Dr. Marsha Firestone is the Founder and President of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), which began in 1997 as a peer advisory organization for women who own multi million dollar businesses. She is also the Founder and President of the Women Presidents’ Educational Organization, dedicated to increasing access to business opportunities for women’s business enterprises (WBEs).
Dr. Firestone previously served as Vice President of Women Incorporated and as Vice President of Training and Counseling at the American Woman’s Economic Development Corporation (AWED). Her career also includes positions as President of a for-profit educational institution; National Executive Director of Women’s American ORT, a women’s volunteer organization; and a faculty member at the American Management Association Competency-Based Management Development Program, at City University of New York, and at Adelphi University.
In 1998, Dr. Firestone was the Executive Director of The Women’s Economic Summit. She led the development of a master plan for accelerating the growth of women’s businesses, which was presented to Congress and the public in March 1999. In 2003, Dr. Firestone was appointed to a term on the National Women's Business Council representing the Women Presidents’ Organization.
Dr. Firestone is the author of The Busy Woman’s Guide to Successful Self-Employment and has published research in business and educational journals on adult learning theory, nonverbal communication, and managerial competency. She also serves the worldwide women’s business community as a frequent guest speaker. She is a recognized expert in entrepreneurship.
Dr. Firestone has been honored with a special achievement award from Woman Inc. of Jamaica; the Applause Award for breaking down barriers for women in business from Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC); The Hall of Fame Award from Enterprising Women; 2004 WMBE Outreach Award from the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce; the Outstanding Alumna Award 2003 from Sophie Newcomb College of Tulane University; as one of three finalists for Entrepreneurial Supporter by Ernst and Young; the 2012 Business Legend Award at the mid-Atlantic Top 100 MBE Awards and the Hall of Fame award by both Enterprising Women and WBE. The Women Presidents’ Organization was also named Women’s Business Association of the Year in 2010 at the 7th annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business.
Dr. Firestone shares her professional knowledge by serving on numerous boards and advisory councils including: the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), Enterprising Women Advisory Board, Newcomb College Institute Director’s Advisory Council, the International Women’s Forum, and The Key Bank Women’s Advisory Council. She also serves as a special advisor to the Chairof the National Women's Business Council.
Dr. Firestone earned a Master’s degree in Communication from Teacher’s College of New York and a Ph.D. in Communication from Columbia University, where Margaret Mead sat on her dissertation committee.
Susan Ujifusa Diamond is a highly experienced Executive Coach and Career Consultant. She has a solid reputation for helping clients in Fortune 500s develop "executive presence," particularly in high potentials or individual contributors and technical professionals whose next promotions require managerial finesse and leadership skills.
Susan has been retained by The Conference Board to be program director for seminars and conferences on Executive Coaching. She selects the faculty for the “Learning from Legends” series held twice a year. She has also been a presenter on Executive Coaching for The Conference Board to the HR Council of India and at the Conference on Strategic e-HR.
Mrs. Diamond has had extensive experience in original creation, design, delivery and management of career services, including for Mobil Corporation’s R & D facility. Because of the groundbreaking nature of this Center, Susan was selected to be a presenter at a Department of Defense Symposium on Best Civilian Outplacement Practices at the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, with proceedings published by the National Academy Press. She created content for the online Talent Alliance, a consortium of 15 major corporations.
Susan recently designed a unique virtual and live Career and Executive Coaching service for the 80,000 member and 100,000 candidate Chartered Financial Analysts Institute (formerly AIMR).
Susan is an affiliate of Prism LLC and The Alexcel Group. She holds multiple certifications in psychological instruments, and is an instructor for granting certification to independent coaches and internal HR staff in behavioral coaching. She also teaches line managers coaching skills, and assists senior leaders to develop positive work team cultures. She sharpens oral and written presentation skills. Her approach identifies behaviors that align with corporate goals and leads individuals to greater personal satisfaction. Known for warmth, humor and enthusiasm, Susan encourages clients to clarify personal values and to realistically assess work-life balance or diversity issues.
Susan won a Westchester County Volunteer of the Year award for producing “Welcome to School in America,” to explain the unwritten nuances of school life for foreign-born children and parents, published by Hitachi America. During a successful 10-year career as an editor in a multimedia publishing company, and she was also President of the Junior League of Westchester-on-Hudson, a pioneer community service organization for young women.
Born and raised in Wyoming, Susan holds an undergraduate degree from Wellesley College and a Master’s in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University.
Melissa Wahl, CAE is the Vice President of Development for Women Presidents' Organization and Women Presidents' Educational Organization. Melissa has demonstrated a strong record for organizational effectiveness, leading three national women's organizations before joining WPO and WPEO. Melissa was the National Director of Leadership Development & Outreach for Women's American ORT, a national fundraising organization. Prior to that, Melissa served as Executive Director of the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE), the largest professional businesswomen's organization in the country as well as Publisher of Executive Female magazine. Before that, Melissa was the Director of AMIT Women.
Melissa Wahl is a Certified Association Executive with expertise in nonprofit management. She is passionate about women's success, recognition, and advancement and has written and been quoted in many articles on women's business issues. Melissa has been recognized for her association management
skills by the New York Society of Association Executives (NYSAE) where she chaired numerous committees and currently serves on their Board of Directors. Melissa is a former Board member of the New York Women's Agenda and serves on the judging panel for the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY.
Camille Burns - Vice President of Operations
As Vice President of Operations for the Women Presidents' Organization and the Women Presidents' Educational Organization, Camille Burns manages the national office as well as seminars, events, marketing, and sponsorship initiatives. In addition, she works closely with the Platinum I group, for WPO members that generate over $10 million in annual revenues.
