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A Support System
Area female business leaders reflect on reaching their career goals, inspiring other women and what still needs to be done to level the playing field.

by Amy Kodrich

While there are many women in power locally, regionally and nationally, the fact of the matter is there’s still a long way to go before many can find equal footing with their male counterparts. So we asked several notable women from varying industries to share the lessons they’ve learned along the way and to get their advice for future generations of talented young ladies poised to forge their own successful career path.

 

Mariel Giletto

Corporate Shareholder, Flaster Greenberg

For the past 15 years, Giletto has acted as an outside counsel and trusted advisor for her clients ranging from commercial real estate, finance and gaming. She recently joined Flaster Greenberg in 2021 as a shareholder and chair of its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Cracks in the glass ceiling: I would like to see more women leaders, whether as business owners or as C-Suite professionals. In order to accomplish this, we need more women to strive for leadership positions and more men and women in positions of power supporting and mentoring women into those roles. In the legal field, specifically, we have more women than men graduating law school. However, the number of women decreases in leadership positions as you climb the corporate ladder. We need support mechanisms in place to help women escalate into positions of power within their organizations.

A fulfilling career: The inspiration for my career was the aspiration for financial security, independence and self-worth. I never wanted to be beholden to a particular job or a husband because of financial insecurities. At a young age, I understood that attorneys could make a good living independent of others—as do doctors, but I’m a bit too squeamish for that. So, I pursued a legal career with the hope that it would be a good fit for me. The irony is that the legal field suited me even better than I anticipated—although sometimes I do wonder if I molded to fit the field. 

 

Eileen Wirth 

President & CEO, Moorestown Ecumenical Neighborhood Development, Inc. (MEND)

With over 30 years in the industry, Wirth joined MEND as president and CEO in August 2020. Her career has been focused on affordable housing development and property management and she has multiple certifications with the National Affordable Housing Management Association and is an active member of the New Jersey Chapter of the Institute of Real Estate Management.

Inspiring the next generation: I do feel mentoring future generations of women in business is critical. In fact, beginning a mentoring relationship as early as possible exponentially increases the benefits of mentoring. This is why I am active as a mentor with the Women’s Leadership Council at Rider University, and have mentored university students for several years now. 

Balancing professional and personal passions: The saying “you can have it all” adds its own pressure, but balance can be achieved. This does mean setting limits and sticking to them, saying no and giving yourself permission to accept that sometimes good enough is as good as perfect. My balance comes from recognizing that making time to pursue non-work related interests and activities for my well-being makes me a better leader for my team. This down time allows me to be in the moment so when at work my focus is at work.

 

Mari Considine

Chief Marketing & Development Officer, Acenda Integrated Health

With over 20 years of leadership experience, including the past six years at Acenda, Considine handles all strategic marketing and communications efforts, providing vision and direction for digital and print communications, key messaging, storytelling and brand experience. 

A fulfilling career: Ever since I was young, my mother was very involved with local nonprofit organizations. I typically spent my summers volunteering at my local United Way and other organizations where my mother was active. Because of these experiences, when I began my professional career, I knew I wanted to be in the nonprofit sector. I love that I am able to use my skills in marketing and communications to bring awareness and impact to organizations that truly make a difference in our community.

Inspiring the next generation: I remember early in my career, one particular mentor really helped me improve my executive presence and encouraged me to follow my instincts and speak up more in meetings. That mentor was key to several early career successes and wins. I have tried to pay it forward through several formal and informal mentor relationships with up-and-coming women leaders. The future is female and this future generation of women in business is going to make a massive impact. 

 

Samantha DeAlmeida

President, Associated Builders and Contractors 

DeAlmeida is an experienced public affairs professional who was announced as Associated Builders and Contractors president in 2021. With her background in issues advocacy, politics, policy and state government, she is a powerful advocate for the construction industry in New Jersey. 

Cracks in the glass ceiling: Specifically in the field of construction, I would like to see more females get involved in the trades. As a woman in a very male-dominated industry, I feel a strong sense of responsibility to educate women and young girls about the opportunities available to them outside of a traditional educational setting. The construction industry will only benefit from more women becoming engaged, active and employed in the trades.

The rewarding aspects of the job: In my current role, I have had the opportunity to interface with countless people and grow my networking substantially. This role has transformed me into the best version of myself. Through my leadership experience I have been able to learn to be confident and recognize my value, which may be the best benefit of them all.

