YWCA names eight as Career Women of Achievement

Keynote speaker Erin Gruwell

Wednesday, May 8, 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Duke Energy Convention Center

Eight Cincinnati-area women will be honored as 2019 YWCA Greater Cincinnati Career Women of Achievement during the YWCA’s 40th annual luncheon.

Honorees are chosen based on their leadership, vision, community service and professional success.

The 2019 winners are:

  • Stephanie Ferris, chief financial officer, Worldpay
  • Jodi Geiser, partner-Americas tax finance and operate, EY
  • Marianne Flanders James, senior vice president  and chief information officer, Information Services, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
  • Sheila Mixon, executive director, Ohio River Valley Women’s Business Council and senior vice president, Greater Cincinnati Urban League  
  • Stefanie Newman, vice president and chief nursing officer, Bethesda North Hospital
  • Molly North, president and chief executive officer, Al Neyer
  • Dr. Nita M. Walker, senior vice president, Ambulatory Services, UC Health
  • Judge Marilyn Zayas, appellate judge, Ohio’s First District Court of Appeals

Their selection was announced by luncheon co-chairs Heidi Jark, senior vice president and managing director of the Foundation Office at Fifth Third Bank, and Michelle Hawkins, managing director and chief compliance officer for Fort Washington Investment Advisors.  

The Career Women of Achievement event, which attracts over 2,200 attendees, is the largest fundraiser for the YWCA Greater Cincinnati. Proceeds support YWCA communitywide programs in safety, racial justice and inclusion, and empowerment and economic advancement.

Keynote speaker is Erin Gruwell, whose work as an educator was chronicled in the book “The Freedom Writers Diary,” later made into a movie starring Hilary Swank as Gruwell.

Tickets are $95, or $1,750 for a table of 10. # 513-241-7090 or ywcacincinnati.org/careerwomen

Stephanie Ferris, chief financial officer, Worldpay Inc., is considered by her colleagues as a visionary risk-taker whose fearless leadership and thirst for knowledge repeatedly propels her teams toward success. Those attributes have shaped her career path as the first female CFO and first female general manager at Worldpay. In her role with the Cincinnati-based global public company (formerly Vantiv), Stephanie leads a 380-person finance operation that encompasses financial strategy, accounting, financial planning and analysis, treasury, mergers and acquisitions and investor relations. Worldpay is a leading provider of payment processing technology for merchants and financial institutions, processing more than 40 billion transactions representing $1.5 trillion annually for 1.2 million merchants in 146 countries and 126 currencies.

She is a hands-on leader and role model dedicated to helping other women discover that they too can break through traditional barriers and find “their own firsts.”

“I know I will have helped advance women in their careers when I look around Worldpay, the city and the country and see alumnae from my teams in leadership positions elsewhere.”


  • PaymentsSource Most Influential Women in Payments honoree 2016 and 2018
  • ACG Cincinnati Deal Maker Award, 2018
  • Stevie Awards for Women in Business Winner – Silver, 2016
  • Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce Board, 2016 to present
  • Founder of Vantiv Women’s Business Network (VWBN) and “Lean in Circles”
  • Co-Founder of Fifth Third Bank’s Women’s Business Network

Jodi Geiser, partner-Americas Tax Finance and Operate, EY

Saying yes to any task, no matter how difficult, is in Jodi Geiser’s blood. Her parents instilled in her an unstoppable work ethic and a commitment to team work, service to others, loyalty and acceptance of only one’s very best. The family calls it “Geiser guts.”

So whenever she is asked to take on large tasks during her 22-year EY career, she gladly accepts assignments in other cities, helps shape new, unstructured business lines and readily assumes newly created roles. Known for her work ethic and people skills she became the first woman tax partner in the Cincinnati office, the first partner promoted in her service line and the first woman leader of the firm’s largest tax client in the nation.

She is heavily involved in dozens of community organizations, many devoted to fighting poverty and enhancing diversity. Perhaps her greatest challenge was becoming an instant mother to her husband’s three sons. The oldest, an Army medic, was killed in Iraq, making her a Gold Star Mother.


