Each year at Salute to Women of Achievement, YWCA of Greater Atlanta celebrates dynamic women leaders throughout Georgia whose professional and civic lives embody our mission to eliminate racism and empower women.
2019 Woman of Achievement
Liz Blake – Board Member, Westside Future Fund
Liz Blake served as Habitat for Humanity’s Senior Vice President — Advocacy, Government Affairs and General Counsel for nine years. Since retiring in late 2014, Ms. Blake has continued as a volunteer with a focus on secure tenure, land rights and gender issues impacting development in the third world. Blake serves as an advisor to C432 on job creation projects in the apparel, social services and tourism sectors in Haiti. In Atlanta, her work is focused on the revitalization of five Westside neighborhoods including the Atlanta University Center, home to Spellman College, Clark Atlanta, Morehouse College and Morehouse School of Medicine, through her work on the Board of the Westside Future Fund. Prior to 2006, Ms. Blake was Executive Vice President and General Counsel of US Airways, Senior VP and General Counsel of Trizec Properties, VP and General Counsel of GE Power Systems and Vice President and Chief of Staff of Cinergy Corp., now part of Duke Energy. Prior to that she was a partner with the Frost and Jacobs law firm in Cincinnati, Ohio and associated with Davis Polk and Wardell in New York.
Additionally, Ms. Blake is a Director of Green Brick Partners, Inc. (NASDAQ), is Chair of the Cadasta Foundation, Chair of Emory & Children’s Pediatric Institute and Vice Chair of the Board of the Westminster Schools, Inc. Ms. Blake serves on the boards of the International Women’s Forum – Atlanta chapter and the Marcus Autism Center. Additionally, she served ten years on the Board of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and is a past Chair of the Ohio Board of Regents. In December 2016, Ms. Blake concluded her term as Chair of the Carter Center’s Board of Councilors.
Blake is a graduate of Smith College and Columbia University School of Law.
2019 Academy of Women Achievers
Allison Dukes – Chief Financial Officer, SunTrust Banks
Previously, Dukes served as head of Commercial & Business Banking for SunTrust, responsible for the line of business across all geographic divisions. This included SunTrust’s industry specialties and coordinating the delivery of investment banking and capital markets capabilities offered by SunTrust Robinson Humphrey to commercial banking clients.
Prior to her role as head of Commercial & Business Banking, Dukes served as President and CEO of the Atlanta Division of SunTrust. She also held leadership positions in corporate and investment banking, finance, and private wealth management, including managing director and head of syndicated finance originations for SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, chief financial officer of consumer banking and private wealth management, and co-head of private wealth management.
Dukes began her career at SunTrust in 1997 in the corporate banking training program, and rejoined the company in 2002, after serving two years as director of finance at Axiom Global, Inc. in New York.
She serves on the Board of Directors for Haverty Furniture Companies Inc. An active member of the Atlanta community, Dukes is on the boards of Junior Achievement of Georgia, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Atlanta History Center, and the Finance Committee of The Westminster Schools.
She earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Vanderbilt University and a Master of Business Administration from the Goizueta Business School at Emory University.
Sharon Gay – Office Managing Partner, Dentons
Sharon Gay is Managing Partner of the Atlanta office of the global law firm Dentons and a partner in the Public Policy practice group. She concentrates her practice in state and local government law, particularly in the areas of land use and zoning, tax allocation district financing and other economic development incentives, transportation, and public-private partnerships.
Sharon uses her expertise in land use and zoning and economic incentives to facilitate office, residential, retail, and mixed use development projects and redevelopment of industrial properties. She played an instrumental role in the development of Ponce City Market, Atlantic Station, Avalon, Glenwood Place, and Krog Street Market and the revitalization of downtown Atlanta. Sharon is recognized as a key player in pioneering the use of tax allocation district financing in Georgia. She has worked with local governments and developers throughout the state to create tax allocation districts to provide funds for community redevelopment. During her career, she has helped fund over $2 billion in development financing through the use of tax allocation districts for projects from Acworth to Augusta, including Atlantic Station, Camp Creek MarketPlace and Camp Creek Business Park, and a number of developments around Centennial Olympic Park.
