2017 Working Mothers of the Year

2017 She Runs It

Working Mothers of the Year

Striking The Right Balance

The 2017 She Runs It Working Mothers of the Year are successes at work, at home, and in their communities

Being a working parent means you have two demanding jobs. The 26 winners of the She Runs It 2017 Working Mothers of the Year Awards know what it means to be caught in the crossfire between the office and home. But they also know what it takes to get it all done. There’s sacrifice, commitment, accomplishment and rewards.

Each year, She Runs It (formerly AWNY) honors women who have achieved outstanding business results while also serving as strong role models or mentors at work, at home and within their communities. This year’s winners are being celebrated on February 28 at a luncheon at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City.

We asked these highly accomplished women about the intersection of work and family, and how they make the most of their hectic, satisfying lives. Take a look at their answers and insights over the following pages.

Karen Hunt

President, West Coast Region, UM

With Hunt at the helm, UM retained Sony Entertainment, and she now oversees both LA and San Francisco.

How motherhood helped her succeed at work: “I am far more compassionate now that I am a mother. Having children has certainly allowed me to become a more well-rounded person. I’ve also realized it doesn’t have to be a balance between professional and personal life, but rather an integration of the two.”

Meaningful family moments: “We have many traditions in our family: Going to get a Christmas tree; celebrating half birthdays with half of a cake; special cupcakes for breakfast on your birthday; our annual family camping trip; and our Thanksgiving thankful tree where we write on leaves each day the things we are thankful for.”

How she disconnects: “I ride my Peloton Bike. It is the best invention, where I can take live or on-demand spinning classes from my own home. It allows me to completely disconnect my brain and just enjoy the music and working out. I am obsessed with it!”

Sandi Harari

EVP, Creative Director, Barker

Currently leading a team of integrated art directors and writers at Barker, Harari had a mini-career creating posters exclusively for Clint Eastwood films.

How motherhood helped her succeed at work: “Motherhood has taught me three things that have changed the way I work: 1. It’s okay to let someone fail so they can learn from experience. 2. Make the most of every minute. 3. Meet people where they’re at. Treating each person individually is more equitable than treating them the same way.”

How work success helped her succeed at motherhood: “Through my 20 years in the business, I’ve learned how to multitask like a maven, remain calm in the face of chaos and seek smart advice when I don’t have all the answers.”

Best piece of work advice from her kids: “My kids like to throw my own words at me. My son Toby likes to remind me to ‘work hard, keep trying and never give up.’ My 3-year-old daughter Margot, on the other hand, thinks dancing and singing will cure all—and she’s right.”

Orli LeWinter

SVP, Strategy and Social Marketing, 360i

For the past 8-plus years, LeWinter has spearheaded the agency’s social strategy.

Best piece of work advice from her kids: “My 5-year-old recently learned about the concept of “respect.” Respect is such an important driver for people, and my kids have forced me to think about the different levers that each person has for what respect means to them.”

Always on: “Because of the always-on nature of [the digital and social space], it’s really tough for new mothers to find an appropriate balance. It’s been really important to me to try to serve as an example for others.”

Molly Kuehn Watson

COO, Tierney

At the Philadelphia agency, Watson has built a thriving and diverse culture that has gotten it on “best places to work” lists.

How motherhood helped her succeed at work: “I never, ever expected to be the mother of a profoundly handicapped child. It’s the toughest job I’ve ever had, but it’s tapped a resilience and perspective that I never knew I had. My team often hears me say, ‘We are going to eat this elephant in small chunks.’ We figure out the plan for today and then go from there. I had to do that every day of my daughters’ life for the first five years since I didn’t know if she would live or die or what kind of life she would have.”

Best piece of work advice from her kids: “When sharing some of the daily frustrations of work, my oldest son Jake said, ‘Mom, why don’t you just tell them how you feel?’ While it’s not always that simple, the truth is that transparency and honesty are critical to succeeding in business and life.”