A graduate of New York University with a BA in Sociology, Camille is an ardent supporter of women's economic development and is inspired to help foster women business owners through the WPO and WPEO.
Jessica Jakobson graduated from Lehigh University with a B.A. in English. At Lehigh, Jessica helped organize campus-wide events as a member of The Association of Student Alumni club. Upon graduation, Jessica began her career in the non-profit sector by working in the Development Department of The Salvation Army’s Executive Headquarters. She then pursued her passion for event planning by producing events for The 92nd Street Y. After planning events for The 92nd Street Y, Jessica moved to Hadassah where she continued planning large scale events and meetings. Jessica is thrilled to be planning events for both the WPO and WPEO.
Kirsten is the Director of Special Projects and International Initatives. Prior to working at the WPO, Kirsten completed her public relations graduate degree and BA in psychology and sociology at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. As a native Torontonian, she is frequently in Canada. Prior to her graduate studies Kirsten traveled extensively as an international athlete in badminton.
Bari Ray graduated from Lipscomb University with a Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia Leadership and General Business. While pursuing her undergraduate degree, Bari worked with the Lipscomb multi-cultural association to bring awareness to minority issues on campus. She has gained valuable experiences at two women-owned and operated television stations, WTVF and WCSC, where she worked as a production assistant. Coming from a family of women business owners, Bari is excited to be working with an organization that helps women entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
Phoebe Hutchins graduated from Saint Joseph’s University with a B.A. in Marketing. While at St. Joe’s, Phoebe completed a summer internship at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia in the sales development department where she became acquainted with the social media arena. Before becoming the Communications Assistant at WPO, Phoebe also interned at Blue Stripe, a public relations firm in Manhattan.
Jen is the Communications Manager for the WPO, managing all internal and external communications, branding and marketing. Prior to starting at the WPO, Jen worked in marketing for a political publication headquartered in Washington, DC. Jen is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she received a BA in History and a minor in Global Cultures.
Prior to her current position, Ms. Strappazon worked with Dr. Firestone at Women Incorporated and The Women's Economic Summit '98.
Linda moved to New York City from Michigan in 1969 and started with Hertz Rent A Car as a rental representative, became one of the first female station managers in Manhattan, and ended her long career as Assistant City Manager of Laguardia Airport. She then worked as Evening Office Manager of The Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Health for seven and a half years. Linda enjoys taking visitors around the city and is a licensed New York City tour guide.
Leandra is from the Commonwealth of Dominica. She has a BS in Mathematics from SUNY Plattsburgh. Before coming to the WPO and WPEO, Leandra worked to raise awareness on the need for insurance companies to cover wigs for people with medically related hair loss.
Prior to joining WPEO-DC in March Sandra worked in Corporate America. As the Asset Manager for Aetna Healthcare’s northeast region she managed all leased/owned facilities and administrative sales shared service operations in the Northeast. She approved and arranged for financing of capital spending plans consistent with financial objectives as well as developing programs for efficiency gains and delivering them nationwide. Also responsible for the fulfillment of member collateral, she worked with marketing, sales and external vendors to deliver just in time materials to the homes of all insured’s in Aetna’s Northeast Market. She received the Chairman’s Award for excellence in performance during the 9/11 crisis.
As a Director of Customer Service for Vytra Healthcare, Sandra directed the activities over 100 employees responsible for servicing over 200,000 insured lives and over 10,000 providers and hospitals. While directing a management team who developed policies and procedures to ensure the department’s workflow complied with New York State regulations, she was also instrumental in the restructuring of the Customer Service department which received MCI Service Achievement Award in 1997.
As an advocate for women’s issues she has been a member of the New York Women’s Agenda, a coalition of women’s organizations, affiliated with over 100 organizations in New York City, dedicated to improving the lives of women and their families. A member since 1998, she served as President 2006-2008 as an active advocate for women’s economic empowerment. Other social commitments include acting in the capacity as an advocate for survivors of violent crimes against women. As a trained Crisis Intervention Counselor she participated with Mt. Sinai’s Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention, SAVI, Program and has been a member of the New York Junior League since 2003.
Sandra’s formal education includes a BA from SUNY Potsdam as a licensed a Math Teacher K-12; Project Manager Certification from Boston University Corporate training program; Quality Improvement and six sigma training and specialist in HR.
Erica Kaufman joined the Women Presidents' Educational Organization in 2009. At the WPEO, she manages the certification program, along with overseeing the organization’s events and outreach efforts. Erica graduated from Wellesley College with a B.A. in Political Science and French. Prior to her time at the WPEO, she completed a research assistantship in Political Science, was a French tutor, completed internships in the corporate and nonprofit art world and worked for her local congresswoman. She spent her junior year in Paris studying politics, literature and art history at the Sorbonne. Erica is thrilled to apply the empowering experience of attending a women's college to the real world by working for an organization whose focus is the advancement of women in business.
Yulia Avrutskaya graduated from George Washington University with a B.A. in International Affairs and concentrations in International Economics and Development Studies. While at GWU, she worked as a research assistant, tutored elementary school students, and completed internships at a start-up consultancy and at the nonprofit foundation National Endowment for Democracy. Yulia also spent a year abroad studying geography and international political economy at the London School of Economics.
Before joining WPEO, Mariko worked as a paralegal at a mass torts firm in New York City. She graduated from Colorado College with a B.A. in International Political Economy where she spent a summer studying abroad in Ghana. She also spent a semester volunteering at an orphanage in Kathmandu, Nepal and raised $3,000 for the installation of a solar panel water heating system.