Prior to joining Dentons, Sharon served as Vice President–Governmental Affairs for the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and as Deputy Chief of Staff and Executive Counsel to the Mayor of Atlanta.
Sharon is active in civic and charitable organizations and has served on numerous boards and commissions. She currently serves on the boards of the Piedmont Park Conservancy and Canterbury Court. She is a member of the Livable Communities Council of the Urban Land Institute–Atlanta and chairs its Affordable Housing Task Force. Sharon previously chaired the board of Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership and was a founding board member and Vice Chair of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority. She helped found and served on the Board of the Historic Fourth Ward Park Conservancy.
Sharon is a graduate of Leadership Atlanta and the Regional Leadership Institute. She has been named by Georgia Trend as one of Georgia’s “100 Most Influential People” and was recently recognized by the Atlanta Business Chronicle as one of their “Women Who Mean Business” and by Atlanta Magazine as one of Atlanta’s 500 “Most Powerful Leaders.”
Sharon is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and the Emory University School of Law, where she served as Notes and Comments Editor of the Emory Law Journal. She and her husband, Neil Schemm, reside in the Inman Park neighborhood of Atlanta.
Sonya Halpern – Founder, Whiskey in a Teacup Consulting
Early in her career, Sonya worked in critical advertising sales roles at several of the country’s leading media companies including ESPN, Inc., The Walt Disney Company, and Cox Enterprises. During that time, she honed the strategic planning and analysis, business development, training, and logistical skills that she continues to employ for her clients and projects today.
Sonya has a fierce passion for the arts, education and politics, and has dedicated her civic and philanthropic engagement to these areas. She serves on the Executive Committee of the board for Public Broadcasting Atlanta, The Children’s School, SouthArts, and the YMCA of Metro Atlanta where she is also a Co-Chair of the “Here for Good” capital campaign. For nearly a decade, Sonya served in leadership roles at the National Black Arts Festival (NBAF), the country’s oldest multidisciplinary arts institution that celebrates artists of African descent, including two years as Chair of the Board and Acting Executive Director, helping them develop and secure new audiences, sustainability, and a new strategic direction for the future. She is currently an Advisory Board member of NBAF, and also serves on the Advisory Board for the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland.
In 2011, President Barack Obama appointed Sonya to the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts, a national board of the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, DC. Three years later when he appointed her Chair, she became the first African-American and first Georgian to serve in this capacity since PACA’s inception in the late 1950s. Sonya guided the board’s fundraising and focus on advocacy for educational and related artistic programming including the national Any Given Child arts education initiative.
Sonya is a member of the Women’s Leadership Forum of the DNC, a founding member of Electing Women Alliance Atlanta, a founding team member and advocate for Atlanta School for the Arts, and a member of the Atlanta Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc.
Sonya has been recognized as one of the “Top 100 Black Women of Influence” by the Atlanta Business League, is a recipient of the “Women Who Pay it 4Ward” award from BMW USA, and was honored with the “Sandra Anderson Bacchus Legacy Award” from the National Black Arts Festival.
Sonya earned her Master in Business Administration from the University of Hartford’s International MBA program and a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and three children.
Soumaya Khalifa – Executive Director, Islamic Speakers Bureau
Known in Atlanta and across the country as a trail-blazer and innovator, Soumaya Khalifa is one of the American-Muslim community’s most visible and prolific women. As a founder and the current Executive Director of the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta (ISB), Soumaya is a frequently requested speaker and can often be found discussing issues important to American-Muslims on radio, television and social media.
In August 2001, Soumaya, along with a group of Atlantans launched the ISB to be a resource for faith and civic cooperation, to promote understanding and inclusion, and to fight bigotry through education and collaboration. Under Soumaya’s leadership the ISB engages a wide variety of audiences including public and private schools, universities, healthcare providers, law enforcement agencies, and civic and faith based organizations.
