Chicago's 25 Most Powerful Women 2018

Photos courtesy of each individual.

Female leadership is on the rise in a big way right now, and the world is taking notice. Here at home, look closely at where the most positive impact is being generated around Chicago, and there’s a good chance you’ll find an inspiring woman pulling the strings. From senator, Supreme Court justice, and MLB owner to CEOs, presidents, and philanthropists, these 25 women are Chicago’s top female movers and shakers right now. They control multi-million-dollar budgets, powerful media or other public platforms, and have created transformational models worthy of wide replication.

Ellen Alberding

President and Member of the Board, Joyce Foundation

Chicago's Most Powerful Women: Ellen Alberding

What advice would you give to your younger self (and other women on their way up)? “Don’t be afraid to take chances or to make mistakes. You can learn as much from your losses as your wins.”

Melissa Bean

Chairman of the Midwest, JPMorgan Chase

Chicago's Most Powerful Women: Melissa Bean

What advice would you give to your younger self (and other women on their way up)? “Embrace new challenges and stretch outside of your comfort zone so you are always learning.”

Anne Burke

Illinois Supreme Court Justice, First District

Debra A. Cafaro

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ventas, Inc.

Chicago's Most Powerful Women: Debra A. Cafaro

What advice would you give to your younger self (and other women on their way up)? “Never stop learning. Stay curious; listen to different points of view; read; ask questions; develop new skills; and have the confidence to put that learning into action.”

Adela Cepeda

Managing Director, PFM Financial Advisors LLC

Renée Crown (Mrs. Lester)

Civic Leader and Philanthropist

What advice would you give to your younger self (and other women on their way up)? “Find a not-for-profit that you are really interested in. The rewards are endless.”

Mary Dillon

CEO, Ulta Beauty

Chicago's Most Powerful Women: Mary Dillon

What advice would you give to your younger self (and other women on their way up)? “Embrace ambition. If you want to go far nothing should hold you back. Think and operate at a level ahead of the role you’re in — and always do it with humility, humanity, and authenticity.”

Tammy Duckworth

Senator

Helene D. Gayle, M.D., MPH

President and CEO, The Chicago Community Trust

Chicago's Most Powerful Women: Helene D. Gayle

What advice would you give to your younger self (and other women on their way up)? “Don’t be afraid of failure or imperfection. Let failure be your friend. Learn from mistakes and failures and realize they can be your best teachers. Forgive yourself, learn, and move on.”

Margo Georgiadis

CEO, Ancestry.com

Julie Howard

Chairman and CEO, Navigant

Chicago's Most Powerful Women: Julie Howard

What advice would you give to your younger self (and other women on their way up)? “No one ever knows — no matter how much planning — where their careers will take them. Pay attention to and immerse yourself in the unplanned opportunities and issues that arise along the way. Unexpected circumstances and your agility to embrace them often take you in new and exciting directions!”

Dr. Janice Jackson, Ed.D.

CEO, Chicago Public Schools

Chicago's Most Powerful Women: Dr. Janice Jackson

What advice would you give to your younger self (and other women on their way up)? “Finding yourself is finding your goals. To be successful, make moves in your career with confidence and passion but be humble enough to know you didn’t get to the mountaintop all on your own. And never let anyone convince you that you need to choose between success at work and success at home, because we need more women like you taking on leadership positions in our schools, our corporations, and our government.”

Valerie Jarrett

Former Senior Advisor to President Obama and an Advocate for Equity and Justice, Obama Foundation

Chicago's Most Powerful Women: Valerie Jarrett

What advice would you give to your younger self (and other women on their way up)? “You have to find your voice and use it to be a force for good. Believe in your own empowerment and commit to what you feel passionately about. You must take the long view and not be distracted by all the nonsense. Be resilient and expect that even if you fail, you are not a failure: simply learn and try again.”

Connie L. Lindsey

Executive Vice President and Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Global Diversity and Inclusion, Northern Trust

Chicago's Most Powerful Women: Connie L. Lindsey

What advice would you give to your younger self (and other women on their way up)? “Be bold, brave, and inclusive!”

