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Empowering Women | Who are the state's most powerful women, according to the state's most powerful women?

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Total transparency: The 17 women on this year's Power 100 list outnumbered the women NJBIZ interviewed when compiling the list.

An admitted mistake — one we will change going forward, starting now:

In speaking with whom NJBIZ believed to be some of the most powerful women in the state, we asked who they, in turn, thought deserved a spot on next year’s Power 100 List.

Here’s what our sources had to say:

Leslie Anderson, executive director of the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority: Anderson is the first African-American woman to head a state financing authority in New Jersey. She played an integral role in the development of New Jersey’s urban strategy that was enacted into law in July 1996 through the New Jersey Urban Redevelopment Act, which created the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority. “She is definitely someone that businesses look to as they make their way through the space,” a source said.

Kathleen M. Boozang, dean of Seton Hall Law School: After serving in multiple administrative capacities since 1990 at Seton Hall — including associate dean for academic affairs for eight years and vice provost for two years — Boozang became dean of Seton Hall Law School in July 2015.

Laurel Brennan, secretary-treasurer of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO: The AFL-CIO develops and implements policies that have positive impacts on the lives of 1 million union members and their families. For the past 11 years, Brennan has developed and organized the annual Women in Leadership Development conference to address the broad questions of how unions help women and how women help unions, and to ensure that union women have every opportunity to be educated, develop leadership skills and build diversity within the labor movement. “Brennan is one of the few women in the country in that position,” a source said.

Bobbi Brown, entrepreneur and founder of Bobbi Brown Studio in Montclair: More than 20 years after the debut of her cosmetic brand — now the No. 1 makeup artist brand founded by a woman — Brown introduced Pretty Powerful, an ad campaign featuring real women from all walks of life. In 2013, Brown launched the Pretty Powerful Campaign for Women & Girls, a global initiative dedicated to funding nonprofit organizations that strive to empower women and girls through education.

Ruthi Zinn Byrne, president of the public relations firm Zinn, Graves & Field and trustee at the Paper Mill Playhouse: Byrne has traveled on the Walk to Washington with her husband, former Gov. Brendan Byrne, at least 30 times — earning the respect and attention of the larger business community via her various community initiatives. “What Ruthi has accomplished is bringing together people from all different backgrounds to often foster collaboration behind the scenes,” a source said. “She is someone who can open doors who has the backs of women who are following behind her.”

Annette Catino, CEO and president, QualCare Alliance Networks: Catino is a veteran health care executive and entrepreneur with more than 35 years of experience in the health care industry. She is passionate about community philanthropy and sits on the board of directors for Pure Inventions Inc., Northfield Bancorp, Caucus NJ Educational Corp. and University Hospital in Newark.

Judy Chapman, founder and director of Garden State Woman Education Foundation: The foundation has assisted thousands of young women who have attended the organization’s educational events since 1998 and/or have been recipients of its college scholarships since 2007. “How many young women’s lives has Judy impacted over the last 16 years with both organizations?” a source said.

Mary Pat Christie, New Jersey first lady and former managing director at New York-based Angelo, Gordon & Co.: Christie has spent her time as New Jersey first lady heading three nonprofit organizations — New Jersey Heroes, the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund and the Drumthwacket Foundation. “She has done a lot for the veterans in the state and through her scholarship programs,” a source said. “She is a very successful businesswoman but, in addition to that, has also done an amazing job as first lady and as a wonderful mother to her four children.”

Bonnie Watson Coleman, U.S. representative for New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District:  Watson Coleman became the first African-American woman to serve as majority leader of the New Jersey General Assembly and the first African-American woman to serve as the chair of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee. Her election to the House of Representatives makes her the first African-American woman to represent New Jersey in Congress.

Tai Cooper, chief policy adviser, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka: Cooper gained her political experience in the office of the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, serving as a senior projects specialist.

