When I awoke this morning, I was still a tad bleary-eyed from the martinis I enjoyed last night with Cousin Rob. But it wasn’t my coffee that jolted me into overdrive but rather this CNBC story about the network’s inaugural “Changemakers” list featuring women “who are reaching a level of success that is not only exceptional but highlights novel approaches to old business problems and identification of new market opportunities.”

I glanced at the list and recognized only one name: Sarah London, CEO of Centene. Those who have even a modicum of knowledge about healthcare know that Centene is one of the industry’s most ethically challenged companies, and that London figures prominently in Centene’s myriad alleged wrongdoings and costly settlements. I posted a critical profile of London in September 2022 headlined, Centene’s Sarah London: A Do-Gooder Gone Bad? and in April 2022 called out the company’s farcical code of ethics.

CNBC’s mandate should be to hold Centene accountable, rather than celebrate an executive responsible for the company’s controversial activities. With London making CNBC’s list, I knew it had no credibility and didn’t waste my time looking up the backgrounds of the other women who CNBC included.

I’ve long been critical of the women the media chooses to celebrate, particularly GM CEO Mary Barra, who incidentally was just celebrated for her EV advocacy by a trade publication called EV Magazine, despite failing miserably transforming GM into an EV manufacturer, a failure recently detailed by a more credible writer for InsideEVs.

Rather than focus on women executives who shouldn’t be celebrated, I’ve put together a list of inspirational women deserving of shoutouts and worthy of recognition.

And the envelopes please …

Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX

Shotwell, quite frankly, easily ranks among the top 10 executives in America, although admittedly that’s no longer much of a compliment. My guess is that if China’s leader Xi Jinping has a dream team of U.S. business leaders he’d love to draft, Shotwell would rank high on the very, very short list.

Shotwell is the daughter of a brain surgeon, and the smarts apple clearly didn’t fall far from the tree. Check out her bio on NASA’s website, which lists Shotwell’s range of impressive accomplishments, including being named the 2018 Satellite Executive of the Year and the recipient of numerous other prestigious awards.

While Shotwell’s undeniable technology brilliance is well known, I’m in awe of her leadership skills. In June 2022, some low-ranking SpaceX employees began circulating an open letter internally protesting Elon Musk’s behavior and saying he was an embarrassment to the company. The letter was leaked to The Verge, which published this disgraceful story that was promptly amplified by other publications.

Here is the employee memo that Shotwell issued in response, which SpaceX released to the media. It’s the most impressive HR communique I’ve ever come across and one I doubt most Chief People Officers could write.

Abigail Johnson, CEO of Fidelity

You want influential? Fidelity has $12.6 trillion dollars under management, a feat made possible because the private company is unrivaled for its institutional integrity, superior technology, and unparalleled customer service.  Fidelity’s net asset flows increased 38% last year to $647 billion, underscoring the legions of people who share my assessment.

Fidelity was founded by Johnson’s grandfather and later run by her father. It is said the third generation is the one that screws up a family business, but Abigail Johnson has defied that maxim.

I’ve previously written about my awe of Fidelity and my admiration for Johnson, which can be found here.

Rebecca Tinucci, Senior Director, Charging Infrastructure, Tesla

Rebecca Tinucci, LinkedIn

Elon Musk is undeniably brilliant, but Tesla ultimately owes its success to its charging network, which company co-founder and director JB Straubel had the vision to build. Rebecca Tinucci has successfully expanded Tesla’s network and is working on other innovations, such as wireless charging. That she has received about a half dozen promotions in six years working for one of the most demanding bosses is telling. As for Tinucci’s importance to Tesla, Musk included her as part of Tesla’s brain trust in an investor presentation last year.

My previously published profile on Tinucci can be found here.

Marion Gruber, VP Public Health and Regulatory Science, IAVI

Marion Gruber

Gruber is a pandemic hero, one whose story has yet been widely told. Gruber is one of the world’s leading vaccine experts, and she worked at the FDA for 34 years. Gruber and her deputy, Phil Krause, another renowned vaccine expert, resigned from the FDA at the height of the pandemic rather than be railroaded into approving vaccine boosters promoted by the Biden Administration and Dr. Fauci. I posted this commentary more than two years about the heroism of Gruber and Krause.

Unlike legions of FDA folks who use their jobs as steppingstones to lucrative jobs in Big Pharma, Gruber opted to join IAVI, a nonprofit focused on developing vaccines and antibodies for HIV, tuberculosis, and emerging infectious diseases. Actions speak louder than words, and Gruber’s speak volumes.

Helen Greiner, Current Position Uncertain

Greiner is among the world’s leading robotic experts. She is best known for the Roomba, the robotic vacuum developed by iRobot that’s freed countless of consumers of one of the most dreaded household chores. Greiner was a co-founder of iRobot, which invented the Roomba, and ran the company for more than three decades.

Less well known about iRobot was its PackBot military robots, which were used by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan and saved countless lives. They also were used for searching through debris at the World Trade Center after 9/11. Greiner told IBD that PackBot robots were the accomplishments of which she was most proud.

Earlier in her career, Greiner worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Lab.

Greiner in September 2020 was named CEO of Tertill, whose signature product is a robot weed remover that’s powered by sunshine. Although I can find no public record of Greiner leaving the company, her LinkedIn page says she left in 2022.