How she disconnects: “I discovered yoga about three years ago and take classes 2-3 times per week. While the physical benefits are certainly great, it’s the mental break that makes the most difference for me.”

Barby K. Siegel

CEO, Zeno Group

In her 7 years at Zeno, Siegel has helped take it from small, unknown firm to global, award-winning mid-size agency.

How motherhood helped her succeed at work: “Being a mother certainly gives you a more balanced perspective…hopefully, how to let the little things roll and focus on the big stuff.”

Meaningful moments: “While there are those extra special times—holidays, family vacations—it is the day-to-day and more relaxed activities that are the most fun…savoring and enjoying the simple moments. For me with older children it might be a family meal together, hanging out with Netflix or just laying in bed.”

Her working parent tech tool: ”No question, Facetime and Skype have enabled working parents to stay in touch in ways that previously were simply not possible. When my children were young, that didn’t happen. But now that they are in college, being able to both talk to them and see them makes such a difference.”

Stephanie Latham

U.S. Head of Industry, Automotive, Facebook

In charge of the social giant’s automotive vertical, Latham is the founding force behind Facebook’s annual Auto Summit.

How work success helped her succeed at motherhood: “At Facebook, we talk a lot about ruthless prioritization [and I have earned] a Ph.D. in ruthless prioritization. Applying this to everything at work allows me to make the time for what matters at home.”

The difference between being a manager at work and home: “Children can be a little trickier to enroll in your vision—particularly around bedtime.”

Devika Bulchandani

President, McCann XBC and Managing Director, McCann NY

Heading the agency’s dedicated global Mastercard unit, Bulchandani has driven its transformation into an experiential and lifestyle brand.

How motherhood helped her succeed at work: “Advertising people are children…at heart.”

Best piece of work advice from her kids: My daughter once told me ‘Mom, you don’t have to lean into every problem. Some things will solve themselves. Others will need your attention.’ It’s probably the best piece of business advice I’ve ever gotten.”

The difference between being a manager at work and home: “At work, people might actually listen to you. At home, forget it.”

How she disconnects: “I don’t disconnect. I blur lines. I mess it all up together.
I bring my kids to work, I bring work home.”

Getting men involved: “The problem is our industry is run by men who may or may not understand what it means to be a working mother. Gender diversity and equality require our men to lead the charge. Not because it is politically correct, but because it is a business driver. Not just fixing the numbers, but fixing the environment.”

Kimberly Kelleher

Chief Business Officer, Glamour, Allure, Brides, Teen Vogue and Self

Formerly CRO of Wired Group, Kelleher now heads five other brands at Condé Nast.

How work success helped her succeed at motherhood: “The organizational/operational skills needed to run an efficient business absolutely come in handy when trying to keep my boys’ schedules straight. It takes a village to raise them and the village needs to know where to go, what time to get there and whether to bring a gift or not.”

The difference between being a manager at work and home: “No one at home is getting paid to be there. There is a difference between being efficient and keeping the trains on time and being too militant and strict. My boys keep me honest by mentioning when I have my ‘work voice’ on and when I am rushing them too much.”

How she disconnects: “I don’t disconnect because I don’t want to. I love being connected to my family and friends and love what I do.”

One persona: “I learned a long time ago that there is not enough time to have a different persona for work and home. Comfort with who you are and consistency in personality, regardless of situation, is something I appreciate and try to apply.“

Lori Gitomer

VP, Partner Development, The NBCU Content Studio

Gitomer has built a multi-million-dollar, revenue-generating content team within NBCU’s sales and marketing.

How motherhood helped her succeed at work: “Motherhood is unpredictable and, sometimes, a bit chaotic. My pursuit of being more disciplined and structured at home has brought many advantages to my working and is key to the success I’ve had in the workplace.”

Bernice Clark

SVP, Media, Macy’s

A leader by example, Clark works on strategy and execution of the retail giant’s massive multichannel media plans.

How motherhood helped her succeed at work: “Motherhood has given me more perspective on what’s really high-value activity that will make a difference and not just ‘stuff we could do.’ Also it’s made me more aware of how to provide feedback and advice that will lift someone up rather than crush their spirit.”