Amy Cradic, deputy chief of staff for policy and cabinet liaison, Gov. Chris Christie: Her policy portfolio focused on infrastructure issues including environment, renewable energy, emergency preparedness and transportation. In addition, she provided policy guidance on treasury, tourism and gaming, and supported the cabinet liaison on matters of intergovernmental affairs.

State Sen. Sandra Cunningham, Legislative District 31: Cunningham is the executive director of The Glenn D. & Sandra Cunningham Foundation located in Jersey City, whose goal is to help high school students attend college by providing them with scholarships and funds. The foundation also partners students with a mentor to help guide them through their college education.

Linda Czipo, executive director of the Center for Non-Profits: “She is the ‘uncontested voice’ of nonprofits in New Jersey,” a source said. “She is well known for her constant lobbying in Trenton for the community.”

Michellene Davis, executive vice president of corporate affairs for Barnabas Health: Davis had previously served as chief policy counsel to a former New Jersey governor, and provided oversight of the development and implementation of policy initiatives. “She is a dynamic force with great influence in the state of New Jersey,” a source said. “She has played a very active and key role in the merger that is going on with the Robert Wood Johnson health system.”

Wilda Diaz, mayor of Perth Amboy: Diaz was sworn in July 2008 as the first woman to hold that office; she is currently the only elected Latina mayor in the state of New Jersey. Diaz was re-elected for a second term in 2012.

Mariellen Dugan, chief compliance officer, senior vice president, general counsel and member of the risk management committee, New Jersey Resources Corp.: Prior to joining NJR, Dugan served prominent roles in the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, first as chief of staff and then as first assistant attorney general. A veteran litigator, she was also an assistant United States attorney for the District of New Jersey. 

Lucia DiNapoli Gibbons, head of Eastern business banking, executive vice president at Wells Fargo: Gibbons is responsible for leading and driving the business that serves companies with revenues generally between $2 million to $20 million annually from Connecticut to Florida, which includes more than 1,300 team members.

State Sen. Nia Gill, Legislative District 34: Gill heads the Senate Commerce Committee and is currently central to numerous health care issues, including OMNIA and out-of-networking billing.

Philippa Girling, senior vice president, chief risk officer, Investors Bank: Prior to Investors, Girling was the business risk officer, senior vice president, at Capital One Commercial Bank.

Barbara Gitenstein, president of The College of New Jersey: “Look at the transformation that the college has undergone since her leadership,” a source said. “The College of New Jersey is one of the best values in higher education and continually seen as a great school, so she is doing something right over there.”

Sally Glick, principal and chief growth strategist, Sobel & Co: “She knows everyone in New Jersey,” a source said. “Therefore, you need to know Sally.”

Phoebe Haddon: chancellor of Rutgers University – Camden: “She is a nationally recognized constitutional scholar and a leader in education,” a source said. “She has great ideas for growing the Camden campus and making sure that Rutgers is a player in the region.”

Tanya Holcomb, chief corporate litigation counsel at Honeywell International Inc.: “She is the right-hand woman in many ways at Honeywell,” a source said.

Assemblywoman Patricia Egan Jones, Legislative District 5: “As she transitions back to the State House in Trenton, she is definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with,” a source said. “She is relentless and a great follow-through person in terms of issues and getting the job done. She is someone to whom we should pay close attention.”

Barbara Kauffman, executive vice president of the Newark Regional Business Partnership and chair of the Board Appointments Committee for Executive Women of New Jersey: One source said Kauffman is key to the region’s business infrastructure and revitalization, “based on the way in which she advances development, redevelopment and economic stimulus in the greater Newark area.”

Poonam Khubani, vice president of TeleBrands International and president of International Edge: “She does business in 125 countries,” a source said. “Is she considered an international persona? Absolutely.”

Adrienne Kirby, CEO and president, Cooper University Health Care: Kirby is responsible for the health system, including all hospital and ambulatory operations, and oversees the physician group and the institute structure at Cooper. “She is definitely a visionary and remarkable leader of the transformation and change that has taken place within Cooper University Health Care,” a source said. 

