Jennifer Cunningham wields a powerful pen. The political strategist and lobbyist is known for her compelling and direct messaging, which has been credited with everything from shaping the conversation around elected officials – including Gov. Andrew Cuomo – to helping facilitate the passage of same-sex marriage. An advocate of social justice and progressive policy, Cunningham’s tenure at SKDKnickerbocker has cast a wide net of influence felt from Albany to Manhattan.
The 2019 Women Power 100; 51 - 100
The 2019 Women Power 100; 51 - 100
A co-founder of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, Roberta Kaplan is an instrumental figure in the #MeToo movement. Her argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case United States v. Windsor paved the way for the federal government’s recognition of same-sex marriage. She recently launched HABIT, a workplace training program designed to change the landscape of corporate culture to one free of bias, exclusion and sexual harassment.
As head of the New York City School Construction Authority, Lorraine Grillo has overseen the completion of over $25 billion of construction and created more than 75,000 new school seats. Appointed commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction by Mayor Bill de Blasio, she created a strategic plan to modernize the agency, which provides new or renovated public buildings as well as roads, sewers and water mains in all five boroughs.
Mara Gay is a force to be reckoned with on The New York Times editorial board. A young, black native New Yorker, Gay serves as a beacon shining a light on New York’s leadership. She was previously a reporter at The Wall Street Journal, where she covered both Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio. At the Times, she channels her love for the city into calls to dream, build and provide a bolder vision.
Following her successful tenure as chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission under President Barack Obama, Mary Jo White has brought her no-nonsense approach to finance back to the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton, where she had served for decades before her time at the SEC. As senior chair of the firm, White helps corporate clients navigate the regulatory environment she helped build, advising government investigations on crisis situations and counseling boards of directors.
Adena Friedman, ranked by Forbes magazine as the 16th most powerful woman in the world, has taken on the task of modernizing, diversifying and globally expanding Nasdaq to resounding success. She’s introduced new sources of revenue, cutting-edge technology and innovation, including Nasdaq’s plan to bring the exchange into the cryptocurrency market. A black belt in taekwondo, she credits the martial art with helping her to succeed in the world of finance.
LaRay Brown is consolidating three Brooklyn medical centers into one – working to expand medical access to more than 1 million borough residents. Brown is a key player in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Vital Brooklyn project combining Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center, Interfaith Medical Center and Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, for which she budgeted $1.5 million this year. She is also part of Cuomo’s health care transition and Medicaid Redesign teams.
Jennifer Raab, who was appointed as president of CUNY’s Hunter College in 2001, is credited with transforming it from an open admission college to a highly selective institution that draws top candidates, a transformation that has brought in unprecedented funding, attracted prestigious faculty and boosted its arts curriculum. She has also overseen high-profile renovation projects on the historic campus.
Colleen Wegman began working at her family’s supermarket chain in 1991, and learned the challenges faced by Wegmans employees while helping to build the 103-year-old company into an award-winning chain that’s been featured on Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list since 1998. Since she took the helm, Wegmans has advanced to No. 2 on the list. The upstate company also had a splashy store opening in Brooklyn this fall.
Laurie Tisch works to create transformational change in New York with initiatives that expand access and opportunity for New Yorkers. The avid art collector has put her money where her heart is, recently supporting Arts in Medicine, a program designed to reduce stress among patients and burnout among health care professionals. Tisch serves as vice chairwoman of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and previously served as chairwoman of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
The former three-term speaker of the New York City Council was the first openly gay woman to be elected to the post. Christine Quinn now focuses her advocacy on providing services to homeless women and children at her Win shelters – recently facing off against ICE agents at an East New York facility. Win is expanding the number of shelters it operates and establishing “income-building” programs to help women provide for their families.
Eva Moskowitz, the outspoken and unapologetic founder of Success Academy Charter Schools, has almost single-handedly turned the education system on its head. Coming to the role with wide-ranging experience in education – as a former teacher and college professor, former chair of New York City Council Education Committee and public school parent – Moskowitz has sought to reform the education system to produce college- and career-ready students who can succeed in a global economy.
Kim Pegula, who owns the Buffalo Bills with her husband, Terry, and is president of the Pegula Sports and Entertainment empire, has brought the team national recognition for leading the NFL in hiring women to management positions. Pegula has taken an active role in the acquisition of teams (including the Buffalo Sabres), technology and marketing – including the development of the Buffalo Bills app to enhance the fan experience. Her work has spurred the revitalization of Buffalo.