Meaningful moments: “It’s all about experiences and memories. We love sharing the things we love. My husband Anthony loves cars; we don’t miss the
NY Auto show. I love playing piano; guess who is loving piano lessons?”

How she disconnects: “I have two phones: one for work and one personal. I check my work phone once I get home but I leave it on the mantle downstairs to charge. My personal phone charges upstairs. That creates some daily disconnect time.”

Karah McGeown

VP, Director of Communications, FCB Chicago

McGeown drives the reputation of one of the largest creative agencies through strategic internal and external communications.

How work success helped her succeed at motherhood: “I help lead the Moms Group at FCB Chicago, so it’s helped me create a support network and gives me inspiration when I see other highly accomplished working moms, succeeding or struggling. It is reassuring to know that everyone thinks this is hard.”

Her working parent tech tool: “Calendar invites. My husband and I send them to each other for everything.”

How she disconnects: “My husband and I each have one night a week to ourselves, to use as we please. We call it ‘our night off’ and we don’t have to let each other know where we are, what we’re doing, or when we’ll be home.”

Paola Colombo

SVP, Managing Director, R/GA San Francisco

Colombo leads the agency’s Silicon Valley outpost, responsible for all operations from recruiting to managing clients to driving new business.

How motherhood helped her succeed at work: “Motherhood is a juggling act. You have to manage a million things at the same time, with no extra hours added to your day, while keeping your grace (and dignity). You also have to manage tantrums, polarizing personalities, and bottomless creativity. It’s easy to see some parallels to running teams and an office.”

How work success helped her succeed at motherhood: “I love my career and all the things I learn from it—that makes me a happy woman. A happy woman makes a happy mom.”

Best piece of work advice from her kids: “My youngest son Kai came up with a ‘happy word’ he likes to repeat nonsensically: It’s ‘plastic-fantastic.’ When things get hard at work I remember to pause and say ‘plastic fantastic.’ It brings me peace.”

How she disconnects: “There’s a little grassy, happy place in the countryside that serves as our retreat, complete with grape vines, crickets chirping and a beautifully star-lit night sky. Best of it all, there’s no cellphone service and the internet connection sucks. That’s the place that I long for during the week and escape to on weekends.”

Malaika Danovitz

Group Creative Director, mcgarrybowen

A busy creative leader, Danovitz also co-created a first-of-its-kind Mom’s group at mcgarrybowen.

How motherhood helped her succeed at work: “At the 3% Conference last year, Susan Credle said something that really stuck with me: ‘I’ve gotten to where I am because I’m a woman.’ That was fantastically inspiring. I embrace my challenges and momness every day. It’s who I am and in everything I create.”

The difference between being a manager at work and home: “No one listens to anyone anymore. Can we all just try to listen more? “

Creative moms: “I never noticed the lack of moms in creative departments until I became one. I never realized how hard juggling both would be. Together with my fabulous colleague Maureen Falvey, we created a mom’s support group. We want moms to feel appreciated and supported at work.”

Marcy Q. Samet

Global CMO, MRM/McCann

No matter where Samet is on Earth, if it’s 3 p.m. ET, she’s on Skype catching up with her daughter.

How work success helped her succeed at motherhood: “My work has helped give me clarity and perspective when it comes to motherhood. I almost feel like I love my kids more because of it.”

Work is okay: “Once my daughter was playing dress-up with a friend. She had a suitcase and pocketbook and said, ‘I’m off to Detroit!’ It showed me that I was her role model. She was okay with me working, and she was happy.”

Michal Shapira

SVP, News Content Partnerships, Turner Ignite

Shapira launched Turner’s branded content studio for marketers.

How motherhood helped her succeed at work: “Motherhood has forced me to be more focused, organized and efficient with my time at work, which has made me more productive overall. I am much better at prioritizing, but also not sweating the small stuff. I used to do that a lot. Now that I have kids, I realize it’s just not worth it.”

