New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy and 31 other influential and accomplished women were honored Wednesday at the Executive Women of New Jersey’s biennial gala Salute to the Policy Makers.
“This is a culmination of so many things,” said honoree Nicole Alexander, an attorney who serves as the director of professional and business development at McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter. “My parents gave me the tools. I work with great people and an amazing team who helped make this happen.”
Susan Chapman-Hughes, American Express’ senior vice president of global commercial services, served as the keynote speaker, with New Jersey Resources Chairman and CEO Laurence Downes serving as honorary chair.
“Tonight is a night to come together to celebrate all the progress we’ve made with diversity but to also say we have a long way to go,” Downes said.
Murphy, the evening’s first honoree, noted the long and difficult journey women have taken to make it to the top.
“For me, getting involved has always been my mantra,” she said, noting her 30-year career. “I’ve never shied away from a challenge. I’ve welcomed it. We all know it hasn’t always been easy getting here.”
Murphy cited statistics highlighting the struggle of women in the workforce.
“Just over 6 percent of Fortune 500 companies are led by women,” she said. “The good news is that women in New Jersey are making gains and surpassing the national average. We know we’ve got work to do.”
EWNJ President and RWJBarnabas Health Executive Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Michellene Davis said the event was created to bring home a sound and salient point.
“This highlights the contribution that women make to these companies and their bottom line,” she said. “It is undeniable that there is an abundance of talented and highly capable women leaders, yet women continue to be severely underrepresented on boards and in the senior leadership of public companies. That’s why we highlight these trailblazers to showcase the impact of women’s leadership and to continue to spotlight the issue of corporate gender diversity. We are also honoring these companies for creating an environment where women leadership can thrive. Companies who do so can better tap into their consumer base. The theme is to galvanize and place laser focus on the contributions women make.”
Barbara E. Kauffman, event chair and president elect of EWNJ who also serves as Newark Regional Business Partnership vice president and chief operating officer, cited EWNJ’s 2017 report that shows publicly traded companies in New Jersey with women serving on boards and in top management positions have stronger financial performance.
“As an organization that advocates for women in positions of senior corporate governance, it is important that we recognize not only the women who ascend to these positions but the companies that create an environment that makes that ascension possible,” Kauffman said. “We are recognizing the plethora of talented and amazing women.”
Honoree Mary Clare Garber, vice president of Princeton Legal Search Group and a member of the EWNJ board, called the event the “crown jewel” of celebrating women.
“It is both exciting and comes with a sense of deep responsibility,” Garber said. “Last night was a tipping over point; let's hope that the momentum is sustainable. Tip of the big beautiful hat to women advancing women wherever they may be in the organization and to supporting women in advancing their senior levels of leadership across all industries.”
Murphy finished her address with an uplifting message for her fellow honorees.
“My advice to you is to keep working and shining,” she said. “New Jersey is lucky to have your brilliance.”