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Holly Smithson is Athena’s Chief Executive Officer. Athena is a women’s empowerment organization that fast tracks women in STEM through leadership development. She previously served as Vice President, Business Strategy at the California Life Sciences Association, the nation’s largest statewide advocacy organization for the life sciences sector. Smithson previously served as President and Chief Operating Officer at Cleantech San Diego. Smithson worked in public policy for a decade as a Presidential Appointee at several federal agencies and as a registered lobbyist in Washington, D.C.  


Smithson began her career in broadcast journalism as a news director and anchor for several television and all-talk radio stations. She is a graduate of the Harvard Business School Executive Leadership Program and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in broadcast communications from East Carolina University.  


She has been recognized by multiple organizations, including San Diego Business Journal (CEO of the Year | 2019), San Diego Business Journal (Business Woman of the Year | 2019)  Xconomy (Diversity Champion Finalist | 2019), San Diego Magazine (Woman of the Year Finalist | 2019),  Delegate on California Governor Brown’s Trade Mission to China, 2013.