As a leader who is willing to take risks to strive for excellence, Soumaya has encouraged the ISB board of directors to launch several key initiatives. In 2017, the ISB partnered with the Atlanta Mayor’s office to host the first ever Ramadan Iftar (break-fast) hosted at the Atlanta City Hall. In 2018, the second Atlanta Mayor’s Iftar was attended by over 250 people, and is quickly becoming an annual highlight of the Mayor’s cultural calendar. To focus on the goal of leadership development and recognition, ISB’s “100 Influential Georgia Muslims” and “40 Under Forty Georgia Muslims” gathered the best and brightest Muslim leaders in our state. The newest initiative, Institute for Muslim Civic Leadership, a program for emerging leaders, began in 2018, allowing Soumaya to use her background in professional development to support her community.
In addition to her work with the ISB, Soumaya is president of her intercultural consulting firm Khalifa Consulting which provides consulting, coaching and training to business executives across the county. With her background in business and an MBA in Human Resources, Soumaya works with her clients to increase their understanding of Arab cultures, US culture (for overseas clients), global virtual teams, and cultural competency for Muslims in the workplace.
Soumaya is an adjunct professor at Emory University’s Center for Continuing Education where she offers courses on intercultural communication and Human Resources Certification. Her work has been featured in the New York Times and in the book, 50 Green Card Stories, and she authored the chapter on Islam in the book Religious Diversity at Work. Soumaya also hosted a 16-part television series on the Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters (AIB) station titled, “Meet Your Muslim Neighbor.”
Along with her work with ISB and her consulting firm, Soumaya volunteers for a wide variety community organizations. She serves on Grady Foundation’s Grady Ambassadors, the board of the Concordia Forum, and is a past board member of AIB TV and SIETAR USA. Soumaya is an active volunteer with the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival and has led the Muslim community at the annual Hunger Walk for the Atlanta Community Food Bank. As a member of the Leadership Atlanta Class of 2015, she is a mentor for the LEAD program and has helped develop engagement activities for future classes.
Her work has brought her much recognition and significant honors, including an invitation to the White House and being named a Citizen Diplomat by the US State Department. Soumaya received the 2018 Arab American High Achiever Award by the ALIF Institute, the prestigious Phoenix Award by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in 2017, and the FBI’s Community Leadership Award in 2012. Soumaya was inducted into Morehouse College’s Martin Luther King Jr. College of Ministers and Laity, and has been named by the Huffington Post as one of “Five People Inspiring Peace” in 2013.
In her “off time,” Soumaya and her husband love to visit with their three children and to travel for adventure, fun and great food.
Helene Lollis – President & CEO, Pathbuilders
Helene Lollis is the president and chief executive officer of PATHBUILDERS, an organization that partners with clients to develop top-tier talent through mentoring and professional development, with a core focus on moving high-potential women forward in leadership. She guides strategic direction and program development, provides high-level partnership with clients, and represents Pathbuilders in the community. Trained as an engineer, Helene spent 12 years with Amoco and then BP Corporation in plastics process design, product development, marketing, strategic planning and company mergers and acquisitions.
Helene is frequently invited to speak on the topics of mentoring, women in the workplace and career planning. She has been published in HR Magazine, Diversity Executive, and Talent Management and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal. Extremely active in the community, Helene is a past chair and on the executive board of Junior Achievement of Georgia and is on the Board of Trustees for the Woodruff Arts Center where she chairs its Women’s Giving Circle. She also serves on the Boards of the NC State University Engineering Foundation and SHRM-Atlanta and has previous board service with the Metro Atlanta Chamber. She is a graduate of Leadership Atlanta, and she is a member of the Atlanta Rotary Club, the International Women’s Forum and the Women’s Presidents Organization.
