Women Who WOW

Seven years ago, two woman-owned businesses came together to present profiles of woman leaders in every issue of metroMAGAZINE. The same publication recently caught up with some of the 34 women featured as "Game-changers" and "Women who WOW" since 2015.

In 2015, planit inc. (then planitomaha) and metroMAGAZINE presented the first "Game-changer" profile featuring a woman executive. As woman business leaders themselves, metroMAGAZINE publisher Andee Hoig and planit inc. co-founders Renee Black and Lesley Brandt wanted to celebrate accomplished women in the community.

"Recognizing women leaders specifically is important to showcase how women have a seat at the table and are making a major impact in their organizations and their communities," Black said. "There are so many wonderful events and volunteerism happening in Omaha, but we saw a need to call out the women who make a difference in the boardroom and in their communities."

"We need to recognize women leaders at the highest levels so our next generation of female professionals can see women being celebrated for our accomplishments and success in our careers and communities," Brandt said. "We understand life demands the desire to serve your community while elevating your professional career. It's difficult to do both, and we wanted to acknowledge those outstanding leaders who are serving Omaha and leading their organizations."

In the past seven years, metroMAGAZINE has featured 34 high-profile women representing nonprofits and businesses spanning a wide variety of sectors including medicine, banking, media, corporate, education, and more, with titles like president, CEO, founder, senior vice president, executive vice president, and senator.

Both Black and Brandt have seen changes for women in the workplace since they started their careers, and even since the first "Game-changer" profile was published. Black said she's seen more "acceptance in the C-suite and having your voice be heard and respected," and Brandt said that although there is still more work to be done in this area, "there are more women professionals making greater impacts on their organization's bottom line and changing corporate environments."

They've enjoyed reading the profiles, too, both women said, and even had the tables turned on them in 2018 when they were the featured subjects. Fittingly, the magazine's publisher was the final "Game-changer" profile before the feature was rebranded as "Women who WOW" in 2022.

"I appreciate the talented, committed female leadership in Omaha and what I have learned is that a collective effort is better than a single effort to support women at the highest levels in an organization," Black said.

"I have enjoyed reading the profiles and learning about the women and how much we all share in common on so many levels," Brandt said, "I think the same surprise factor comes when you read a profile and walk away impressed knowing that female leader is amazing at what they do and serving their organization and Omaha so well."

metroMAGAZINE invited former "Game-changers" and "Women who WOW" to share what they're doing today - some are in the same positions, some have retired, and some have taken on new roles since they were featured - and also get their responses to some intriguing and fun questions.

Makayla McMorris, Chief Communication & Marketing Officer, Office of Strategic Marketing & Communications, University of Nebraska at Omaha - Member of the Aksarben Women's Ball Committee

"It's so important, more than ever: 'Real women aren't perfect and perfect women aren't real."

What is your favorite inspirational quote (and who said it)?
"Risk is the essence of any reward - to try the thing that no one else is willing to try." - Bozoma Saint John

What do you want people to know/remember you for?
Being a good human, someone you can count on. That I was able to bring out the best of people that I interact with. I am a strong believer in the idea that it is our responsibility as leaders and entrepreneurs to lift others up as you climb.

What have you enjoyed most about being an entrepreneur/business leader?
Nothing can beat the feeling of watching an idea evolve into something real and tangible that makes a positive impact on someone's life. The fact that I have had an opportunity to do this throughout my professional career is a true blessing.

What or who inspires you?
I gain inspiration from my two children every day. When I wake up in the morning, it is my goal to be the person that I would have wanted to look up to at their age.

What is the best piece of advice you've received?
"Start with 'why" is an incredibly simple but profound way of living your life and leading an organization. This advice from motivational speaker Simon Sinek revolves around the idea that instead of interacting with an audience from the angle of who you are or what you do, start with why you do it in order to rally people to a cause or an action.

What has been the best technological advancement that has affected your business?
Online streaming has radically changed how marketers' position, promote and track engagement with their brand. The accuracy that we can target incredibly specific demographics with - and the level of data and insights we can gather in the process - would have blown me away when I began my career. I can't imagine doing the work we do today without it. 

If you could go back in time and visit your younger self at the start of her career, what would you say to her?
Trust your journey. Every challenge you face, every opportunity you encounter, and every relationship you build is leading you exactly to where you need to be. The lessons you learn along the way will make you that much more prepared for the road ahead - just keep going.

Samantha Mosser, Nebraska Market President, Bankers Trust - Aksarben Board Councillor

"You can do anything you put your mind to; don't limit yourself!"

What is your favorite inspirational quote (and who said it)?
"Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." - author unknown
I don't know who originally said it, but my mother repeated it to me continuously growing up.

If you had not followed your current career path, what do you think you would have done instead?
I would most likely be a dentist or a professor. I was going to dental school until my last semester and decided to pursue my business career aspirations instead. I taught economics along with money and banking courses at Nebraska Wesleyn University in the evenings until I had three children; I had to stop due to time constraints.

What have you enjoyed most about being an entrepreneur/business leader?
Helping others succeed, whether that's clients, colleagues, or the nonprofits I serve. I have also enjoyed building relationships because ultimately that's what it's all about - you can accomplish a lot if you build trust! Building relationships is an important part of my role at Bankers Trust and one of the main reasons I wanted to join the organization.

What or who inspires you?
My father inspires me, he is my hero. He did not have the best upbringing as a foster child but has always been committed to providing a better life than he had for his family. He is an extremely hard worker and made sure we were well cared-for and loved.

What are some of your future aspirations?
I love board-governance work and recently obtained my National Association of Corporate Directors Directorship Certificate, which is the premier designation available in the United States and ensures you are qualified to serve in a director role. I have extensive nonprofit board experience and plan to continue to give back in this capacity along with serving on private corporate boards.

What is the best piece of advice you've received?
You are the average of the six people you spend the most time with; choose wisely.

What do you want people to know/remember you for?
Giving 100% to my family, company, and the community. Following through on my commitments and doing what I say I'm going to do.

Other women featured include:

  • Melanie Morrissey Clark, President, Clark Creative Group
  • Jayne Peek Emsick, Ph.D., CEO, Yourexecutivecoach.com and Emsick Architects, Inc.
  • Margaret Haynes, CEO and President, Risemark and Right at Home
  • Patricia Kearns, President and CEO, QLI
  • Susan Koenig, Of Counsel, Koenig|Dunne Executive Coach
  • Beverly Kracher, Robert B. Daugherty Chair and Professor, Creighton University
  • Ashley Kuhn, President, Blair Freeman
  • Malorie Maddox, Chief Marketing, Communications and Strategy, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NE
  • Kim Mickelsen, CEO, Bozell
  • Joan Squires, President, Omaha Performing Arts
  • Carmen Tapio, Founder and CEO, North End Teleservices
  • Aileen Warren, President and CEO, ICAN