeks to “improve access and opportunity for all New Yorkers.” After launching a citywide holiday book drive at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan last November, Tisch in July launched a $10 million initiative emphasizing the arts as a tool for healing.
In 2014, at the age of 30, Elise Stefanik became the youngest woman elected to Congress. Since then, she has helped pass legislation to improve health care coverage, grow business and tourism, and advocate for veterans’ rights in New York’s 21st District. Previously, Stefanik worked at Premium Plywood Products, her family’s business. Her prior work in government includes serving as director of vice presidential debate prep to Paul Ryan and as a White House staffer under then-President George W. Bush.
Since leaving her post as speaker of the New York City Council, Christine Quinn has stayed busy. First, she served as a special adviser to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, focusing on women’s issues. Now Quinn runs New York City’s largest provider of shelter, social services and supportive housing for homeless women and children. The executive committee chairwoman of the state Democratic Committee, and a onetime mayoral candidate, the question of whether Quinn will seek public office again is one for the pundits to ponder.
In 2006, the first Success Academy charter school opened in Harlem, and the network has since added another 46 schools, bringing its total enrollment to 17,000 students. Its number of schools, already on par with a small school district, could rise to 100 over the next decade, according to founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz. The high performance of her students has turned Moskowitz, a former New York City Council member, into a national leader of the “school choice” movement.
When Kim Pegula and her husband, Terry, bought the Buffalo Bills in 2014 for $1.4 billion, they did so by reportedly outbidding Donald Trump. Kim Pegula, who co-owns several sports teams, is president and CEO of Pegula Sports and Entertainment, a management company that regularly hosts major sporting events and has won multiple New York State Emmy Awards. Earlier this year, she took over as president of the Buffalo Bills – becoming the first female president of an NFL team.
Yvette Clarke was elected to the New York City Council in 2001, succeeding her mother, Una Clarke, who held the seat for nearly a decade. Five years later, Clarke won an election for an open seat in the House of Representatives. In June, Clarke eked by a young primary challenger armed with a New York Times endorsement. Despite the close call, Clarke and her mother maintain a strong political operation in Central Brooklyn, bolstered by long-standing relationships with the area’s elected leaders.
There’s more to Kathryn Garcia’s job than picking up the trash. As New York City’s sanitation commissioner, she’s also spearheading innovative environmental initiatives, building on her past work at the city’s Department of Environmental Protection. Mayor Bill de Blasio recently appointed Garcia as his senior adviser for citywide lead prevention in response to reports of young children being exposed to lead in public housing. Her agency also handles snow removal, where she has been able to minimize headaches for the mayor.
Resi Cooper has connections in national politics, having served as a former director of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in New York. Earlier this year, Cooper was appointed as vice chair of the Nassau County Democratic Committee. Previously, the business consultant and president of CooperHill, helped launch Accelerate Long Island, a project designed to boost the area’s job growth based on research done at local labs and universities. She also serves on the board of the LGBT Network.
Raising more than $42 million in funding, opening four locations and attracting thousands of members in just two years, The Wing has been called “a feminist coworking empire.” Co-founder and CEO Audrey Gelman, a former staffer on several Democratic election campaigns and former senior vice president at political consulting firm SKDKnickerbocker, said it’s a space for women to build community. The idea resonates far beyond New York – as evidenced by Gelman’s selection to speak at this year’s South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas.
Lysa Scully was promoted to general manager at LaGuardia Airport in 2014 just as the major reconstruction project of the airport’s Central Terminal Building was getting underway. In addition to supervising the country’s 20th-largest airport and 400 Port Authority employees, Scully is also responsible for carrying out the $8 billion renovation. Previously the deputy general manager at LaGuardia, Scully has been with the Port Authority since 1986. She holds an Airport Certified Employee designation from the American Association of Airport Executives.
Rep. Claudia Tenney fell just short against Democrat Anthony Brindisi, but she hasn’t conceded and will wait on absentee ballots to determine the final outcome. Consistently ranked as the top conservative legislator in New York and known as an outspoken ally of President Donald Trump, the 22nd Congressional District representative is an opponent of tax increases and a supporter of the Second Amendment. As co-owner of Mid-York Press Inc., she is continuing a commercial printing legacy started by her grandfather in 1946.
