This year we are excited to award our second annual list of women leaders making a difference at work. We took nominations from our readers and combed through hundreds of profiles and sites to create our list of the top 20. Thank you all for your nominations.
Our goal was to assemble a comprehensive list of women who you may not have heard of before. This is not a celebrity list because you can find those millions of other places online. Instead, this is a list of women who work, just like you and I, who are hustling every single day to make their dream careers, businesses and lives happen.
We wanted to clear the clutter of “not so classy” that we see too much of and deliver you the REAL classy and ambitious ladies who are driving change, inspiring others and making the world a better place. The more we know that other women are making the impossible possible, the more empowered we will be that we can do the same. What we have learned time and time again is that when women support other women, incredible things happen.
What we looked for:
Women who meet the definition of a Classy Career Girl:
A female displaying elegance, style, high standards of personal behavior, skill and grace.
These Classy Career Girls are leaders and making a difference whether it is working for a company OR owning their own business. They can be ANY age and live anywhere in the world.
Get ready to be inspired! Here are the top 20 Classy Career Girls of 2016 (in alphabetical order):
What makes her a Classy Career Girl: Maxine has enjoyed helping others reach their maximum potential through health and fitness for over 30 years. She has also started many community groups that support and educate not only women but young business people on how to grow as a leader in their chosen fields. Her contribution to the betterment of her community also involves many board positions that she holds and hours of community service to several non-profit groups, including Girls on the Run, which is another amazing group that provides an impactful message to our future leaders. She looks forward to networking in the Classy Career Girl community and growing her motivational speaking programs and life coaching seminars.
Role: Silver Director with USANA Health Sciences
Website: Melissa Bartel
What makes her a Classy Career Girl: Melissa works from home as a Silver Director with USANA Health Sciences running her own business and developing a team of successful entrepreneurs and leaders on her team! She has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I’ve ever met. Despite her personal struggles in life with health and losses, she is ever positive and always striving to help people. She’s always genuine to the core and uplifting in every situation. She is the inspiration that drives me to learn more, become more, and do more. Her humble leadership in selflessly devoting her time and energy to grow others and to help change others lives is priceless! She and her husband also have their own photography business where she is the creative director as well as being an incredible mom to her beautiful daughters!
Role: Financial Analyst at Lockheed Martin Corporation and Lifestyle Blogger
Website: Lily Kyi
What makes her a Classy Career Girl: Johnnita’s mission is to empower the everyday working woman to find creative outlets beyond her day job. Through her own journey to add creativity in her life, she noticed it started to rub off on the women around her. From inspiring the administrative assistant to turn her love for baking into a business to adding an extra touch to a suit fitting for a woman in need in preparation for a job interview. Being a ray of light and inspiration for the career woman is a passion she has discovered over the past year that has changed her forever.
Role: Advisor at Project Self-Sufficiency
What makes her a Classy Career Girl: Amanda works with single-parent families to help them achieve a higher level of career and education. She is passionate about helping these families be more sustainable. She is a former Peace Corps participant and she cares about social issues and initiatives, actively working to make the world a better place. As a member of Larimer County Women of the Year, Amanda has added her warm, caring support along with her fun and friendly attitude to encourage and empower members of the group.
Role: Career Makeover Strategist® for expat women and Founder of Expat Renaissance
Website: Expat Renaissance
What makes her a Classy Career Girl: Rita is a career and business coach for expats, striving to help women around the world redefine and reinvent their success abroad. A serial expat from childhood, she is now a multicultural mom in Paris. Her classiness comes in mostly with the *somewhat naïve* belief that SHE CAN HAVE IT ALL. Balancing work, home, kids, family for the past 5 years all while in a foreign country. Having changed many careers on a pursuit of “What do I want to be when I grow up?” she decided she doesn’t want to grow up and doesn’t want to put her dreams on hold. And thus she created a space to inspire and evoke change among fellow expat women.
Role: Co-Founder of CrossChannel
What makes her a Classy Career Girl: Sonia has put so much dedication, effort, discipline, energy, and has sacrificed a lot to help this company grow. She’s helped the company go from 3 employees to 25. She is always ensuring that her clients are satisfied and provides outstanding customer service. She has a variety of different skills such as analytical, customer service, strategic, etc. She has achieved financial freedom and through that her humbling heart gives back to her community and family. As a Co-Founder, she dedicated time to lead a self-help group called “Help” to help individuals going through a hard time. She led them through prayer and scripture reading once a week.
Elizabeth Potier Harrison
Role: Owner of Sarasota Home Organizer and the coming soon Lazy Organizer
Website: Sarasota Home Organizer
What makes her a Classy Career Girl: Elizabeth helps people organize their life one piece at a time. What makes her classy is that she understands being lazy is part of organizing. In fact, that’s what motivates her to be organized. So she can do less work later. It is through this understanding that she helps her clients organize their lives one lazy part at a time.