  • Established the Corporate/United Way VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program) partnership to lift low-income women and their families out of poverty. Geiser donates her time every Saturday in February to prepare tax returns.
  • First tax partner promoted in Business Tax Compliance service line
  • Founder of first Women’s Business Resource Group in Cincinnati (now part of Connect ERG/ Diverse by Design)
  • Founding member of Cincinnati Women’s Executive Forum; Program Committee Chair, 2011-2018
  • United Way of Greater Cincinnati Foundation Board member, 2016 to present; one of the 100 Heroes, 2015; New Century Community Leader award, 2010
  • Cincinnati Ballet Board Member and Finance Committee chair ,2016 to present
  • United Way of Greater Cincinnati Impact Cabinet, 2014 to present
  • The Women’s Fund of Greater Cincinnati Executive Advisory Council, 2013 to present

Marianne Flanders James, senior vice president  and CIO, Information Services, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

When Marianne Flanders James began her first position at Cincinnati Children’s in 1987, she was at a low point in her life. Having left Brown University at age 20 to marry, she had just returned to her hometown as a struggling single mother of three with no money, child support, college degree or job history. Hard work and night school classes led her to where she is today: a crucial member of Children’s senior management team with ultimate responsibility for ensuring that information technology aligns with the mission and vision of the institution. Under her watch the past 17 years, the information systems staff has grown from 100 to 475 with a budget increase of $31 million to $110 million. She is credited for shaping Cincinnati Children’s national reputation as she received accolades for cutting-edge innovations and leadership in the information technology sector.

Her field is still male dominated, but early on management recognized Marianne’s energy, curiosity, intelligence and can-do attitude. She was tapped to implement the medical center’s comprehensive electronic health information system that is the backbone of all patient care services. It met extraordinary success, leading former CEO James Anderson to dub Marianne a “superstar.”  In 2018 her team developed Caren, a digital concierge that connects patients and families to valued healthcare information, processes and services.


  • Medical Center honors for innovation and leadership in information technology during Marianne’s tenure:
    • HIMSS Stage 7 Designation, 2014 to present
    • CHIME’s list of “Most Wired” Hospitals and Health Networks, 2011-2017
    • The Health Collaborative’s “Inspire Healthcare” Informatics Award, 2017
    • The Leapfrog Group’s list of Top Children’s Hospitals, 2006-2017
    • Information Week #1 in Healthcare and #2 overall, 2009
  • Lighthouse Youth Services Board member, 2011-2016; Treasurer 2015/2016
  • CIO Roundtable, Cincinnati Region, 2004 to present

Sheila Mixon, executive director, Ohio River Valley Women’s Business Council and senior vice president, Greater Cincinnati Urban League  

Sheila Mixon is a mentor, advocate and voice for hundreds of women and minorities seeking to grow their businesses. She leveraged the knowledge gleaned from her early days in banking to make a profound difference at the Urban League. There she headed the Small Business Development Center, the African-American Business Development Program and then, in 2015, the Ohio River Valley Women’s Business Council. Under her watch over 1,000 women-owned businesses across Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia have been certified. She is their bridge to resources: legal assistance, HR issues and acquisition of capital. She also helps bourgeoning businesses grow through securing contracts with large companies and government entities.


  • Lead Tribune Media Group Women of Influence Award, 2017
  • Women of Color Foundation Hall of Fame Inductee, 2017
  • Establishment of the Sheila A. Mixon Women’s Entrepreneurial Start-Up Fund by the Women of Color Foundation, 2017
  • NAWBO Women’s Business Champion, 2016
  • West Chester – Liberty Chamber Alliance “Women of Excellence,” 2016
  • Board member: HCDC, 2014 to present; WBENC Regional Partner Organization, 2018 to present
  • Advisory Boards: Cincinnati Academic Center, Union Institute and University, 2018 to present; Cleveland Clinic, 2016 to present; MetroHealth, Cleveland, 2018 to present
  • City of Cincinnati’s Department of Economic Inclusion and Small Business Advisory Council, 2014 to present

Stefanie Newman, vice president and chief nursing officer, Bethesda North Hospital

Stefanie Newman is always on the move. As an inclusive mentor, coach, motivator and inspiring leader, she orchestrated Bethesda’s Nursing Magnet designation and re-designation, which is achieved by only 8% of hospitals nationwide. The units under her care operate close to their benchmark targets with a history of maintaining 100% productivity and a turnover rate of less than 6%. She is equally enthusiastic about assisting her son and friends in establishing Sole Bros, a nonprofit that collects gently-used athletic shoes for impoverished areas in the U.S. and overseas. With the help of the Sole Bros Board they established a shoe closet and locker called Kyle’s Corner in memory of the Founding Members’ friend Kyle Plush who tragically passed away last year.

Newman is pursuing her Doctor of Nursing Practice in Population Health, scheduled to be completed in December 2020.