Catherine Keating, Head of Wealth Management, BNY Mellon

Catherine Keating/ BNY Mellon

Keating, formerly head of JPMorgan’s private bank and a member of the firm’s executive committee, was a conscientious objector who reportedly didn’t want the bank to continue doing business with pedophile Jeffrey Epstein after his conviction. Keating’s objections weren’t heeded and while it’s not certain she left JPMorgan as a result, her appointment at BNY Mellon speaks volumes of the integrity that company values in its top leaders. Keating earned a law degree from the University of Virginia and a B.A. from Villanova University, on whose board she served, including as chair.

Keating also serves on the boards of the University of Virginia Law School Foundation and the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, and on the Investment Committees of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Sigrid S. McCawley, Managing Partner, Boies Schiller Flexner

Sigrid McCawley/Boies Schiller

McCawley represented multiple victims of Jeffrey Epstein and played a major role in the litigation that forced JPMorgan to cough up $290 million in a landmark settlement with 200 of Epstein’s victims who alleged the bank ignored warnings about Epstein activities. The settlement came just days before JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon was scheduled to be deposed.

While Boies Schiller likely was well compensated for its efforts – they and another firm involved in the litigation asked the judge to keep 30 percent of the settlement fees and requested reimbursement for $1.1 million in litigation expenses – McCawley has demonstrated a commitment to protecting children, having served for the past 10 years on the board of directors for ChildNet, which manages the protection of over 3,000 neglected and abused children in South Florida, and also on the board of Jack & Jill, an organization focused on promoting child growth and development.

McCawley’s legal accomplishments are impressive and she’s legendary for her deposition skills. From her Boies Schiller bio:

Sigrid is a Managing Partner of Boies Schiller Flexner, where she helps oversee the work of attorneys throughout the firm. Sigrid’s litigation talents have been nationally recognized. She was named Litigator of the Year by The American Lawyer, Top Ten Female Litigator in 2020 and 2021 by Benchmark Litigation, Finalist for Attorney of the Year in Florida by Daily Business Review, Most Effective Lawyer in Arbitration by Daily Business Review, a Leading Lawyer in America by Lawdragon, and a Thought Leader 2021 by Corporate Counsel.

Mary Talley Bowden, ENT Specialist and President of Americans for Health Freedom

As Shakespeare said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”. Talley Bowden falls into the latter camp.

Mary Talley Bowden

Talley Bowden, who I’ve profiled multiple times (see here, here, and here) was the Stanford-trained ENT doc who lost her hospital privileges, was ridiculed in the media, and nearly lost her license because she insisted that ivermectin was an effective drug to treat Covid patients. Bowden was also an immediate opponent of paxlovid, a Covid drug that many other doctors now are reluctant to prescribe.  

Americans for Health Freedom is an organization dedicated to ensure freedom of choice for medical decisions and is lobbying to have the covid vaccines pulled from the market. At this writing, the organization had 146 elected officials, 127 candidates, 1 surgeon general, and 1 Republican Party County Committee from 39 states pledging to call for the covid vaccine shots to be pulled off the market.

In my discussions with Talley Bowden, it was always abundantly clear that she would prefer to practice medicine and read medical journals but will go to the mat for the care of her patients and the right to treat them the best way she knows how.

Bari Weiss, Founder and Editor of The Free Press

Bari Weiss/Twitter photo

If they gave Pulitzers for the best resignation letter, Weiss was a shoe-in for the one she wrote to the New York Times in July 2020 and posted online.  She’s moved on to launch and edit an online publication called The Free Press, which has attracted an impressive coterie of writers and contributors and dares to defend persons vilified in the legacy media, including Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who was convicted in the killing of George Floyd.

The Free Press charges $60 for annual subscription, and a New York Times subscription can be easily had for $4 a month. Weiss’ profile is considerably higher than when she worked at the Times.

Who’s having the last laugh?

Lynsi Snyder, CEO of In-N-Out Burger

Snyder was all of 27 when she inherited control of the iconic West Coast burger chain, and she deserves credit for keeping experienced management in place and not tinkering with the company’s legendary commitment to freshness and quality. In-N-Out’s legions of devotees should be grateful that Snyder isn’t driven by greed; although she’s already a billionaire, she could dramatically increase her wealth taking her company public and subjecting it to the whims of activists and analysts who would opine from their Wall Street peanut galleries about how to reduce the chain’s costs and improve efficiencies.

Snyder has vowed to keep her company private.

In-N-Out is legendary for caring about its employees and putting their interests ahead of profits; the company prefers to promote from within and committed employees can easily rise from burger flippers to store managers earning six figure salaries. As I suspected, In-N-Out doesn’t have a Chief People Officer but rather a traditional Director of HR named Rebecca Douglass, who has been with the company for 13 years.

Snyder is not an imperial CEO, as she plays in a rock band with other employees. She also has overcome considerable adversity, including drug and alcohol addiction, a feat she credits to her religious faith.

Rebecca Blumenstein, President Editorial, NBC News

Rebecca Blumenstein/NBC

In its rankings, CNBC overlooked someone in the network’s own backyard. That would be Rebecca Blumenstein, who last year was put in charge of the editorial operations of NBC News. Blumenstein previously held senior leadership positions at the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and while working at the Journal, oversaw a team of correspondents in China whose coverage garnered a Pulitzer Prize.

Given the disgraceful firing of CBS News correspondent Catherine Herridge, NBC News employees should thank their Peacock they work for a seasoned journalist for whom diversity means working at two of America’s leading publications. I knew Blumenstein when she was a Journal tech writer, and she was one of the nicest and savviest journalists I’ve ever encountered, reaffirming my belief that the nicest people and best reporters hail from Michigan.

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