Yvette Clarke represents Brooklyn’s 9th District in Congress. The daughter of former New York City Councilwoman Una Clarke, Yvette Clarke previously served on the City Council as well. A member of the Congressional Black Caucus, she is a voice for black and Caribbean residents in Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood, Sheepshead Bay, Crown Heights, Park Slope and Brownsville. Clarke recently introduced legislation that grants temporary protected status to Bahamian residents affected by Hurricane Dorian.
As a member of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, Resi Cooper is a name familiar to power players on Long Island and many others around the state. She is co-chair of the Placemaking Work Group and an important voice on many of the infrastructure and development projects happening throughout the region, including the Nassau Hub in Uniondale. Cooper has counseled many state and federal lawmakers – notably serving as an aide to Hillary Clinton.
Audrey Gelman can boast a series of high-profile accomplishments: After a successful role working on Scott Stringer’s campaign for city comptroller, she co-founded The Wing, a female-centric work space and social club enjoying a vast expansion. She recently became the first visibly pregnant woman to appear on the cover of Inc. Magazine. And, as Lena Dunham’s longtime friend, she is the inspiration for the character Marnie on the HBO hit series "Girls."
The success of Nicholas & Lence Communications is due in no small part to Cristyne Nicholas’ wealth of experience in New York City’s tourism industry – which she worked to help rebuild after 9/11. As head of NYC & Company, the city’s dedicated tourism organization, Nicholas increased revenues from $10 million to $35 million per year. In 2012 she was appointed chair of the state Tourism Advisory Council by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Dubbed a “Brooklyn visionary” by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Regina Myer has been working tirelessly to grow the Brooklyn Cultural District – including through commercial development and planned open spaces – through the use of public and private investments. Myer oversees the local development corporation and three business improvement districts: the MetroTech BID, the Fulton Mall Improvement Association and the Court-Livingston-Schermerhorn BID. Her vision recently culminated in the opening of a pedestrian-friendly “shared street” in Downtown Brooklyn.
As head of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, Dottie Gallagher is leading the region’s revitalization and economic development. Gallagher prides herself on harnessing the power of collaboration to foster growth through strategic partnerships and initiatives. By bringing together different perspectives in the region, she aims to tackle local issues such as the tourism economy, commercial development and the development of the city’s downtown. Gallagher previously led Visit Buffalo Niagara, the city’s tourism bureau.
Laura Forese knows firsthand what it’s like to be a patient. A breast cancer survivor, Forese says her experience navigating the health care system prompted her to work to improve the patient experience at NewYork-Presbyterian. But the former orthopedic surgeon and mother of twins didn’t stop there: she also helped to craft a generous maternity and caregiver package for hospital staff. Forese is chair of the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center Research Hospital Board.
Helene Weinstein has been a member of the Assembly since 1980. The chair of the Ways and Means Committee, she is also the first woman in New York’s history to be appointed as chair of the Assembly Committee on Judiciary. Recent bills she has sponsored aim to protect homeowners from deed theft and to give individuals the rights to their own images in order to protect them from pornographic deepfakes.
Barbara Novick helps oversee the largest asset manager in the world. In her capacity as vice chairman, Novick leads BlackRock’s government relations and public policy team globally. BlackRock has been helping to drive the conversation around sustainable investing, which is at the intersection of climate change concerns and global economics. She recently attended a forum at the Vatican where she signed onto an agreement supporting investment and transparency relating to climate change.
Clarification: This profile has been updated to clarify Novick's role on BlackRock's leadership team.
Marianne Lake took on a new challenge at JPMorgan Chase last spring as she began her role as CEO of consumer lending. The former chief financial officer at JPMorgan Chase has long been rumored to be the likely successor to Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon. Credited with bringing technological innovation to the multinational investment bank and financial services holding company, Lake is in charge of credit cards, autos and mortgage lending.
Goli Sheikholeslami recently took over as president and CEO of New York Public Radio, which includes WNYC, WQXR, WNYC Studios, Gothamist, and The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space. She starts the role following her successful tenure as CEO of Chicago Public Media, where she expanded the organization’s newsroom and increased local coverage – she also found new revenue streams and launched digital properties that reached audiences around the world.
