Pioneers & trailblazers
The 2016 Women of Industry have led in community-building ways.
From the pages of In Business magazine.
When we established the “Women of Industry” awards program last year, we did so to honor women who have had a significant impact on their respective industries — locally, regionally, nationally, or globally — and we’re delighted to present a 2016 class of five winners and one lifetime legacy honoree who have met this high standard.
We received nominations for 48 area business leaders, and our judges quickly reached a consensus about the ones who best illustrate the kind of professional women the award is meant to recognize — forward-thinking, accomplished people who are pioneers in their respective fields. Part of the reason they are so accomplished is that they know how to get important things done, whether improving water quality, raising funds for libraries, advocating for the mentally ill, building stronger communities, or breaking glass ceilings in the financial sector.
Fundraising force: Sustaining a world-class library system requires consistent financial support. Jenni Collins, executive director for the Madison Public Library Foundation, is proudest of her role in raising more than $20 million in private donations for the Madison Children’s Museum, and Madison Public Library’s Central, Meadowridge, and Pinney locations.
Beyond Madison, Collins relied on her experience in planning and presenting at Fundraising Day New York to initiate Fundraising Day Wisconsin, now in its third year, as a regional conference for fundraising professionals. It attracts nearly 200 attendees from Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota.
As an advocate of sustainable development through endowments, she also developed a benchmark model, now being used by other nonprofits, which stresses measurement of financial goals, retention, and multichannel giving.
Class clean water act: Perhaps it’s appropriate that Kathleen Lake’s last name refers to a body of water that dominates the local landscape because she’s been instrumental in preserving them. As an environmental specialist for the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District it’s her job to keep pollutants out of the water, and it’s not easy. It has involved challenging people and entities — farmers (manure application) and municipalities (street salt usage) — to change long-held practices.
Two programs she’s currently engaged in, Yahara WINs and WiSaltWise, seek to reduce phosphorus and chloride, respectively, and could become national models. Early returns show progress without investing in expensive wastewater treatment expansions.
For Lake, this award brings rare acclaim. “I’m very honored,” she says. “This is something that doesn’t happen in my industry, in my world.”
Passion for mental health: For 27 years, Corinda Rainey-Moore been a fierce advocate for people with mental illness, and the one thing she’s most pleased about is that society is finally beginning to value the mentally ill as contributing members of society.
There is much left to do in the provision of services, but as the stigma of mental illness gradually fades, she says, “the whole of the person” is finally coming into clearer focus. “Just as heart disease is not all of what a person is, mental illness is not all of what a person is, either,” she states.
Rainey-Moore has not only raised awareness about mental health issues, she has brought her programming expertise to organizations such as Leadership Wisconsin, the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness, and the National Alliance for Mental Illness, where she served as board chair.
Nonprofit trailblazer: Keetra Burnette’s title is senior director of community impact for the United Way of Dane County and impactful she has been. After a successful stint with the Urban League, Burnette now works for an organization with a similar mission: to create a Dane County where everyone can succeed in school, work, and life.
Indeed, Burnette has been a creative pioneer, from overseeing the ACT Prep initiative (which aims to increase the college readiness of youth who would be the first in their family to attend college) to volunteering for a Law Enforcement and Leaders of Color Collaboration on the use of force by law enforcement agencies (which could be implemented in police departments statewide) to getting Madison engaged in President Obama’s “My Brothers Keeper” initiative.
Servant leader: Carrie Wall has been busy reinventing the “Y” here and statewide as the founding CEO and chair of the Wisconsin Alliance of YMCAs, which works to support the holistic development of young children by supporting brain development, early literacy, healthy habits, and strong parenting skills.
The Alliance advocates for healthy food policies, childhood obesity prevention, and development of the Y5210 program in Wisconsin — five fruits and vegetables daily, no more than two hours of screen time, one hour of physical activity, and zero sugary drinks (5210) — and it has changed the way children’s menus in many restaurants are being prepared. In her view, this and other initiatives are all part of being a “servant leader” for the area’s largest provider of early childhood programming.
Betty Harris Custer
Path finder: Betty Harris Custer has enjoyed a career of firsts, having come into the financial services profession at a time when women were being challenged to “have it all.” She admits to being seduced by that early on, but she instead focused on things that allowed her to create a path for other women interested in financial service careers.
Harris Custer not only has served on national industry boards, she has mentored other women in the field, and she would go on to become the founding managing partner of Custer Financial Services and the first Wisconsin woman to qualify for the Million Dollar Round Table, the financial industry’s standard of excellence. Perhaps more importantly, she has been instrumental in educating American women about the importance of their own financial planning needs.
These accomplishments earned her a spot in the 2015 book Women at the Top, which chronicles successful women in the financial services industry.
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