Issue: September 2005 Issue
Athena Finalist: Lee Ann Howard
Lee Ann Howard
President, Howard & O'Brien Associates
In 2002, Lee Ann Howard opened her own rapidly growing company that focuses strictly on placing C-level executives and their direct reports, breaking into a field mostly dominated by men. Fifty-four percent of her placements are women executives.
In order to help get women into these positions, she founded Conversations with the Board (CWTB), which promotes female inclusion on boards of directors for public companies.
"Companies are looking for diversity on their boards so they can reflect their client base. Many potential female candidates have never talked about or even considered such a position," says Howard. Through CWTB, she grooms women for the positions and exposes them to board opportunities by facilitating discussions between CEOs or board chairs and key women who are interested in learning more about serving on corporate boards.
In addition, Howard is a board member for organizations such as In Counsel with Women (ICWW) and former chair and current board member of the Womenâ€™s Community Foundation (WCF). "The ICWW is a member organization of the top 100 senior-level female executives in Northeast Ohio that helps the women to network and develop relationships among each other," she says.
Her first experience on a nonprofit board, however, was with WCF, which completed the first Needs Assessment on women and girls in Cuyahoga County in 20 years. Using that information, the board made a strategic plan to mentor girls up to the age of 18 and to provide financial education for women of all ages. "The assessment gave us the information to say here are some missing needs and it led to a number of changes and more funding and services," she says. She also helped to begin the WCFâ€™s Every Woman Campaign during Womenâ€™s History Month in March, where men and women donate one hour of pay to the foundation.
"A hallmark in business and professional life is to give back to the community and to others. Others have supported me and provided me with opportunities and advice, and I believe that everything comes back tenfold," she says.
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