  • First African American to serve as Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer for Bethesda North Hospital
  • Spearheaded efforts to successfully gain the rare Nursing Magnet designation and re-designation for Bethesda North Hospital
  • President of Greater Cincinnati Nurse Executives, 2018 to present
  • Board member: Ohio Organization of Nurse Executives, 2018 to present; Sole Bros, Inc., 2014 to present
  • Leukemia, Lymphoma Society board of trustees and chair of the patient care committee, 2008-2013

Molly North, president and CEO, Al. Neyer

On her path to the C-Suite, Molly North was informed she was too young, lacked enough grey hair, had zero ties to an old-money Cincinnati family, and must take up golf. That only strengthened her resolve to rise to the top, employing her motto “planning your work and working your plan.” She is now the first woman in Cincinnati history to head a commercial real estate firm.

North was named to her present position in 2015. Since she assumed the helm of the firm revenue has tripled, a third market – Nashville – was added, and Neyer is ready to announce its entry into the Raleigh, North Carolina, market. Full-time employees have increased from 50 to 110 with more positions to soon fill. She demonstrated her commitment to diversity and inclusion when she gathered African American investors for several major real estate investments starting with Vernon Manor, which was transformed into Class A offices for Cincinnati Children’s. She has added to the Al.Neyer team several women to the traditionally male-dominated profession: two SVP-level executives, one VP and three directors.


  • First female to serve as CEO for Al. Neyer CEO since its founding in 1894
  • Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber Board Chair, 2019/2020
  • CLIMB Award for recognizing diversity and inclusion efforts within the business community presented to Al. Neyer and Molly North, 2018s
  • Board member: Cincinnati Regional Business Committee Board, 2015 to present; Hamilton County Land Reutilization Corporation, 2016 to present
  • Leadership Cincinnati Class 39
  • YWCA Rising Star 2010

Nita M. Walker, M.D., senior vice president, Ambulatory Services, UC Health

For 26 years Dr. Nita Walker  has served as a primary care physician while building a network of physician offices and outpatient service sites. She oversees over 60 locations, 1,000 employees and a $100 million budget. In addition to her administrative duties she  teaches in her capacity as a full professor and sees patients at her primary care office.

Despite her schedule, she makes time to help and mentor women. She says, “I like to help women find their own strengths, their own voices and their own unique passions.”

UC Health CEO Richard Lofgren, M.D. sums up Dr. Walker’s impact. “Nita Walker is an outstanding role model both personally and professionally. She is intelligent, classy and professional. She inspires her colleagues and students to do more than what’s required to make a difference in the lives of their patients. Her chosen profession is more than just a job – it’s a calling. And it’s a calling that fulfills her and radiates to others. She is a leader in clinical practice and has been recognized for the same. She is outspoken and respectful. Nita is without question a role model for all.”


  • Named to Best Doctors in Cincinnati 2002-2004, 2012-2014, 2016
  • Led her medical office as one of the first in Cincinnati to be recognized by the National Council for Quality Assurance
  • Championed the Avondale Town Center Primary Care Project with the Health Department to ensure a primary care office is available in the area
  • Board member: Mortar, 2018 to present; The Health Collaborative, 2017 to present
  • Links Inc., Cincinnati, Health Facet Chair, 2017-present and International Friends Facet Chair, 2014-2016

Judge Marilyn Zayas, appellate judge, Ohio’s First District Court of Appeals

Judge Marilyn Zayas is the first Latina to be elected to any Ohio Court of Appeals and the highest ranking judge in Ohio of Latino heritage. As the daughter of immigrants from Puerto Rico, she grew up in a tough New York neighborhood. Her parents spoke little English and held low-wage jobs. As a child Zayas set three goals: to earn a college degree, leave New York City and purchase a house. She earned a partial engineering scholarship to City College of New York and commuted four hours a day on the subway to complete her education. After earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science, she was hired by Procter & Gamble headquarters as an IT manager and purchased her first home in Hyde Park. She achieved her childhood goals by the age of 24.   

With three children under the age of four, she enrolled at University of Cincinnati Law School, and became a lawyer at the age of 32. In 2017, she was selected by the Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice to hear and decide a case at the Ohio Supreme Court. This resulted in Judge Zayas earning the honor of being the first Latina to serve as a judge on a case in the Ohio Supreme Court.


  • Founded Educating Tomorrow’s Leaders Program that inspires high schoolers, college, and UC Law students to dream big by inviting them to come to her court, learn about the judicial system, and hear her personal story
  • Commissioner on the Ohio Supreme Court’s Character and Fitness Board, 2019
  • Board Member: Beech Acres Parenting Center 2015 to present; Cincinnati Memorial Hall, 2015 to present
  • Nicholas Longworth, III Alumni Achievement Award, 2017
  • Ohio League of United Latin American Citizens Special Recognition Award, 2013

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