Jeannine Frisby LaRue, senior vice president, Kaufman Zita Group: LaRue has enjoyed a 40-year career, including policy, governmental and political positions throughout the state, including vice president of public affairs at Rutgers University, deputy chief of staff for former Gov. Jon Corzine and senior vice president of governmental affairs for Saint Barnabas Health Care System. “She has had a diverse and very powerful career in a number of different fields,” a source said. “She is someone that a lot of people seek advice from behind the scenes.”

Amy Mansue, CEO and president of Children’s Specialized Hospital: “Our health care system is a very complex business model,” a source said. “Amy understands both the complexity of the health care market, both locally and nationally, and also the critical nature of children’s health. … She is one of the most important people that we have in the state.”

Catherine Milone, president, Junior Achievement of New Jersey: “She has built a stellar board of A-listers and has taken the program to new heights,” a source said. “She is nationally recognized and well-connected.”

Linda Schwimmer, CEO and president of New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute: Schwimmer had previously served in state government as director of legislation and policy for the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, as well as an attorney for over a decade. “She is a very powerful thought leader and someone we look and speak to quite often both on the public policy and on the business side of things,” a source said.

Candace Straight, private investor, investment banking consultant and member of the Rutgers University Board of Governors: Straight has had a lot of influence in New Jersey via various roles: co-chair of Gov. Christine Todd Whitman’s budget advisory committee; vice chairman of the board of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority; a trustee of the Public Employees Retirement System of the State of New Jersey under Gov. Thomas Kean; and a former trustee of the New Jersey Network Foundation. “She is a longtime Republican fundraiser and political appointee, a Whitman confidant and, now, the executive producer of a (female-driven) Wall Street movie that was nominated as a finalist at the Sundance Film Festival,” a source said.

Faith Taylor, senior vice president, global corporate responsibility officer, Wyndham Worldwide: Taylor currently oversees Wyndham’s worldwide sustainability program, which includes over 40 brands, over 34,000 employees and over 100,000 locations in 100 countries. She has overseen the development of the company’s corporate policies, strategies, reporting and branding initiatives since she started the Wyndham Green program in 2006. She is chair of the Sustainability Working Committee of the World Travel & Tourism Council and vice chair of the board of directors of the U.S. Green Building Council of New Jersey.

Sharon Taylor, senior vice president, human resources, Prudential Financial, and chair of The Prudential Foundation: The Prudential Foundation invests more than $25 million in grants to promote strong communities and improve social outcomes in the places where their employees work and live.

Kathleen Waldron, president of William Paterson University: Waldron is now in her sixth year as leader of one of the largest public universities in New Jersey, with more than 11,500 students. Under her leadership, the university has increased the number of full-time faculty, improved retention and graduation rates, revitalized student support, completed a strategic plan and developed several zone master facility plans to renovate and construct new facilities. While keeping education affordable with historically low increases in tuition, she has led strategic investment in student/faculty research, increased alumni relations and philanthropy and enhanced outside support for the institution.

Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics, a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University: CAWP is nationally recognized as the leading source of scholarly research and current data about American women’s political participation. Its mission is to promote greater knowledge and to enhance women’s influence and leadership in public life.

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, Legislative District 37: Weinberg, currently Senate Majority Leader, has served as a member of the New Jersey Senate since 2005. She serves on the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee and on the State Government Committee (as vice chair). She is a former member of the Senate Commerce Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Linda Wellbrock, founder and CEO, Leading Women Entrepreneurs: Wellbrock is rapidly expanding the popular business resource and quasi-public relations agency for women business owners in New Jersey.

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Meg Fry

Meg Fry


Meg Fry writes about women in business, millennials, food and beverage, manufacturing and retail. Meg joined NJBIZ with past production experience in the arts, film and television and continues to write and perform in theaters around the state. You may contact her at megf@njbiz.com.

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