Previously, as director of the New York City Department of City Planning’s Brooklyn office, Regina Myer was a central figure in the rezonings that contributed to the rebirth of Brooklyn. Myer would later head the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp., driving the redevelopment of the waterfront that became the 85-acre Brooklyn Bridge Park. As the city’s largest borough continues its rapid ascent, Myer will no doubt be in the thick of things as president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.
With Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivering truckloads of money to Western New York as part of the Buffalo Billion initiative, it’s a good time to be advocating for economic development in the region. As president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, Dottie Gallagher promotes economic growth through business development, advocacy and strategic partnerships. When the organization released its policy priorities earlier this year – including development, infrastructure and the economy – Gallagher highlighted the importance of continuing to push for reform.
NewYork-Presbyterian is one of the best-known hospitals in the country, and a leading New York institution. The hospital is home to 2,600 beds, more than 6,500 affiliated physicians and 20,000 employees, and sees more than 2 million visits annually, including the delivery of 15,000 infants. As executive vice president and chief operating officer, Forese is responsible for implementing the hospital’s “patient-centered strategic vision” and has held various roles with the organization since 2003.
Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein has never met a glass ceiling that could stop her. As the longest-serving woman in the history of the Assembly, Weinstein was the first woman to chair the Assembly Judiciary Committee and the first woman to lead the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, where she oversees state budget matters that impact state and local spending. She is known as a strong voice for women and children and an advocate for veterans, crime victims and people with disabilities.
BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager, and Barbara Novick oversees the firm's global public policy efforts and investment stewardship. As co-founder and vice chairman, she advocates for regulatory changes on behalf of her firm and regularly appears on panels and conferences to speak about sustainable development alongside elected officials and corporate decision-makers. Additionally, she is playing a central role in the firm’s groundbreaking effort to encourage companies to create comprehensive strategies around how they impact society.
The world of New York’s big banks and Wall Street has long been considered an old boys’ club, but with $2.5 trillion and 15,000 employees under her care as JPMorgan’s chief financial officer, Lake has broken down the doors. Earlier this year, Lake emerged as a possible replacement for Jamie Dimon upon his retirement. As the mother of three children, Lake has also been praised for being a voice for career women who want children.
As Dottie Herman told Time in a recent Q&A, “In life, everything happens for a reason.” She has followed her own advice, using what might seem like bad experiences to learn and grow. Indeed, her track record of success leading one of the nation’s largest real estate brokerage firms has earned her spots on Forbes’ list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women, Inc. magazine’s Top 50 Women Entrepreneurs in America and Crain’s 50 Most Powerful Women in New York, among others.
When she took the helm of Deloitte, one of the largest professional services organizations in the country, Cathy Engelbert became the first female U.S. CEO of one of the so-called Big Four accounting firms. Hailed for breaking a glass ceiling, Engelbert now serves as the board chair of Catalyst, a global nonprofit promoting inclusive workplaces for women. Engelbert is also vice chair of the Partnership for New York City and a member of the Business Roundtable.
Sally Susman oversees global communications and public affairs for Pfizer Inc., the most politically active pharmaceutical company in Washington, D.C. In the 1990s, Susman served in the U.S. Department of Commerce during the Clinton administration, and later became a top bundler for the presidential campaigns of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. She is also vice chair of the Pfizer Foundation, which promotes health care access and volunteerism among the company's 90,000 employees around the world.
As vice chairman of Altice USA, Lisa Rosenblum is responsible for formulating strategy on legislative, regulatory and public policy matters for the media and communications company that provides a range of services – including broadband, television, telephone and advertising – as well as proprietary content to nearly 5 million residential and business customers in 21 states. Operating under the Optimum and Suddenlink brands, Altice USA – which is headquartered in New York – is the fourth-largest cable provider in the U.S.
As chief digital officer of New York City and, later, New York state, Rachel Haot was responsible for revamping the outdated websites of each government. Can she now give the Metropolitan Transportation Authority a much-needed update as well? To get the ball rolling, the Transit Innovation Partnership, a public-private initiative between the Partnership for New York City and the MTA, recently launched the Transit Tech Lab, which is aimed at developing technology to improve service and the customer experience.