Meaningful moments: “We bond over basketball. That’s our thing.”

Jacqueline Cox

SVP, Zeno Group

Leading the agency’s new business development machine, Cox has helped bring in multiple client wins.

How work success helped her succeed at motherhood: “Before the twins, I spent a decade juggling multiple accounts with demanding clients who wanted it all, immediately. This was probably the best training ground for motherhood, especially being a single mother of twins.”

Sage advice: “As my own working mother would say to me, you don’t take on this role for the acknowledgement or praise. That being said, having the opportunity to celebrate each other means the world.”

Julie Batliner

President, Managing Partner, Carmichael Lynch Relate

At the Minneapolis PR agency, Batliner has overseen record growth while boasting remarkably low staff turnover.

Best piece of work advice from her kids: “Keep trying new things, and if you don’t like it, try something else.”

Her working parent tech tool: “I love the SeeSaw app. It’s a multimedia journal that showcases what my kiddos are learning at school. I can find everything in one place without reading a lengthy newsletter.”

It’s not balance: “We talk a lot about the work/life pendulum at Carmichael Lynch. Some days your daughter’s kindergarten school party is a priority. Some days you are going to have to prioritize working late. We talk about supporting each other’s pendulum priorities each day.”

Priscilla Valls

VP, Vertical Sales, Pandora

Valls was promoted last year to launch the retail vertical and oversee the core CPG, financial services and political categories teams.

How motherhood helped her succeed at work: “Becoming a mom has helped me let go. In our industry, and in sales specifically, you’re often surrounded by Type A personalities and the tendency is to want to control situations, give/have all the answers, solve problems and minimize missteps. Being a mom has helped me set clear goals and then guide and support others in charting their own path, figuring out their own solutions, and letting them learn from the conscious decisions they make.”

The difference between being a manager at work and home: “Besides being able to break out in dance when my 4-year-old commands Alexa to play Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling”? Just kidding. That happens in the office too.”

Her working parent tech tool: “Alexa! She’s great. I can order anything I need for the house, listen to music, or find out what the weather is going to be like in the next city I’m traveling to so I know what to pack.”

How she disconnects: “Head to the nearest beach.”

Anita McGorty

EVP, Corporate Communications, Publicis Media

The leader of Publicis Media’s global communications and marketing team, McGorty drives the group’s reputation and strategic communications.

How motherhood helped her succeed at work: “It definitely helps you learn to quickly prioritize what to focus on. That translates into being able to make decisions quickly and put heightened strategic focus to things that will have the biggest impact.”

How work success helped her succeed at motherhood: “Life can be complicated. Working on complex initiatives for years and in an industry that is always changing truly equips you for whatever comes your way in life and motherhood, including any curveballs.”

Best piece of work advice from her kids: “I was feeling overwhelmed one day and my five-year-old son could tell something was wrong. I shared with him that mommy had a lot to do and I didn’t know how I would get it all done. Without missing a beat he said, “Mommy, just do the best you can.” Best advice ever.”

Meaningful moments: “Whether it’s reading to the kids before they go to bed, or Friday night pizza parties, it’s simple family rituals that we all look forward to and treasure the most.”

Elizabeth Lucas-Velez

Former Associate Director Media Relations and Crisis Communication, Nestlé Nutrition/Gerber

Lucas-Velez is an expert in social responsibility campaign development and grassroots outreach.

How motherhood helped her succeed at work: “As a mom, we play so many roles. Nothing is above or below me. I apply that same Jill-of-all-trades, roll-up-your-sleeves and get it done work ethic to my place of employment.”

The difference between being a manager at work and home: “At work, you’re able to focus on one discipline, the art of communication.
At home, you have to wear a million hats.”

The real reward: “At the end of the day, being a mom is by far the most rewarding experience and being able to show my two daughters that women can do it all is priceless. Being a mom is what gives me the strength
to do what I do.”