Helene was awarded the Gold Leadership Award by the Junior Achievement USA Board of Directors for her service to JA. She was named a “Woman Worth Watching” in Profiles in Diversity Journal, a Business to Business Woman of Excellence honoree, a POW! Purposeful Woman, and the Guiding Star from the Emory’s Executive Women of Goizueta. Helene served as a subject matter expert and session chair focused on mid-career issues at The Wall Street Journal Executive Task Force on Women in the Economy. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from N.C. State and Purdue Universities.
Juliette Pryor serves as senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary for Cox Enterprises, a leading communications, media and automotive services company.
She is responsible for leading Cox’s legal function, as well as serving as corporate secretary supporting the company’s board of directors. Juliette is also responsible for being a strategic legal advisor to the senior leadership team, focusing on key legal and business strategies and issues facing the organization.
Before joining Cox, Juliette served as executive vice president, general counsel and chief compliance officer for US Foods where she was responsible for all legal, risk management and ethics and compliance functions since 2005. Prior to that, she was in private practice with the law firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom. Before joining Skadden, Juliette was general counsel and corporate secretary for e.spire Communications, Inc., a NASDAQ-listed telecommunications company.
Earlier in her career, she served as legal advisor to the vice chairman of the U.S. International Trade Commission and as in-house counsel with IBM Corporation.
Juliette earned a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center and a master’s of science degree from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. She also holds a bachelor’s of arts degree from Fisk University.
She is a member of the 2019 class of Leadership Atlanta, the Georgetown University Law Center Board of Visitors, and the Board of Trustees of Fisk University. A fluent Portuguese speaker and longtime enthusiast for all things Brazilian, Juliette is a founding board member of Levantamos: The Center for Afro-Brazilian-American Cooperation.
She is married to Walter Pryor, and they are the proud parents of two adult children: Jordan Adjua and Wade.
Blythe Keeler Robinson is an innovative leader with 20 years of non-profit management experience and expertise in educational programming, early childhood education, program design and implementation, grant writing and contract review and negotiation.
Robinson is the President and CEO of Sheltering Arms Early Education and Family Centers in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1888, Sheltering Arms is one of Georgia’s largest nonprofit organizations and one of its most respected. Sheltering Arms serves nearly 2,500 children daily, ages six weeks to five years old, and their families in 15 early care and education centers across metro Atlanta. As a recognized leader in early education, Sheltering Arms is a National Head Start Center of Excellence, as well as a member of the Educare network. Under Robinson’s leadership, Sheltering Arms has increased its national impact and visibility as a member of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Family Economic Success – Early Childhood Initiative Action Learning Network and Ascend at the Aspen Institute.
Prior to joining Sheltering Arms, Robinson served as the Senior Vice President & Chief Programs Officer of the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe, Florida. She was responsible for the management and implementation of early care and education programs providing services to more than 50,000 children and their families annually. In her role as the Vice President of Strategic Planning and Initiatives at Reading Is Fundamental, she directed programs and strategic initiatives across the country and designed and oversaw the implementation of the Multicultural Literacy Campaign, a national effort to promote and support early childhood literacy in targeted communities.
As a dedicated servant leader, Robinson believes in giving back to the community. She volunteers with local organizations focused on children and the homeless population, and mentors girls and women. Robinson serves on the Board of Directors of the National Black Child Development Institute, the Board of Directors of the International Women’s Forum-Georgia Chapter, the Atlanta Speech School Advisory Board and the Healthy Beginnings System of Care for Young Children Advisory Board. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.
In addition to receiving a Women Extraordinaire Award from Business Leader Magazine, Robinson was recognized as one of Atlanta Tribune’s 2018 Women of Excellence, South Florida’s “40 Under 40 Leaders of Today and Tomorrow” and “50 Most Powerful Black Professionals.” She has also been named to the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s list of “Atlanta’s 40 Under 40 Leaders” and is a member of the Leadership of Atlanta Class of 2015.
Robinson holds a bachelor’s degree in Government and Politics with a certificate in African American Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a juris doctorate from The Georgetown University Law Center.