Diana Ostroff is the managing director of Ostroff Associates, one of the top-ranked lobbying firms in New York. The firm is a major player in a number of key industries, including technology, finance, transportation and energy, with a clientele that includes FedEx Corp. and Walmart Inc. Ostroff has a long track record in government affairs, having previously worked for The Business Council of New York State, National Federation of Independent Business and the Life Insurance Council of New York.
As president of the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women, the largest women’s rights organization in the country, Sonia Ossorio has advocated on a wide range of issues, from demanding that the NYPD dedicate more resources to its sex crimes force to combating sexual harassment and workplace discrimination. In 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed her to the New York City Commission on Gender Equity, and Ossorio is also a close ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
In her work as an assemblywoman and assistant commissioner for the New York City Department for the Aging, Joni Yoswein saw firsthand the need for a new approach to lobbying, public relations and government affairs. Founded in 1994, Yoswein New York prioritizes integrity, community involvement and the legislative process. It has become one of New York’s top public affairs firms, providing guidance on a wide range of projects in New York City and throughout the state.
With its seven hospitals, 3,468 beds and 138 operating rooms, it’s no wonder that Mount Sinai Health System is one of New York’s best-known health care institutions. It also encompases the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, more than 300 community locations and more than 6,500 primary and specialty care physicians. As the system’s chief medical officer, Vicki LoPachin ensures that medical, nursing and administrative teams are able to work collaboratively to ensure the highest quality of care.
As president and CEO of Forest City Ratner Cos., MaryAnne Gilmartin oversaw several high-profile real estate developments – most notably Pacific Park in Brooklyn, whose centerpiece was the Barclays Center. In the process, she established herself as one of New York City's most powerful female business leaders in a male-dominated industry. In January, she announced that she was leaving Forest City to form a new development firm, L&L MAG, taking several top executives with her.
When she took over the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, Julie Menin began overseeing an expanded portfolio that included music, advertising, publishing and digital content, in addition to the TV and film industry. Together, these sectors account for more than 300,000 jobs and $100 billion in economic output. A former commissioner of the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs, Menin brought the Grammys back to New York as part of an effort to reinvigorate the local music industry.
The Tribeca Film Festival is such a New York City institution that it’s hard to imagine it only first debuted in 2002 as a local response to the 9/11 attacks. With a filmography that includes the “Meet the Parents” trilogy, Jane Rosenthal teamed up with Robert De Niro and started a New York tradition that, in 2018, took place over 12 days and showed 96 feature films. Recently, Rosenthal has also become a champion of the #MeToo movement.
Real estate brokerage firm The Corcoran Group, led by President and CEO Pamela Liebman since 2000, is consistently ranked as No. 1 in New York, according to The Real Deal. After starting her career as a real estate agent at Corcoran, Liebman led the firm’s expansion into luxury markets in the Hamptons and South Florida. Liebman is regularly featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Forbes, CNN, MSNBC, Fox Business Network and PBS.
The founder and president of Bradford Construction Corp., Sandra Wilkin is a leading advocate of minority- and women-owned business enterprises, or MWBEs, while supporting adult education and mentorship programs. In 2004, Wilkin co-founded the Women Builders Council, the leading association representing women in the construction industry. Wilkin worked with the New York City Council and the Bloomberg administration to pass Local Law 1 of 2013, which has expanded opportunities for MWBEs. She also serves on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s statewide MWBE Team.
Lorie Slutsky is closing in on three decades as president of The New York Community Trust, a period during which the organization has awarded upward of $3 billion in grants, while tripling its assets to more than $2.5 billion. In recent years, the organization has funded a wide range of initiatives, from affordable housing and juvenile justice reform to the local tech sector. In response to the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown, the trust directed a six-figure investment toward legal assistance for immigrants.
As presiding partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, Faiza Saeed advises the firm’s clients on all issues regarding mergers and acquisitions, an area where she has been frequently recognized as a national leader. She is the first woman to lead the firm in its nearly 200-year history, and has represented many prominent clients. She also works with the Partnership for New York City, Women’s Forum of New York and the New York chapter of March of Dimes.