Anne Pramaggiore

Senior Executive Vice President and CEO, Exelon Utilities

Chicago's Most Powerful Women: Anne Pramaggiore

What advice would you give to your younger self (and other women on their way up)? “On your career journey, take care to develop your whole self. Because it’s the most visible manifestation of talent early on in a career, we often focus predominantly on performance, technical skill. This is, of course, the bedrock of a fruitful career, but you must build on top of that foundation if you are to reach a leadership position — which I believe is the most exciting place to find yourself. Leadership requires more than technical skill — leadership requires a left brain, a right brain, a little guts, and a lot of heart.”

Toni Preckwinkle

Cook County Board President

Jennifer Pritzker

Philanthropist and Entrepreneur

Penny Pritzker

Founder and Chairman, PSP Partners and its affiliates, Pritzker Realty Group, PSP Capital and PSP Growth

Chicago's Most Powerful Women: Penny Pritzker

What advice would you give to your younger self (and other women on their way up)? “Life is a team sport, and no matter how self-reliant or resilient or talented we may think we are, none of us will get very far unless we surround ourselves with teams of talented people we like, trust, and respect.”

Diana Mendley Rauner, Ph.D.

President of the Ounce of Prevention Fund and First Lady of Illinois

Chicago's Most Powerful Women: Diana Mendley Rauner

What advice would you give to your younger self (and other women on their way up)? “The key to life is hard work and determination; just keep putting one foot in front of the other until you get there and never give up.”

Laura Ricketts

Director, Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball Club, and Chairman, Board for Cubs Charities

Chicago's Most Powerful Women: Laura Ricketts

What advice would you give to your younger self (and other women on their way up)? “Don’t spend any of your life attempting to live up to the desires or expectations of others. Instead, focus on the expectations and desires you have for yourself. There is no time for grudges or regret, for beating ourselves up or wallowing in self-pity. Though we all find ourselves stuck on these from time to time. On such occasions, we need to give ourselves a moment and then move on, leaving them behind, because life is just too darn short!”

Jo Ann Rooney

President, Loyola University Chicago

Chicago's Most Powerful Women: Jo Ann Rooney

What advice would you give to your younger self (and other women on their way up)? “Have the courage to make mistakes. To consistently succeed and develop as people, we need to be perpetual, lifelong students, and mistakes are integral to learning and growth. This courage will help you become resilient, and resilience is an indispensable characteristic every leader must possess.”

Shirley Ryan

Philanthropist, Founder, Pathways.org

Chicago's Most Powerful Women: Shirley Ryan

What advice would you give to your younger self (and other women on their way up)? “It’s important to use all of the strengths we have to inspire others.”

Julia Stasch

President, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Chicago's Most Powerful Women: Julia Stasch

What advice would you give to your younger self (and other women on their way up)? “Worry less about a goal in life and more about a rich variety of experiences along the way. Welcome setbacks and failures for what they teach you about yourself.”

Helen Zell

Executive Director, Zell Family Foundation

Chicago's Most Powerful Women: Helen Zell

What advice would you give to your younger self (and other women on their way up)? “Over the past 20 years, I’ve enjoyed both the challenges and pleasures of effective philanthropy. Perhaps the most significant lesson I’ve learned is that meaningful, or change-making, philanthropy is possible only when there is personal involvement with the recipient(s). Benchmarks for success are essential, and recipients must be held accountable by reviewing progress to goal throughout the duration of the grant.”

Andrea Zopp

President and CEO, World Business Chicago

Chicago's Most Powerful Women: Andrea Zopp

What advice would you give to your younger self (and other women on their way up)? “Be your own advocate. Give voice to what you want and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Without challenges to overcome, you’re not growing, and if you’re not growing, you’re not becoming a better leader. And if you fail while overcoming those challenges, know that you are resilient and can move forward even stronger than before.”

 

This year’s judges included former winners such as Marty Wilke and Celena Roldan as well as experts in civic leadership from organizations including Leadership Greater Chicago, Metropolitan Planning Council, and William Blair.

 

Feature photo by Aaron Bean on Unsplash.

 

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