Erika Shields – Chief, City of Atlanta Police Department
Erika Shields is the 24th Chief of the City of Atlanta Police Department, appointed in December 2016. She is an advocate for 21st Century Policing – with a focus on reducing crime while also strengthening trust and collaboration with our communities. Chief Shields has a tough mindset on crime, but a compassionate and proactive approach to working with the community and its leaders while also ensuring accountability for officers. She is committed to developing a culture of technology, innovation, excellence and transparency throughout the organization.
Since her appointment as Chief, the department has made significant strides in its focus on reducing violent crimes and taking repeat offenders and stolen guns off the streets. She continues to work closely with judicial leaders to advocate for stronger sentencing for those individuals who commit violent felonies.
Chief Shields also believes engaging children and young adults is critical and takes a positive, proactive approach with programs like the Police Athletic League and the Atlanta Police Foundation’s At-Promise Center. These programs provide participants with an opportunity to interact with officers through mentorship and recreational programs.
Under Chief Shields’ leadership, the Atlanta Police Department is leveraging technology more than ever with video cameras, crime analysis and analytics to more easily track crime trends, adjust strategies and allocate resources accordingly. The Video Integration Center links more than 10,000 public and private cameras in a network to help identify and deter criminals. Operation Aware is a partnership with Microsoft that allows the agency to analyze crime patterns with greater efficiency and speed. The results are noteworthy. In the Chief’s first full year in 2017, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, major crimes were down 8 percent, armed robberies were down 32 percent, burglaries were down 23 percent and murders were down 29 percent compared to 2016.
To ensure the safety of both citizens and visitors during some of the largest high-profile events in the country, Chief Shields collaborates closely with private, local, state and federal partners to provide multi-layered security and traffic plans leading to successful events and a safe environment for everyone to enjoy.
Chief Shields sets high standards of conduct and expects professionalism from officers in their daily interactions with the public. She also expects them to be passionate in their efforts to reduce crime, while also showing compassion to victims and others affected by crime. She has a zero-tolerance policy for abuse or disrespect and works closely with the Atlanta Citizen Review Board to ensure third-party mediation of complaints by the public.
Chief Shields joined the Atlanta Police Department in 1995 following a career as a stockbroker. During her tenure, she has risen through the ranks as a Patrol Officer, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Major and Deputy Chief prior to her appointment as Chief.
As a beat officer and a plain clothes assignment in Southeast Atlanta for eight years, Chief Shields investigated robberies and conducted multiple search warrants, narcotics and vice details fighting sex crimes and prostitution.
As a Sergeant, Chief Shields was initially assigned to Southwest Atlanta and then moved to the Office of Professional Standards where she conducted Internal Affairs investigations. She was then assigned to the Advocacy Unit where she liaised with the Law Department in reviewing and presenting disciplinary files to the Chief of Police.
As a Lieutenant, Chief Shields was the Evening Watch Commander in Southwest Atlanta. From that assignment, she moved on to Commander of the department’s Planning and Research/Accreditation Unit where she developed and implemented all departmental policies and facilitated the CALEA accreditation process; the Staff Inspections Unit, which oversees inspections associated with the re-accreditation process; and the Extra Job Unit, which is responsible for the oversight of outside employment for employees.
Appointed to the rank of Major in January 2010, Chief Shields served as Chief of Staff, managing the daily activities of Chief George Turner’s office. In 2011, Chief Shields rose to the rank of Deputy Chief and was selected to command the new Strategy and Special Projects Division. During her time in the division, Deputy Chief Shields was responsible for the further development of the department’s state-of-the-art Video Integration Center; to research and identify technological measures to support the crime analysis process; and to develop a comprehensive strategic plan.
Deputy Chief Shields transitioned in January 2013 to the Support Services Division where her primary responsibilities included managing the department’s day-to-day operations associated with $168 million budget, Training Academy, Corporate Services Section, Information Services Section and the E-911 Center.
Chief Shields holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies from Webster University and a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Saint Leo University. She is an active member of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police (GACP), the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). She was appointed as a board member to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council by Gov. Nathan Deal in August 2017 and elected in 2019 to be one of two Eastern Region Representatives on the board for the Major Cities Chiefs Association.