Named a Notable Woman in Technology by Crain’s New York Business, Julie Samuels serves as a powerful voice for technology entrepreneurs. Samuels started Tech:NYC in 2016 as a liaison between government agencies and tech companies to ensure that policies enacted by local legislative bodies were supportive of the technology industry. A recognized expert on technology and policy issues, Samuels has testified before Congress and filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sally Susman is responsible for reputation management at Pfizer, directing the company’s communications, public affairs and philanthropic activities around the world. An outspoken proponent of inclusivity, Susman recently penned a column for NBC News, where she discussed navigating a corporate career that includes Estée Lauder and American Express. Susman is the recipient of the 2019 Matrix Award and is co-chair of the board of the International Rescue Committee.
The state senator from the Bronx is part of the progressive insurgency that unseated establishment candidates in last year’s election. Alessandra Biaggi defeated Jeff Klein, the powerful founder of the Independent Democratic Conference, amid sexual misconduct allegations by one of his former staffers. Biaggi has become a champion for women fighting sexual harassment as chair of the Ethics and Internal Governance Committee, holding the first public hearings on workplace sexual harassment in 27 years.
The executive director of the Transit Innovation Partnership has become a force to be reckoned with in the region. Rachel Haot’s resume boasts positions as chief digital officer for New York state under Gov. Andrew Cuomo and chief digital officer for New York City under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. She was previously the founder and CEO of the global news platform GroundReport. This year Haot was on Crain’s list of Notable Women in Tech.
Sonia Ossorio has been a champion for women’s rights since 2005. Since the #MeToo movement hit its stride, Ossorio has been indefatigable in her efforts to change cultural attitudes and prevent sexual assault and violence against women. She recently led a protest against an NYPD charity for headlining Bill O’Reilly after sexual harassment allegations against the conservative pundit came to light. Ossorio also serves on the Commission for Gender Equity.
Julie Menin holds two important positions within the de Blasio administration. She is both the census director and the executive assistant corporation counsel for strategic advocacy – two roles which she says go hand in hand. The former commissioner for the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment is tasked with combating what she says is a Republican agenda to misrepresent New York’s minorities in an effort to disenfranchise immigrant communities.
Joni Yoswein has dedicated her professional life to public service in senior positions for both New York City and New York state. A former assemblywoman and assistant commissioner for the city Department for the Aging, the head of Yoswein New York now works with government agencies on projects that aim to serve the community at large. The firm has handled several high-profile projects, including providing guidance on the development of Brooklyn’s Ikea and Whole Foods stores.
MaryAnne Gilmartin may be the first woman to serve as co-founder and CEO of a commercial real estate developer in New York. The former Forest City CEO vows to be a disruptor in the innovation economy, arguing in a recent Q&A in Bisnow that the real estate industry should “be more inclusive, democratic and merit-based to ensure we look like the communities within which we invest, transit and build.”
Pamela Liebman has led the Corcoran Group since 2000, during which time the brokerage has expanded exponentially by founding Corcoran Group Marketing and acquiring Citi Habitats. Liebman recently secured the sales and marketing opportunity for Hudson Yards, the largest private development project in the history of the United States. She is also currently managing sales at 220 Park Avenue South, home of a record-breaking $240 million penthouse purchased in January.
When Dottie Herman sold her shares of the brokerage firm Douglas Elliman Real Estate to Vector Group for a reported $40 million, it marked the end of an era in which Douglas Elliman was the largest female-owned brokerage in the United States. Douglas Elliman is the third-largest real estate brokerage in the United States, employing more than 7,000 real estate agents in 120 offices from coast to coast.
Correction: An earlier version of this profile incorrectly stated the number of Douglas Elliman offices.
Sandra Wilkin, founder and president of Bradford Construction Corp., is a fierce advocate for minority- and women-owned business enterprises. She recently signed on to a letter to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on behalf of New York City’s community of MWBEs and small-business owners, advocating for a three-year extension of mayoral control of the city’s schools. Wilkin assisted Mayor Bill de Blasio, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in expanding opportunities for MWBEs.
Lorie Slutsky has served in her leadership role at The New York Community Trust for more than 30 years, overseeing the growth of the grantmaking foundation. The New York Community Trust is currently working to ensure that the 2020 census is an accurate representation of New York’s immigrant population. The charity funds a range of health and social justice initiatives, including a report on legal mechanisms available to states and municipalities to reduce lead poisoning.
Faiza Saeed serves as an adviser to public companies, boards of directors and committees in matters related to mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance and crisis management. She serves on the boards of a host of organizations, including New York-Presbyterian, the Paley Foundation and the March of Dimes NY. Saeed, who once envisioned a career in music or journalism, has worked on many high-profile corporate deals, including Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox.