The leading woman at The Durst Organization, Helena Rose Durst grew up speaking the language of New York City land use issues from a young age. Since she began working for her family business in 2001, she has played a key role in the construction and management of several high-profile projects, including The Epic, Helena 57 West and the Bank of America Tower. She is involved with the organization’s latest investments in Queens, including Halletts Point and the Queens Plaza Park Tower.
An executive with 30 years of finance experience in consumer-facing businesses, Paula Price earlier this year was appointed chief financial officer of Macy’s, the leading retail giant long associated with New York. In her position, she is expected to draw extensively on her experience in retail. In her previous role as executive vice president and chief financial officer of Ahold USA, a supermarket group, Price developed and executed a $1 billion funding program for strategic growth initiatives.
In the past three decades, Daryl Roth has produced more than 100 award-winning plays, including seven Pulitzer Prize winners. Roth has won more than a dozen Tony Awards and received a Laurence Olivier Award, which recognizes excellence in theater. She is an active supporter of LGBTQ rights, animal rights and various cultural institutions. Along with her husband, Vornado Realty Trust founder Steve Roth, she makes up half of one of New York City’s most influential power couples.
As senior vice president and chief financial officer of Northwell Health, Michele Cusack leads the financial operations for the $11 billion clinical, academic and research enterprise, which is one of largest health systems in the country and an influential institution in New York. A certified public accountant who earned a master’s degree in business administration from Hofstra University, Cusack serves on the Hofstra University Zarb School of Business dean’s advisory board. Prior to joining Northwell in 1996, Cusack worked at Deloitte & Touche.
Michele Mirman, the former president of the Brooklyn Women's Bar Association, was elected to lead the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, an organization whose members Gov. Andrew Cuomo once referred to as “the single most powerful political force in Albany.” In recent years, NYSTLA has brought its deep pockets to bear in support of the state’s Scaffold Law and successfully lobbied in favor of ride-hailing services, such as Uber, to adopt the safest insurance requirements in the country.
As co-chair of the Howard and Abby Milstein Foundation, Abby Milstein oversees philanthropic gifts to advance education, medical research, arts and civic engagement. A graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School, Milstein is also a founding partner in the law firm Constantine Cannon. Among her many leadership roles, she has served as assistant commissioner of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs and director of legal writing and moot court at Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
An heiress to a real estate empire of at least 400 properties, Amy Goldman Fowler is perhaps best known for her work as a horticulturist and gardener – which includes four books on growing heirloom fruits and vegetables. Goldman Fowler is a trustee of the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust and the Amy P. Goldman Foundation, and an active supporter of Democratic campaigns and of Planned Parenthood, among other causes. Last year, Forbes added her to its list of billionaires.
Since 1994, Marilyn Simons has developed the Simons Foundation into a leading private funder of scientific research. In addition to overseeing the Flatiron Institute – an organization that advances scientific research through computational methods – the foundation funds research in mathematics and physical sciences, life sciences, physics, autism research and education. She is married to James Simons, a wealthy hedge fund manager, and both are generous contributors to liberal campaigns and causes, as well as New York City-area nonprofits.
The co-founder and CEO of CIEN+, a cross-cultural marketing and data analytics company, Liliana Gil Valletta is also the creator of the Dreamers Venture, a business accelerator platform focused on empowering Latino entrepreneurs. Gil Valletta was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio to the NYCx Technology Leadership Advisory Council and by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the New York State Council on Women and Girls. Gil Valletta is a regular commentator on Fox News, Fox Business Network and CNN en Español.
Lisa Marrello is the managing principal in the Albany office of Jackson Lewis, one of the largest law firms in the United States. As co-leader of the firm’s government relations practice group, Marrello provides clients with legislative strategy and regulatory counsel on matters that include health care, higher education, financial services and transportation. Marrello previously served as counsel for the Assembly Housing Committee and, under New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, worked on criminal justice legislation.
It may be the fifth-largest airline in the United States, but when it comes to community engagement, JetBlue Airways Corp. is always at the front of the pack. Queens native Icema Gibbs is the woman behind the Queens-based carrier’s widely praised philanthropic initiatives, which in recent years have included offering free flights to the families of the victims of the Parkland school shooting and Pulse nightclub shooting as well as sending relief supplies to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.