 

Anne Koons 

Owner, Anne Koons Real Estate 

As a long term resident of South Jersey for the past 38 years, Koons has a strong understanding of Camden, Burlington and Gloucester counties and helps deliver clients’ needs in all aspects of real estate.

A great role model: My father Bernard Brown encouraged me to get my real estate license back in 1985 and really wanted me to pursue commercial real estate at that time. I chose to go into the residential side and never looked back. … When my father got sick and had to retire at the age of 93, I became involved in his commercial real estate company, Vineland Construction. … I had a great role model in my father who taught me never to give up and that you learn from failure and mistakes, and how to always see the positive of the situation.

Balancing professional and personal passions: To make real money in residential real estate you need to be able to work hard and play hard, and set balances in your life. I’ve pretty much worked seven days a week, but it hasn’t stopped me from going on trips and enjoying life. You just need to balance everything and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. And also hire really good people to work for you; it makes your job that much easier.

 

Donna Albano

Professor, Hospitality, Tourism & Event Management Studies Program, Stockton University’s School of Business

For the past 18 years Albano has been a dedicated hospitality and tourism educator at Stockton University. She became a full time professor in 2020 and she is responsible for teaching, research and service, as well as curriculum development, program review and assessment.

The rewarding aspects of the job: The hospitality industry is more of a calling than a career. I have been so fortunate to have worked directly in the industry for many years followed by the ability to immerse myself in higher education in hospitality, tourism and event management. I love to learn and being in higher education has allowed me to teach, research and provide service to the industry I love. 

Inspiring the next generation: I absolutely feel a responsibility to pay it forward. I am a founding member of our Stockton Women’s Leadership Council (SWLC) dedicated to the empowerment of women with mentoring Stockton female students and alumnae being one key initiative. Additionally, the SWLC provides educational opportunities and encourages philanthropy in order to support scholarships for our mentees. I am an active mentor, event committee chair and donor to the Council. 

 

Meggan Ciaccia

Owner, Ciaccia CPA 

After her father’s retirement in 2021, Montecino & Ciaccia CPA transitioned to Ciaccia CPA. Now, with nearly two decades of experience, Ciaccia continues to help clients meet their financial, accounting and strategic planning needs. 

Following in her father’s footsteps: His love of what he did every day definitely inspired me to go into accounting. The people around me continue to inspire me on a regular basis. I work with many small business owners in South Jersey and their dedication to their industry, the community and their businesses inspire me to show up every day and do what I can to help them.

Balancing professional and personal passions: I once heard a woman say the word balance should never be used when talking about work vs. personal life. The two need to co-exist. Sometimes work is a higher priority and sometimes personal is a higher priority. The way everything co-exists for me is having a great support system both in my firm and my personal life. 

 

Sophie Field 

Vice President, Marketing and Travel Services, AAA Services 

In just the past six years, Field started with AAA South Jersey as a marketing manager before being promoted to director of marketing and travel sales in October 2019 and then eventually to her current role which she assumed in April of this year.

Balancing professional and personal passions: I believe balance is achievable, it is a matter of redefining what that balance is and setting realistic expectations. As a working mom of three young kids, I will never be able to allocate time and energy equally to all aspects of my life daily. Looking at it from a day-to-day perspective, it may seem to be leaning one way or another. Look at it from a holistic perspective, then decide if the balance is there. If it’s not, then I shift priorities. Make plans with family or friends if I’ve been too focused on work, for example. 

Lessons learned: Getting to a certain point in your career, you realize that many times, problems can be solved because they’ve been solved before. There is a sense of confidence and calm with making decisions because it’s not the first time. You understand consequences and impact so, most of the time, the risk is limited. 

 

Jo-Ann Weiner 

Owner, J. L. Weiner and Associates, LLC

After departing from working for the federal government, Weiner formed her private practice in 2013, where she regularly represents clients who are being audited by the federal or state government or are being investigated on federal criminal tax charges. 

Inspiring the next generation: My passion to help other women resulted in my creating Women, Words, and Wisdom, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporate New Jersey entity. The mission of [the organization] is twofold: 1. To inform women, by an annual Panel of Power Celebrating Women, of current issues affecting them so they can make informed beneficial life choices. And 2. To provide scholarships to college students in financial need to be used toward their college education.