Tatia Torrey

Chief Client Officer, Havas Chicago

Torrey oversees a client team of 75, ensuring the growing agency keeps its clients happy.

How work success helped her succeed at motherhood: “My role requires adaptability and that is an attribute necessary for motherhood. Learning to embrace change and navigate it with ease allows me to raise my daughter in a similar manner.”

Meaningful moments: “We like to carve out part of every weekend to ‘just hang’ together as a family. We play board games, go for a walk or cook.”

Patricia Betron

SVP, Multimedia Sales, ESPN

A champion for advertising effectiveness, Betron has crafted innovative deals to bring brands on board with the sports channel.

How work success helped her succeed at motherhood: “It’s beneficial for both my daughter and my son to see that a woman can be a leader in business.”

Meaningful family moments: “I am religious about taking two weeks’ vacation over the summer. One week is not enough to de-stress and fully engage with your family.”

Her working parent tech tool: “Improved tele- and video-conferencing.”

Madelyn Alpert Roberts

VP, Associate Publisher, Multimedia Endless Vacation/Story Worldwide

A longtime executive in travel media, Roberts has grown twin daughters who are both now in the advertising industry.

How motherhood helped her succeed at work: “Having twin daughters required me to become a proficient multitasker. My children’s creative and free-spirit thinking inspired my creative juices at work.”

How work success helped her succeed at motherhood: “My daughters were able to see my passion for work and success. This has taught them to be strong women pursuing their interests and career goals.”

Mari Kim Novak

CMO, Rubicon Project

An ad tech industry veteran, Novak drives the adoption of Rubicon’s platform across screens, devices and formats.

How work success helped her succeed at motherhood: “It has taught me to always learn something from my mistakes—something I’ve imparted to my children. Time management and the importance of having integrity in everything you do are two more that have also translated from work to motherhood.”

Best piece of work advice from her kids: “Keep your voice down when you are on the phone.”

How she disconnects: “I turn off the data on my mobile phone, go outside, and completely get off screens.”

Sharon Napier

CEO, Partners + Napier

Founding her namesake agency in 2004, Napier has turned the Rochester, N.Y. shop into a national presence while making family one of its core values.

How motherhood helped her succeed at work: “Whether at work or home, the most effective communication requires establishing a personal connection and making sure the right meaning behind any message is received.”

How work success helped her succeed at motherhood: “My girls have commented that I carry myself confidently as a business leader, which has had
a trickle-down effect as they chart their careers.”

The difference between being a manager at work and home: “My kids talk about me getting into a ‘directive mode’ at home, and they’re quick to say, “We don’t work for you.” As funny as that sounds, I’m still their mother, and it’s part of my job description to direct and guide them.”

Keeping the balls in the air: “It’s not easy to juggle a career in such a fast-paced business with family. I’m the first to talk about the many challenges and trade-offs with up-and-comers at the agency. I don’t have all the answers, but I try to lead by example. It makes me proud and happy that our girls are now pursuing their own ad careers and creating their own success.”

Madison Wharton

Chief Production Officer, DDB New York

In her first year at DDB, Wharton has reorganized the agency structurally and physically with a new workflow and production model.

How motherhood helped her succeed at work: “Since becoming a mother, I’ve dialed my efficiency up to a nuclear level. I live by the words ‘Do It Now’ because later will be just as busy as right now.”

The difference between being a manager at work and home: “There’s far less body fluids in the workplace. And for that I am very grateful.”

Her working parent tech tool: “To help connect with those close to us, we bought a thing called Hashtag Cube. It’s a physical box that streams Instagram images from a particular hashtag. We take pictures of our children, post them to Instagram with a set hashtag and the images instantly show up in the hashtag cube.”

In the open: “When I first started my professional career, it seemed all of the working mothers made such an effort to keep their personal lives hidden. The message received was that to compete in a man’s world, the sheer mention of family obligations would set you back professionally. We’ve come a long way since then, but I think it’s still very important to wear motherhood with pride. Own it so that the young men and women coming up know that it’s not only doable, but can be fun and empowering.”