Martha Wilber, M.D. – Associate Medical Director, Kaiser Permanente
Dr. Wilber is a native Atlantan who has practiced with The Southeast Permanente Medical Group since 1989. She attended college at Harvard University, and then returned home to complete medical school and an Internal Medicine internship and residency at Emory University School of Medicine. After completing residency, she spent an exciting year working as junior faculty in the emergency room at Grady, and then, in 1989, joined Kaiser Permanente.
Dr. Wilber is Board certified in both Internal Medicine and Palliative Care and her current clinical practice is as a hospitalist at Emory Midtown and Emory St Joseph’s hospitals. She has held many roles with TSPMG including Chief of Medicine, Chief of Palliative Care, and Senior Director of Resource Stewardship. Her current role is Associate Medical Director of Hospital and Acute Care, and her primary responsibility is improving the quality and efficiency of care our members receive in the hospital and Emergency room. She has served on many hospital committees including the Ethics committee at Piedmont hospital for many years.
Dr. Wilber has been active in the community in a variety of ways. Most recently she has served on the Board of the Medical Association of Atlanta, and currently is the president of this group of over 1700 local physicians. She is an active participant in the Medical Association of Georgia as well. Dr. Wilber is also in her 5th year on the Board of Trees Atlanta, and previously served on the board of the Arthur M Blank Family Youth YMCA.
Dr. Wilber chairs the Board of Georgia Watch, an organization which shares many of the values of the YWCA. Georgia Watch works to protect and inform consumers so that all Georgians can prosper, and our communities can thrive. We work to reduce the high cost of poverty, and to eliminate disparities based on race and place. We seek to ensure and expand access to high quality affordable healthcare for all Georgians.
In her free time she loves to walk and read and she is always looking for a great book recommendation.
Young has led the ACLU of Georgia through an intensive two years focused on building an organization that could advance criminal justice reform, support immigrant rights, and most significantly and immediately, opposing voter suppression and protecting voting rights in advance of the 2018 midterm elections. She developed a strategic expansion that would go beyond ACLU’s traditional litigation work to embrace political action and legislative policy, advocacy, community education and direct action. This work has intensified as state, county and local governments continued their long-term campaign to deny the vote to people of color, and African-Americans in particular, for whom the vote has long been a right denied.
Guided by Young’s bone-deep moral and ethical framework, her vision of integrated advocacy has made the ACLU of Georgia the recognized and trusted authority on matters of civil liberties and civil rights in Georgia.
Prior to taking the helm of the statewide affiliate of the ACLU in January 2017, Young was an Adjunct Professor at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. For many years, she served as executive director at the Andrew J. Young Foundation producing a nationally-syndicated series of documentary films and other programs on themes of civil and human rights.
Young has devoted her career to promoting policies to defend and extend civil and human rights. In the arena of national legislation, Young served as legislative assistant to Senator Edward Kennedy, contributing to significant civil rights and international policy including the Martin Luther King Holiday Act and South Africa sanctions legislation. She later worked with the United Church of Christ in global mission and advocacy, returning to the Capitol to serve as Chief of Staff for the first woman to represent Georgia in Congress, Cynthia McKinney. She served as Vice President for External Affairs for Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, defending a woman’s right to reproductive healthcare. As Vice President of the National Black Child Development Institute, Young led a school readiness initiative that increased local investments in early care and education and led to a commitment to universal pre-kindergarten in Washington, DC.
Young is the author of Life Lessons My Mother Taught Me; co-author of Andrew Young and the Making of Modern Atlanta and collaborated with former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young in writing, editing and researching An Easy Burden: Civil Rights and the Transformation of America. She has been recognized, nationally for her work as an advocate for civil and human rights.
Young is a graduate of Swarthmore College and received her law degree from Georgetown University School of Law. She is a member of the State Bar of Georgia. Young is married to attorney and art consultant, Jerry Thomas. She has one daughter and one granddaughter.