Role: Associate Director at USC Rossier School of Education
What makes her a Classy Career Girl: Khalia is an amazing woman. She is extremely intelligent, caring and truly invests in her team and those she works with. She has a “Can Do” attitude as I have personally witnessed her go above and beyond what is needed. She is passionate about what she does and is always growing to learn more. She does not only do this at work but she also does this when she is out networking. She is always offering to help others by providing a recommendation or advice. She seeks to have a positive attitude and reminds others to not have a deficit mindset and help them to reframe their situations.
Role: Healthcare Manager and Career Coach
Website: Career Renovations by Sarah
What makes her a Classy Career Girl: Sarah truly personifies class, grace, and empowerment. She devotes 100% of herself to her clients to help them realize their potential and is committed to the professional development of women everywhere. Sarah is a successful healthcare manager and also runs a career coaching business where she makes herself constantly available to her clients so we always feel supported and safe. She is a mom and wife and knows how important it is to balance those important roles while maintaining your professional identity. She encourages me to be brave and step out of my comfort zone and always knows just what I need to get to the next level, be it a well-timed call/email or even a hand-written note of encouragement sent to my home. I don’t know how she manages her corporate career, her business and her blog yet she makes it all look effortless. She is also a local AmBOSSador with Bossed Up and she hosts professional networking events in her area so other career women can grow their network and meet others who are in the same boat and trying to balance their career and life. She inspires me every day and I am proud to know her! Her life’s mission is clearly evident every day as she strives to help every woman she meets elevate to their greatest potential and be the leaders and professionals they were born to be.
Role: Founder of Sparkly Finance Bootcamp
What makes her a Classy Career Girl: Didem describes herself as a “sparkly CPA” with a passion for teaching female CEOs how to organize their business finances such a way that it increases their profit and sets up a foundation that generates predictable and measurable success. What makes Didem a Classy Career Girl is her passion for education for children in Ghana, Africa. I first heard that Didem “Dee” was raising money to build a school through the Corporate Rescue Plan Facebook group in October of this year. She raised money by offering a financial course. Talk about creating a “win-win” for the school and for those who donated for the course. Through this endeavor, Dee has connected authentically through social media, email, and networking in order to make her dream a reality. Her easy gleaming personality comes through even in text and written correspondence. She has been a source of inspiration, support, and advice in the CRP Facebook group. Currently, she is embarking on writing her first book on 52 weeks to a more prosperous future. I have no doubt that it will be a shimmering success. I cannot wait to celebrate with her in the CRP community.
Role: Part of 2016 was spent in Management at 3M company and part as a Career Strategist with Kroiss Consulting
What makes her a Classy Career Girl: Jennifer is classy because she is able to give honest direct feedback in all types of situations. She is able to do this in an encouraging and motivating manner, driving self-reflection and a desire to take action. This is a unique and valuable skillset.
Stefania Marsh LaTorre (Pantano)
Role: Owner of EGM and Techy Girl
What makes her a Classy Career Girl: Stefania helps female entrepreneurs and mompreneurs learn the technical side of creating a website and helping it grow. What makes her classy is she explains things, button by button, from how to set up a site, create a funnel, create a social media presence, and make sure it’s found on google.
Role: Director of Product for Personal Insurance at Travelers Insurance
What makes her a Classy Career Girl: Grace spent nearly two years overseeing a worldwide systems transition for Travelers. She faced endless obstacles from every direction, and had to roll out and support a product that wasn’t yet ready. Despite all of her obstacles, she fought for what was right and remained a champion for all of those that were impacted in this transition. She became my mentor and has taught me countless lessons in always doing the right thing and thinking outside of the box to reach my goals. She is a Director and has served in multiple service areas. She holds a law degree, CPCU and certified project manager. In the face of adversity at work, she was a true and dignified lady of class. No one has taught me more in this industry than Grace.
Toni Howard Lowe
Role: Senior HR Professional for USAA in Dallas, Texas and Founder & CEO of The Corporate Tea
Website: The Corporate Tea
What makes her a Classy Career Girl: Toni is the consummate professional. She is a Senior HR Professional for USAA in Dallas, Texas while simultaneously maintaining her successful business brand and blog “The Corporate Tea”. Her style, her service, and her role in the molding and development of other’s careers makes her the ultimate “Classy Career Girl”. She is consistently learning and growing in her field, and she never ceases to amaze, with her dedication to serving her community. Toni Howard Lowe epitomizes what it means to be a Classy Career Girl.
