Four metro Atlanta leaders with local ties are among the 12 winners of the fourth annual POW! Awards, to be given Tuesday by Womenetics, a Buckhead-based website devoted to women in leadership.
Buckhead residents Susan Booth, Lara O’Connor Hodgson and Sonya Soutus and Virginia Hepner, president and CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center in Midtown and the eight other winners were culled from a list of 125 to 150 nominees through a rigorous selection process, said Elisabeth Marchant, Womenetics’ founder and CEO.
“We believe [very] strongly in the power of women to improve profitability within a company and to improve the community at large,” Marchant said. “We [believe] women feel engagement in that and it’s imperative for economic prosperity. By that we mean today we are looking at numbers that were really low as far as women in top leadership positions. The POW! program was set up to honor catalysts and those transforming businesses.”
The awards’ profile has increased each year. In 2011 Womenetics launched a Global Woman’s Initiative program in Chicago, and it honored nine leaders with its first POW! Awards there March 9. The website has viewers from people in more than 187 countries, Marchant said, adding it was named one of the Top 100 websites for women by Forbes magazine the previous three years.
Back in Atlanta, the local honorees interviewed said they were thrilled with the honor.
“The POW! Award means a great deal to me because it is unique in that it doesn’t honor accomplishments, it honors purpose,” said Hodg-son, president and CEO of the Buckhead-based NOWaccount Network Corp. “Most of us are taught that our goal in life should be success, but I believe that we should think bigger.”
Hepner, who lives in DeKalb County’s LaVista Park near Emory University, added, “I’m incredibly grati-fied. I’ve always probably gotten more attention than was due but I’m honored. … What a great, diverse group of women and backgrounds. I probably know half of them. … It is one of the most amaz-ing collections of professional women of any city I’ve [lived] in.”
Booth, artistic director of the Alliance Theatre, a divi-sion of the Woodruff Arts Center, said, “It’s a really moving honor. When I read that the awards are particu-larly focused on celebrating women who lead, innovate, collaborate and advance, it was gratifying to know those are traits with which the awards committee associates me.”
Soutus, senior vice president for public affairs and communications at The Coca-Cola Co. in downtown Atlanta, was not available for an interview last week.
For bios on all 12 award winners, visit www.womenetics.com.
If you go:
o What: Womenetics’ POW! Awards
o Where: Georgia Aquarium, 225 Baker St., downtown Atlanta
o When: Tuesday at 11 a.m.
o Tickets: $135 per person; $1,250 for table of 10
o Information: www.womenetics.com
Editor’s note: Below are notes and quotations on the award winners from the people who nominated them.
Name and title: Susan Booth, artistic director of the Alliance Theatre
Nominator: Virginia Hepner, president and CEO of Woodruff Arts Center, which encompasses the Alliance and three other divisions
Quote from selection committee: “I know this might come off as unusual, however the selection committee felt that both women are incredibly impactful for different reasons. They took this opportunity to recognize Virginia (who is Susan’s boss and who was nominated by external members of the Atlanta community) and Susan for their distinguished female leadership within the Atlanta arts community.”
Quote from Hepner: “Susan has been a champion of new artists, and especially women actors, playwrights and directors. Susan established the Alliance National Graduate Playwriting Competition, which has grown into one of the most important competitions and developmental tools for new playwrights in the country.”
Name and title: Virginia Hepner, president and CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center
Nominator: Teya Ryan, executive director of Georgia Public Broadcasting
First quote from Ryan: “Virginia has set the bar for civic engagement. There is simply no one who embodies this sense of social responsibility as much as Virginia. She is a model for all of us.”
Second quote from Ryan: “I have watched Virginia personally mentor so many women along the way. She has actively gone out of her way to, in particular, support women in the arts.”
Name and title: Lara O’Connor Hodgson, president and CEO of NOWaccount Network Corp.
Nominator: Stacey Abrams, senior vice president of NOWaccount Network Corp., District 89 state representative, D-Atlanta, and the House minority leader
First quote from Abrams: “This convening talent cannot be underestimated — especially on a global level. Problems are no longer solved in silos but in and across groups. Lara not only embodies this ethos, but she has embedded it at NOWaccount and Nourish.”
Second quote from Abrams: “Lara is a self-described ‘contrarian’ who refuses to see challenges as anything less than opportunities to fail forward.”
Name and title: Sonya Soutus, senior vice president for public affairs and communications at The Coca-Cola Co.
Nominator: Lori George Billingsley, vice president for public relations and communications at The Coca-Cola Co.
First quote from Billingsley: “Sonya often comments that ‘we need to lock arms’ to move forward. She is never satisfied with the status quo and challenges herself and her team to seize opportunities — to always be front-footed in the approaches taken and steadfast in the conviction to forward The Coca-Cola Co. story.”
Second quote from Billingsley: “Due to her coaching, women on her team have been selected to serve on short-term global assignments in public affairs and communications posts.”