Mylan Denerstein came to Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in 2014 after several public service roles, including as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s chief counsel and principal legal adviser. In July she was appointed by Cuomo to the state Public Campaign Financing Commission and charged with creating rules for the state's new $100 million public campaign finance system. She recently won an important case for New York’s title insurance industry in Manhattan Supreme Court.
Diana Ostroff leads the powerhouse team at the state’s seventh-largest lobbying firm, which has been regularly making lists of Top 10 lobbying firms in New York. Ostroff Associates has been instrumental in steering the conversation about regulations for tech startups, with notable clients including Tesla, GrubHub, Handy and electric scooter company Bird. Technology is “changing faster than the regulators can really regulate it,” Ostroff told the Albany Business Review.
Lisa Linden’s LAK Public Relations firm handles many sectors – health care, real estate, law, education, technology, hospitality and corporate brands like Hostess and Quiznos – but the firm started with her deep background in politics. Linden cut her teeth on statewide and national campaigns and did government work in Albany and Washington, D.C. Linden is now a go-to communications consultant for companies and individuals contending with crises in New York politics.
Frances Bronet had a distinguished career as an educator and architect before taking the reins at the Pratt Institute in 2018. As the institution’s 12th president and the first woman in that role, she is focused on magnifying the work of more than 1,200 faculty members who focus on solving problems and contributing to the public good. Under her leadership, Pratt announced a new initiative to reduce forced labor in the global construction industry.
Shira Scheindlin has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in New York’s legal world, serving as a federal prosecutor and for more than two decades as a federal judge for the Southern District of New York, although she is best known for her pivotal ruling against the New York City Police Department and its use of stop-and-frisk tactics. Back in the private sector since 2016, she is keeping busy as a sought-after arbitrator and mediator.
Michele Cusack heads the largest integrated health care system in New York, overseeing finance operations for the clinical, academic and research institution. With the health care industry in constant evolution, Northwell Health’s dynamic business strategy has been to be both a pioneer and a leader for smaller hospital groups. Northwell now consists of 23 hospitals after a consolidation that Cusack has helped to lead. She has been part of the health system since 1996.
Appointed to the leadership role at the New York Gaming Association early in September, Taryn Duffy is the first woman to hold the position. Prior to joining the association in 2011, Duffy had a career in public service that included several roles with New York state legislators. In her new role she’ll oversee an organization that generated $2.9 billion in 2018 and directly employs more than 5,200 workers.
A member of the New York State Bar for more than four decades, noted litigator Michele Mirman is the former president of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association. Mirman is a member of the board of trustees of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, a trustee of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy and a member of ALLINBKLYN, a community of women who make grants to nonprofit organizations that strengthen Brooklyn.
Since wrapping up her two terms in the New York City Council at the end of 2013, Jessica Lappin has continued to influence public policy as the leader of the Alliance for Downtown New York, one of the city’s largest business improvement districts. Her organization has helped make lower Manhattan a bustling business sector, and Lappin has taken on innovative initiatives like solar-powered recycling while weighing in on issues like tax incentives and commercial rent regulation.
Assistant commissioner of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, vice chairman of the board of trustees of the New York Public Library and founding partner of law firm Constantine Cannon are just a few of the titles you would see on Abby Milstein’s extensive resume. She’s also an active political donor and philanthropist, and along with her husband recently received the Distinction in Civic Innovation and Renewal award from the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
In addition to heading strategic government relations firm Beaudoin and Company, Heather Beaudoin is also the CEO of tech startup Canary AI Corp. The company aims to curate news based on personal interests, offering a “digital intelligence filtering engine” designed to help industry leaders stay informed within their verticals. She also runs BeauCo Caffeinated, a curated news platform at the intersection of tech, New York City policy and “big deal projects.”
An established leader in the food service and hospitality industry – especially within the New York City market – Liz Neumark has turned her attention to food justice issues, with a program designed to help families access nutritious meals. This year she announced that Great Performances will invest $4.4 million to move to a new building in the South Bronx, with the help of an $880,000 grant from Empire State Development.
As director of corporate social responsibility for Long Island City-based JetBlue Airways, Icema Gibbs has led a range of projects and initiatives to give back. In New York City, that now includes JetBlue’s “Soar with Reading” program that encourages childhood literacy and imagination through reading. The program has been around since 2011, but Gibbs was able to deliver the program to neighborhoods in “our own backyard” this past summer.