Role: Software Engineer at FIS Global and Vice-President in ArabWIC Tunisia Chapter
Website: Sarah Mestiri
What makes her a Classy Career Girl: Sarah loves her field of work, software engineering, and she is engaged in multiple projects at the same time because she believed that she can make a change! Active in Arab women in computing organization, she held weekly meetings and presides Tunisia chapter. Besides, she is determined to reach her ultimate goal, working in machine learning field. So she is learning and growing her knowledge and constantly facing new challenges. She is a “classy career girl” as she has a beautiful wearing style, passion to her field and a lot of energy and dedication as a young socially engaged woman and wife!
Emerald S. Morrow
What makes her a Classy Career Girl: Emerald is the epitome of style, integrity and grace. She is an accomplished, EMMY award-winning journalist with an acumen that comes from telling powerful stories for nearly a decade. People in her community know her as a television reporter who uses her bold voice to speak for others. Emerald once told me, “Being bossy is misrepresented as a negative trait for women.” That’s because she has a steadfast self-confidence she wields to tell stories that make a difference. A jury of her peers recognized her this year for a story she enterprised for WTSP-TV (CBS) about children of incarcerated parents. She has a passion for stories that herald children’s concerns, explore education, and expose inequality. Simultaneously, she defines her own style, literally. Emerald is a devoted seamstress. Sewing comes as an homage to her grandmother, who taught her to thread, but is to the benefit of us all. She sews the clothes she wears almost daily and has a following on her Instagram showing off her creations under the hashtag, #thesewingreporter. As an Associated Press contributor who has covered Andre Leon Talley, New York Fashion Week and brushed shoulders with Anna Wintour, some may think Emerald is better suited for a fashion journalism career. Emerald proves passion has no bounds. She effortlessly stands at the intersection of work and her dreams, and that sounds like a Classy Career Girl to me.
Allison P. Parker
Role: Promotions Coordinator at Radio One Atlanta
Website: Allison P. Parker
What makes her a Classy Career Girl: Allison always holds herself to a high professional and ethical standard. No matter the environment around her, she carries herself as a respectable professional. The things that matter most to her are faith, family and development. For her, development occurs in different aspects of her life whether it is personal, professional, community and spiritual. She is big on mentorship (those who have gone before her and helping those coming after her). In her spare time, she enjoys laying on the couch watching Law & Order SVU marathons and reading.
Role: Writer and Owner of The Writing Shed
Website: The Writing Shed
What makes her a Classy Career Girl: Daniela is the writer and owner of The Writing Shed, an online blog and soon to be magazine that helps women use writing as a tool to gain confidence, self-esteem, and launch themselves to a new level. What makes her classy is her imagination. She has an incredible power to use words and give them new meaning to you. What you maybe once thought as something simple and trivial can be seen in a whole new light because of how she explains things with her creativity.
Role: Program Development Manager at Merry Go Round Children’s Foundation
Website: Pursuit of Possibility
What makes her a Classy Career Girl: Shanika has dedicated her life to making a different in her community and particularly in the lives of youth. She is a team player and a leader and has been an integral part of her organization for years. At 25 years old she became the Executive Director of the children’s charity she works for, and she immediately stepped up and lead the organization through a year of transition and growth. She became a leader within the organization and supported and mentored co-workers while juggling many other responsibilities. Shanika has always been ambitious, and has worked hard to build a career that makes her happy everyday, despite the trials and tribulations she may face. She continues to work hard to find a balance between work, personal life and her brand new blog, while simultaneously supporting her colleagues and friends through their developing careers.
Role: Founder of Luisazhou.com
Website: Luisa Zhuo
What makes her a Classy Career Girl: Luisa has impacted hundreds of women’s lives by supporting and guiding them through the maze of going from employee to entrepreneur and has done it in a way that radiates honor and respect for herself and those around her. Her level of business knowledge and professionalism is tremendous and the value that she delivers to her clients is staggering. She is one of the most generous, humble, compassionate, genuine and ethically driven business women that I have worked with and my life is better with her in it. Luisa makes the world a better place every day and I would love to see her recognized for everything that she does (especially since she would never expect to receive accolades for it!) for women everywhere.
Classy Career Girl Employee of the Year:
We have had some amazing team members and interns at Classy Career Girl in 2016, but there is one woman who has gone above and beyond in helping grow our Classy Career Girl brand in 2016. Aida started out the 2016 as our social media intern where she helped us consistently reach a half a million page views every month to our website and helped us grow our Instagram account 366% in just one year! As intern, she also helped us establish our presence on Snapchat and then officially took over as Community Manager for our two membership sites in September!! Thank you Aida for all your late nights and for your devotion to our members, community and women around the world. You are definitely another top Classy Career Girl of 2016!
Adelaide (Aida) Diaz
Role: Community Manager at Classy Career Girl
What makes her a Classy Career Girl: Aida deserves to be nominated because not only has she been a huge part of CCG’s growth, she’s always willing to help ever since I became an intern myself. She’s shown grace and elegance in everything she’s done and is definitely shown in all the Facebook groups she manages.
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