Chief Executive Officer

Holly Smithson is Athena’s Chief Executive Officer. Athena is empowering progress together by advancing professional women in the STEM economy. Athena offers its member community instruments for change through professional development, community investment, and market research. 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, one of the first industry associations and market drivers to establish the region as a global hub.  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 (Nonprofit CEO of the Year, 2019), San Diego Magazine (Woman of the Year Finalist, 2018) San Diego Daily Transcript (San Diego's Top 100 Influentials, 2014), Delegate on California Governor Brown’s Trade Mission to China, 2013 and the San Diego Metro (Women Who Rock, 2012).