2014 Women to Watch inspire across societal, generational lines

Susan Reimer: The Baltimore Sun picked 50 women to watch, but it could have easily been twice that many

For the second year, the Sun Magazine has chosen 50 women whose achievements and commitment stand out, but editor Anne Tallent said it could easily have been twice that many.

Reading the nominations — there were more than 250 — and the profiles included here made her hopeful, she said.

“These are women who are very invested in Baltimore, and there is a lot of good being done out there,” she said. “Whether in advocacy or the arts or nonprofits or science and technology, they are making Baltimore a better place.”

Tallent said the stories of women create a poignant arc across time. There is dynamic Taylor Cummings of the University of Maryland women’s lacrosse team. Her coach sees in her, at only 20, the makings of a powerful leader.

You can almost see how Cummings’ story might evolve, Tallent said, when you read about PJ Mitchell, a scholarship kid at Notre Dame of Maryland University who just stepped down as the chairman of its board of directors.

Mitchell’s success in business — she was a vice president for global sales at IBM before women had such jobs — has allowed her to give back to her community and, more important, to mentor young women like Cummings.

Sun health reporter Meredith Cohn said she interviewed “just a small sampling” of the incredibly talented women in health sciences in Baltimore and was humbled by their achievements.

“They are working on global problems in health care,” she said, “from cures for HIV, concussion injuries in athletes and maternal and child deaths in third-world countries.

“They are tackling some of the most important problems in health, and they are making progress.”

And then there is Stephanie Hill, vice president for global solutions civil at Lockheed Martin. She is an African-American woman leading a company that’s traditionally been filled with white male engineers. And there’s Cylia Lowe, the next president of the Junior League of Baltimore, who went to an open house for the organization and noticed she was one of only a couple of women of color there. She is the first African-American president in the organization’s 102-year history.

Sun reporter Julie Scharper interviewed Rachel Garbow Monroe, CEO of the Weinberg Foundation, and was inspired by her decision to leave the stressful world of the private sector for the world of nonprofits so she could spend more time with her family.

Her children are now teenagers and she is head of one of the 30 largest nonprofit foundations in the country.

“She said she feels like working outside the home has made her a better mother. And she is showing her kids that women can achieve outside the home,” said Scharper, herself a working mother of a toddler.

Likewise, Renee Winsky, who is the new head of Leadership Maryland, says she adores her job, but she is just as happy sitting in the bleachers watching her daughter play sports.

And Pamela Gilmour, CEO of Financial Fitness, is a CPA and a financial planner, but she is hooked on yoga, hiking and running. She tries to convince her clients to monitor their physical well-being as well as their financial health. Getting sick, she tells them, is expensive.

To balance the stress of her job, Dr. Briana Walton of Anne Arundel Medical Center, who has broken down the wall between urology and gynecology by creating a combined practice, roller skates. You have to concentrate or you will fall, she says. That will take your mind off work.

What you find in this list are the stories of women who have found success in work that they are passionate about, but who have also found ways to include family and attend to their own well-being.

Monroe of the Weinberg Foundation says her favorite days are Sundays, when she goes into the office to catch up on work and one of her children comes along to do homework at the desk next to her.

It could be argued that successes and achievements of women are so commonplace that they hardly need to be remarked upon — much less have an  entire issue of a magazine dedicated to them. But I believe that hearing their stories gives the rest of us, as PJ Mitchell likes to say, permission to excel.

Congratulations to all 50 Women to Watch — and to all the 250 nominees. You need to know that somebody out there is watching and thinks you are inspiring.

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