2023 Social Impact Women to Watch

For several years during Women’s History Month, Nonprofit HR has proudly recognized women across North America as Social Impact Women who have made significant contributions to nonprofits, associations, foundations, social enterprises and the communities they serve. This year we called on our expanded community to help us identify and recognize outstanding women who accomplish the seemingly impossible against all odds.

We extend thanks to a record-breaking number of individuals who responded to our call for nominations. From these nominations, we discovered the work of dozens of outstanding women and are pleased to now publish the final 2023 Social Impact Women to Watch list. The finalists listed below are 24 professional women who have exhibited extraordinary leadership, unwavering dedication and impactful achievements in the social sector. Additional details on the finalists may be seen below.

Listen now to special episodes on The Switch featuring each 2023 finalist!


Itzel Almazan

People & Operations Direction
Itzel provides support to the Finance, HR and Operations departments at CAIR Coalition. Before her time at CAIR Coalition, Itzel…

Ayana Bias

Director of Advocacy & Volunteer Services
Ayana Bias serves as the Director of Community Advocacy & Volunteer Services at United Planning Organization (UPO) in Washington, D.C.…

Sarah Blas

Community Impact and Communitcation Lead
Sarah Blas is a NYC native, mother of six children, public speaker and nonprofit professional with a background in social…

Anahid Brakke

President & CEO
Anahid (Baboomian) Brakke is a first-generation Armenian whose father immigrated from Teheran, Iran. She is the first in her family…

Cynthia N. Colbert, MSW

President & CEO
Cynthia N. Colbert, MSW has been the President/CEO of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston since 2012, overseeing assistance to individuals…

Denise Collazo

Chief of External Affairs
Denise is a social justice leader, a mentor to fellow women of color, and an award winning author. She is…

Mary Cortani

Founder & Executive Director
In 2010, a Marine approached Mary seeking assistance in acquiring a service dog to help him overcome anxiety disorders caused…

Jennifer D. Dobbs

Executive Director
Jennifer D. Dobbs is the Executive Director for the ArtsBridge Foundation at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. Since her…

Marilyn Edmunds Bowser

Vice President of People Operations
Marilyn Edmunds Bowser is a People Operations leader with a decade of experience in the nonprofit sector. She currently serves…

Bonnie Entler

President & CEO
Bonnie has cultivated an innovative, award-winning adult literacy program from a grassroots beginning to national accreditation and recognition. She has…

Chavi Khanna Koneru

co-founder and Executive Director
Chavi Khanna Koneru (she, her) is co-founder and Executive Director of North Carolina Asian Americans Together. Koneru moved to North…

Indra Lahiri, PhD

Indra Lahiri, PhD is the founder of Indraloka Animal Sanctuary as well as a speaker, author, consultant and executive coach.…

Pamela A. Leins, MSL

Executive Director
Pamela Leins, also known as Pam, is a Boston-born, first-generation Chilena-Americana Latina who received her education from Boston Public Schools…

Jenny Malseed

VP of Strategy & Talent
As the VP of Strategy & Talent at GlobalGiving, Jenny is a member of the executive team and leads strategy,…

Heather L. Maurer, MA, CAE

Heather brings a passion for women’s health and over 25 years of senior executive leadership skills needed for NPWH at…

MaryEllen McGuire, PhD

President and Founder
MaryEllen McGuire is the Founder and President of the Postsecondary National Policy Institute (PNPI). Prior to creating and launching PNPI,…

Carolyn Penn, MBA, PHR, SHRM-CP

Senior Vice President , Total Rewards & Compliance
Carolyn leads benefits, compensation, wellness and compliance. Carolyn is a member of SOME’s safety committee, chair of the employee recognition…

Amelia Quinn

Founder and President
Founder and President of BeLoved Atlanta, Amelia Quinn, came from a background where she saw the devastating effects of abusive,…

Nikki Santos

Executive DIrector
Nikki’s Indian name is khwhele’ which means Meadow Lark. She is a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, and is…

Wanda Steptoe

Executive Director
Wanda Steptoe, Executive Director of New Endeavors by Women, has more than 20 years of experience working in various residential…

Paula Thompson

Executive Director
Paula Thompson is an experienced leader, visionary and consensus builder with 20 plus years of progressive leadership and effectiveness working…

Dr. Kimberly Townsend

President and CEO
Dr. Kimberly Townsend is President and CEO of Loretto Management Corporation in Syracuse, NY. She is an expert in the…

Ellen Voie, CAE

Ellen Voie is an internationally recognized speaker and authority on gender diversity and inclusion for women working in non-traditional careers…

Dr. Karen P. West

President & CEO
Dr. Karen P. West received her undergraduate degree from the University of Louisville in 1977 and is a 1982 graduate…

View winners

from previous years: