Mission and History

Athena’s mission is to widen the bridge to advance

one million women leading in STEM by 2030

 

ABOUT ATHENA | Athena is a premier women's advocacy organization that fast tracks women in STEM through leadership development. By transforming scientists and technologists into corporate leaders, the goal is to widen the bridge to advance1 million women in STEM, by 2030. Its 20+ year history of advancing women in a global STEM hub marks Athena as a premier women’s empowerment advocate. Founded in 1998, Athena members feature executives, aspiring leaders, entrepreneurs, and academia from all sectors of life sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics, healthcare, defense, as well as the associated service providers.

 

HISTORY | In 1998, no women’s organization existed to support and develop executives leading inside San Diego’s STEM community. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and Athena was born of pure necessity. At a time when a handful of remarkable executive women lacked the social capital and market insights of effectively navigating inside these male-dominated industries, they converged with a clear vision and launched Athena. Over twenty years later, the "Athena Effect" is stronger than ever. While women are grossly underrepresented in the STEM economy, the Athena community is unwavering in its pursuit to deliver innovation through diversity. Athena members range from tech entrepreneurs to members of academia to life sciences CEOs, all of whom benefit from the gold-standard leadership development that Athena offers to STEM professionals.

MILESTONES

  • 1998 | Athena San Diego launched as an executive women's networking group to support female STEM executives and was affiliated with UCSD CONNECT; San Diego's flagship entrepreneurial program.

  • 2001 | Athena San Diego became a stand-alone, member-based organization under the auspices of UCSD Extension and then UCSD/Rady School of Management.

  • 2001 | Athena San Diego Foundation established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to award merit-based scholarships to young women pursuing undergraduate degrees in sciences, technology, engineering, and math.

  • 2008 | Athena San Diego became an independent 501(c)(6) non-profit organization governed by a Board of Directors.

  • 2017 | Athena San Diego removes “San Diego” from its name reflecting its expanded market impact and growth goals.

  • 2018 | Athena marks its 20-year service advancing STEM women’s leadership and announced its collaboration with the United Nations Global Compact.

  • 2019 | At the United Nations HQs in New York, Athena and the New York Academy of Sciences announced their partnership to launch the “Athena Assembly” in efforts to publish a data-driven “playbook” for STEM companies to drive corporate performance through gender equality.

 

What Sets Athena Apart

Several factors differentiate Athena from other women’s leadership organizations: 

  • Women In STEM Focused

  • Offer Both Executive & Aspiring Leaders Career-Level Services

  • Collaborator with the UN Global Compact: SDG5 | Gender Equality 

  • Headquartered in Global STEM Hub

  • 20+Year History

  • Philanthropic Arm

  • No National Affiliation

Athena offers corporate partnerships to STEM companies and the service providers that support them to advance their D&I goals and social impact objectives.

  • Athena offers individual memberships to STEM professionals accessing our suite of leadership development, mentoring and advocacy initiatives.

  • Athena's niche is in providing custom, purpose-built platforms with the latest leadership training offerings that allow members to advance their careers in STEM.

Barbara
Bry

Athena Founder

San Diego Councilmember

(District 1)

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The most invaluable benefit of Athena membership is the enduring power of its network. The privilege to connect with a diverse and sophisticated group of professional STEM women and learn from one another produces trusted business relationships and priceless friendships."  

Leadership & Team

THE ATHENA TEAM

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CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

HOLLY SMITHSON

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PROGRAM MANAGER

RASHMI KALITA

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EVENTS CONSULTANT

SARA BROWN

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DIRECTOR, MEMBER SUCCESS

KARIN FAIR

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HEAD OF DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS

SHERI CARR

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COMPTROLLER

DOUG DRENNAN

BOARD OFFICERS

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BRIDGET KIMBALL

CHAIR

Vice President and Chief Architect, Consumer Group | Intuit

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GRACE CHUI-MILLER

TREASURER

Chief Financial Officer |

Correlation Ventures

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VICE CHAIR

EVP, Strategy & Corporate Development | Tandem Diabetes Care

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CHARITY WILLIAMS

GOVERNANCE & NOMINATIONS

Partner | Cooley

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

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KARA BORTONE

Senior Director, Sourcing & Portfolio Management | Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS  

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JAYE CONNOLLY-LABELLE

Chairman and CEO | RippleNami, Inc.

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BREE HILLMAN

Partner | Deloitte

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SUSAN POSER

Vice President, Customer & Employee Experience | Oracle

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CATHY SCHNABEL

Chief Scientific Officer | Biotheranostics, Inc.

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JEAN STADWISER

Partner | KPMG

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TASHONDA TAYLOR

Vice President of Customer Operations | SDG&E 

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SARA ZAKNOEN

Independent Consultant | Zed Strategic Consulting

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JENNIFER BROWN

Managing Director | EY

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SHAYE EXNER

Executive Director, Events & Sponsorship | Biocom

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IDA KHODAMI

Partner | Two Bear Capital

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CHADIA ROBERTSON

Scientist and Program Lead, GI Drug Discovery | Takeda

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ÁINE SHIVNAN

Vice President, Program Management | Qualcomm

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REVATHI SUBRAMANIAN

Managing Director, Global Data Science Executive | Accenture 

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CLAIRE WESTON

CEO | Reveal Biosciences

ATHENA EMERITUS AND FOUNDING BOARD MEMBERS

 

We are grateful to the leaders and visionaries that enabled Athena’s 20+ year impact in advancing professional women in STEM. Their collective insights and dedication drove the success in building a robust member portfolio serving STEM executives, managers, educators, entrepreneurs and service providers. We salute and honor these founding members for executing on a vision where the world views women’s contributions to innovation as a core strategic value.

Helen Adams

Barbara Drinkrow

Deborah Jondall

Sigrid Pate*

Christie Vail

Erna Adelson

Berit Durler

AnneMarie Kaiser

Leni Perciado

Elaine Weidenhammer

Cathy Akin*

Karin Eastham

Beth Kinsey*

Aboli Rane

Sara Wilensky Napoli

Gemini Babla

Sue Ebner

Karen Klause*

Rashmi Char

Rhonda Rhyne

Annette Winn

Suzanne Biggs

Tamar Elkeles*

Sarah Lamade

Gwen Rosenberg

Teresa Young

Janice Brown

Maureen Feerick

Patti Lazard

Faye Russell

Nicola Zahl

Barbara Bry*

Karen Fisher

Linda Le Beau*

Killu Sanborn

Julie Burgess

Lola Adeyemo

Michele Comtois

Lynne Friedmann*

Dawn Saunders

Anita Busquets

Tammy Garbett

Sandra Louis Schmid

Jeni Schrimsher

Donna Caley Leach*

Karen Garsson

Maggie Lowe

Joleen Schultz

Cathryn Campbell*

Brenda Gebler

Catherine Mackey

Linda Seaton

Kelly Cashion

Susan Gonick

Margaret Mann

Carolyn Fritz

Katherine Kantardjieff

Stephanie Shkolnik

Jennifer Cayer

Cathy Gonzales

Vicki Marion

Abby Silverman

Kay Chandler

Diane Goostree

Magda Marquet

Kim Silverman

June Chocheles

Lisa Grillone

Lisa Martens

Joan Stafslien

Nancy Conyers

Lisa Haile

Donna Nichols

Deirdre Stewart

Nicole DeBerg

Lee Wills

Kathleen Hedges

Barbara Noerenberg

Julie Sullivan

Jan Dehesh

Emilie Hersh

Anne O’Donnell*

Susan Ten Eyck Mallory*

Martha Dennis*

Denise Jackson

Benita Page*

Denise Thompson

Karen Anderson

Wendy Johnson

Tracy Lawhon

Jackie Townsend

Sabrina Johnson

Constance Maples

Judy Muller-Cohn

Ruchika Rastogi

 

*Founding Board Member

 

ATHENA FOUNDATION BOARD OFFICERS

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SARA ZAKNOEN

PRESIDENT

Principal | Zed Strategic Consulting

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SUE EBNER

TREASURER

Principal | Ebner Consults

ATHENA FOUNDATION BOARD | 2020-2021

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TRACY LAWHON

Strategic Development and Operations Consultant

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AMY ROMAKER

Director, Client Service |

Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, LLP

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VICKI MARION

President | The Marion Group

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GWEN ROSENBERG

Vice President of Global Corporate Communications | 

Integrated DNA Technologies