The year 2014 has proven to be a very successful year for ATHENA programs in Central Florida. The ATHENA Women’s Leadership Luncheon, now in its third year, has seen attendance grow to 600 women – nearly doubling in size in just two years. Participants say it’s unlike most other events because we intentionally bring together established women leaders with up and coming professionals to engage in dialogue about mentoring, entrepreneurship and guiding principles that are characteristic of women leaders. Think of it as a mini-version of Oprah’s Life Class. Through round table discussions, attendees experience a few “Aha!” moments of their own.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs has graciously served as the Honorary Chair for the event since the beginning. We’re sincerely grateful to Mayor Jacobs for her continuing support of ATHENA and mentoring emerging women leaders.

Among the highlights, Linda Landman Gonzalez, Vice President of Philanthropy and Multicultural Insights at the Orlando Magic and President of the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation, was recognized as the recipient of the 2014 Orlando ATHENA Leadership Award.  The ATHENA Leadership Awards® are presented annually in communities around the globe. The award celebrates exemplary leadership by outstanding women who have attained and embody the highest level of professional excellence in their business or profession, devote time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community and actively assist women in realizing their full leadership potential.

We all understand the importance of keeping our best and brightest college graduates right here in Central Florida. To that end, ATHENA Orlando Leadership, Inc. established a $100,000 endowed scholarship to recognize outstanding female students at the University of Central Florida who are committed to “learning constantly” while attending graduate school.  Proceeds from the leadership luncheon are gifted toward the endowment through the UCF Foundation, Inc.

Women are reshaping the landscape of business. The companies that create more gender balance at the top see better results in terms of increased revenue and strategic growth. ATHENA’s Leadership Model puts the training programs in place to prepare for this new paradigm attuned to the needs of a changing world.

One such program that was launched this year is ATHENA NextGen. This program is designed as a collaborative forum where participants enhance their professional development skills through a series of eight sessions about mentoring and leadership strategies, all tailored to the next generation of women leaders.

ATHENA NextGen sessions are facilitated by different prominent woman leaders in central Florida. Imagine receiving pearls of wisdom from Sandy Hostetter, Diana Bolivar, Kimberly Maki and Annetta Wilson, all in a unique “Master’s Class” setting at the UCF Executive Development Center in downtown Orlando. These dynamic women ignite thought-provoking conversations that take us on a deeper dive into ATHENA’s Eight Leadership Principles:

  • Live Authentically
  • Learn Constantly
  • Advocate Fiercely
  • Act Courageously
  • Foster Collaboration
  • Build Relationships
  • Give Back
  • Celebrate

ATHENA also works strategically with entrepreneurs. Here in Florida, women are starting small businesses at a rate faster than the national average. Florida has seen a 74 percent increase in the number of women-owned, small businesses in the past 15 years, ranking Florida as the sixth fastest-growing state for women entrepreneurs.

ATHENAPowerLink guides women business owners in defining and achieving tangible goals by providing them with access to a panel of business advisors. Advisory panels are hand-selected based upon each woman business owner’s individual needs. These volunteer panelists serve as mentors and advisors for a 12-month period at no charge to the woman business owner and, ultimately, strive to help the woman business owner achieve growth and profitability. To date, 31 women business owners in Central Florida have successfully completed the ATHENAPowerLink program and have given back to our local community by creating 75 new jobs.

There’s no question that time-tested “women’s ways” of leading have become the gold standard for great leaders of both genders, and the building blocks for success in today’s global economy. We invite you to become involved with the ATHENA movement. Like most non-profit organizations, we’re volunteer driven and we need your help to advance our platform.  Please visit our website at to learn about upcoming initiatives. We’ll begin taking applications for ATHENA NextGen 2015 at the end of January.


KKeeneKaren Keene is the Director of Marketing & Business Development at Dean Mead, a corporate law firm headquartered in Orlando with five offices in Florida. She is President of ATHENA Orlando Leadership, Inc. and a member of the ATHENA International Board of Directors.