The Leading Ladies of Manhattanville


Bruce caricatureBruce the Blog
By Bruce Apar

“I’m just about the least sexist son of Adam you’ll ever meet,” I tongue-in-cheekily told one of the 180 or so females milling and mingling at the official launch of the Women’s Leadership Institute (WLI) at Manhattanville School of Business.

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More than 200 powerful female business leaders, community members, and local dignitaries participate in “speed networking” during the launch event for the Women’s Leadership Institute in late January at Manhattanville College.

As the press material prepared by premier PR firm Co-Communications informs, “The Institute, supported by founding sponsor PepsiCo, is the first center of its kind offered at a world-class academic institution in Westchester and surrounding areas to meet the leadership and professional development needs of women in the workplace.”

The crowd commemorating the new program was some 200 strong, meaning men like me were lean in number, if not in girth. (I speak only for myself in that regard, since just about every other male I spotted was hale and hearty and humbled to be amongst these Leading Ladies.)

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Women’s Leadership Institute Director Kathy Meany and Dr. Anthony Davidson, dean of the Manhattanville School of Business, unveil the logo for the Women’s Leadership Institute at the Institute’s launch event at Manhattanville College.

Well, that’s what they are, by definition. Movers. Shakers. Not candlestick makers. As my collected business cards attest, the Leading Ladies I spoke with included Hilda Maria Valdespino, inspirational speaker and trainer; Maria L. Imperial, Esq., executive director of YWCA White Plains & Central Westchester; Janet L. Walsh of Birchtree Global, who helps businesses set up shop in foreign markets; Pat Braja, director of development at Westchester Library System; and Lynne Lori, an actress and acting teacher, whose improv class in Tarrytown I hope to soon attend. See, speed networking works!

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(From left) Manhattanville College President Dr. Jon Strauss; Women’s Leadership Institute Director Kathy Meany; event speakers Marcia DeWitt, Janet Hasson, and Marsha Gordon; and Dr. Anthony Davidson, dean of the Manhattanville School of Business, at the Women’s Leadership Institute launch at Manhattanville College.

There were several high-profile Leading Ladies who addressed the assemblage, on what School of Business Dean Dr. Anthony Davidson termed “a momentous occasion in a momentous place at a momentous time.”

He could be allowed his effusiveness, for Manhattanville College president Dr. Jon Strauss noted that WLI is the Dean’s “brainchild, a number of years in the making.” So, Dr. Davidson was like the proud papa in the delivery room, fulfilled by the fruit of his labors.

The Women’s Leadership Institute has been formed to help women maximize their potential and become impactful leaders,” he told the celebrants. 

Kathy Meany, director of the Institute, said it will offer educational programs, mentoring, coaching and training. A five-month certificate program called “Lead with Distinction,” for mid-level professionals and managers, will focus on such disciplines as financial acumen, communicating, strategic thinking, negotiating, and productivity.

Manhattanville trustee Marcia DeWitt, CEO of workers’ compensation consultant GuildfordPare, said “not giving up is what I learned most. Negotiating for yourself is a very important skill.”

Janet Hasson, President of The Journal News [who recently resigned to work for another newspaper] shared how many cities she relocated to before landing her dream job in Westchester. “It was tough. You sacrifice a lot that’s important to you.”

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Dr. Marsha Gordon, president and CEO of The Business Council of Westchester, shares the importance of the Women’s Leadership Institute at the Institute launch event at Manhattanville College.

The serendipity – and symmetry — of the groundbreaking program’s location in the heart of Westchester was duly noted by Business Council of Westchester CEO Dr. Marsha Gordon. She reminded us that two of the world’s most iconic brands – Pepsi and IBM – are not only nearby, but currently led by CEOs who happen to be female.

Let’s not forget another cornerstone corporation whose CEO is not a man. That would be Mary Barra of automaker GM. That in itself reflects the perfect timing and broad appeal of Manhattanville’s new Women’s Leadership Institute. To recall a redolent American aphorism, “As General Motors goes, so goes the nation.”

Ladies, lead the way…

For more information about program offerings or sponsorship opportunities, contact 914-323-5150 or email