Cracks in the glass ceiling: Women still need to strive for gender and pay equality. Men need to partner with women, helping them achieve these equality goals. Women need to have a place in high level management positions. That should be the norm rather than the exception. Instead, women still make $.83 for every dollar earned by men, $.77 worldwide. For starters, businesses should invest in women-owned businesses, they should introduce women to someone who will make a positive career impact and they should ask the woman entrepreneur what they need. 

 

Devin Bender

Client Relationship Manager, PCH Technologies 

At just 24 years old, Bender has been tasked with working with PCH’s clients to provide IT and cybersecurity services. 

Inspiring the next generation: As a young woman in business, I feel that having a mentor is essential to success. When I first began my career, I did not have a mentor. I fearlessly reached out to a woman on LinkedIn after watching an interview that she did. I needed guidance, support and encouragement. I needed to learn. Now she is a mentor to me and continues to help me throughout my career, life and beyond. … It is important that we support each other and offer the resources needed to younger generations. It can be intimidating to ask for help, but we need to normalize that it is valuable.

Balancing professional and personal passions: Some ways that I find a balance is through limitation and accountability. Throughout the week I will work out in the morning because that is something I am passionate about and believe is important for happiness. I also try to limit my “later nights” for events to three times a week to leave time for personal tasks. These are just two small things that I do to create balance throughout my week, but there are plenty of things that can be done to ensure balance. 

 

Anne Caruso 

Sales Manager, Loyalty Business Brokers 

Before joining Loyalty Business Brokers, Caruso spent over 17 years as a successful business owner in the technology industry. She is a past president of the National Association of Women Business Owners and currently serves on the Burlington County Regional Chamber of Commerce Women and Business Committee. 

Inspiring the next generation: I look at mentoring the future generation of women as an honor. Meaning that I don’t like to impose myself on the future generation but letting them know that I’m happy to share the experiences I’ve had, good or bad. Sometimes that means just being a sounding board without telling them what to do. Other times it may be sharing my experiences hoping that will help them with the situation they may be facing. And mentoring goes both ways—I find that I learn from the women I’ve mentored through their experiences and definitely their understanding of technology.

Being a leader: Leadership is a service position; serving the members of one’s group, not just a title. Leadership has given me and my business exposure. I’ve had the pleasure of working with and learning from other leaders and it’s given me more of a voice.

 

Rebecca Boudwin 

Partner, Boudwin Ross Roy Leodori PC 

Boudwin is currently the only female shareholder at the law firm of Boudwin Ross Roy Leodori PC, where her practice centers around tax foreclosures, residential and commercial real estate transactions, and estate planning/administration.

Family matters: From a very young age, I knew that I wanted to be an attorney, and from that point on, my mom and dad were right there alongside me to do whatever they could to help me accomplish that goal. They have been both my biggest cheerleaders and shoulders to cry on throughout my professional journey. Without their sacrifice over the years, I would not be in the position that I am today as one of the owners of my law firm. 

Balancing professional and personal passions: I believe the key is to try to find ways to integrate them together, because if there is synergy between all three a more happy, healthy and successful person emerges. From the moment anyone walks into my office you can tell my true passion is college basketball. … During March Madness the conference room TV will be streaming all the games and my calendar must be clear so I can make my yearly trip to wherever the Final Four is being held. This passion has also afforded me the unique opportunity to volunteer and tutor high school students who come from both socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. I have been able to assist them in navigating the college acceptance process as well as NCAA clearance to play sports.

 

Amy Smith 

Founding Partner, Weinberg, Kaplan & Smith, P.A.

With nearly two decades of experience, Smith is an accomplished family law attorney with a passion for helping clients in domestic violence disputes. Due to her extensive work she was honored as Women’s Advocate of the Year by the National Association of Women Business Owners South Jersey in 2019. 

Inspiring the next generation: I’ve been fortunate to have many excellent mentors and my goal is to pay forward the insights and guidance I have received throughout my career. I’m proud to serve as a mentor to young women through the Alice Paul Institute. We discuss how to be a leader, how to expand your professional network, issues faced by women business owners and how to make the female voice heard. I hope that sharing the many ways I have shaped my career will help the next generation of women. Hopefully, all of this will help them address the many issues that females can face today.  

Finding balance: Balancing it all is not easy. Women are often tasked with many roles such as mother, wife, professional, sports coach, volunteer and caregiver. Can we balance the roles each of us has taken on? Absolutely, but I believe we also have to dedicate time to care for ourselves to make it all work. When we are fine, everything else is usually fine.