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Meet the Awardees

The 2019 Tribute to Women Leadership Awardees include seven energetic and dedicated professionals, all of them devoted to empowering women, eliminating racism, and defending the underserved. Join us at noon on May 24 at the Wyndham Grand to learn more about these remarkable women!

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Skip to individual bios by clicking the following links:

Seema Batra
Selena Schmidt
Christina Flewellen-Howze
Latasha Wilson-Batch
Joann Cyganovich
Audrey Russo
Summer Lee 

Seema Batra wins the Business & Professional Services Award for her advocacy for diversity and inclusion initiatives at PNC Bank. Currently serving as Community Experience Director, Seema has held multiple roles during her 13 years at PNC, winning internal and external awards for her work towards employee engagement and corporate social responsibility. She launched the first Asian American Employee Business Resource Group (EBRG), Pittsburgh Chapter in 2011, and served as President for over 5 years. Seema is a member of the Corporate EBRG Advisory Council, Pittsburgh Market D&I Council, and never rests in her support of mentoring programs and diversity & inclusion events. 

​​A social, civic, and private sector entrepreneur, Selena Schmidt receives the Civic & Community Services Award​ for her work to amplify the voices of the disenfranchised. Her commitment to equity, inclusion, and public service is unmistakeable from her numerous and diverse ventures - among them, co-founding the CMU spin-out The Art of Democracy, creating a social-emotional toolkit at PBS Kids, and serving on numerous boards. She is also a former college athlete with a wealth of variegated experience that we look forward to learning from at the Tribute Luncheon.

Christina Flewellen-Howze​ grew up witness to addiction and domestic violence, and resolved at a young age to devote herself to helping the victims of trauma. Now an abstract artist and professional art therapist, Christina founded Painting With Purpose, a Pittsburgh creative arts empowerment company, to serve  survivors in their recovery from sexual assault and domestic violence. Christina wins the Creative Arts Award​ for the determination and creativity that allowed her not only to achieve personal success in the face of harrowing obstacles, but to share the skills and insights that enable her clients to flourish. 

Latasha Wilson-Batch​ is a community advocate and motivational speaker and Executive Director of Best of the Batch Foundation, which supports children living in distressed communities with educational and athletic programming, scholarships, and mentorship. Tasha receives the ​Education Award​ for leadership that has spearheaded the growth of the organization to create new and innovative programming. A powerful - and busy - pacesetter, Tasha not only serves on multiple local boards supporting the interests of women, girls, and youth, but she is also a graduate student at Carlow University and an international traveller.

Recipient of the 2019 Health & Human Services Award, Joann Cyganovich​ has a long history of advocating for homeless and underserved pittsburghers, launching and guiding numerous projects to improve the lives of marginalized people. Significantly, her work has enabled mothers to receive treatment for addiction without losing their children to the foster system. Currently Executive Director of Sojourner House and Sojourner MOMS, Joann has designed programs that house, support, and empower individuals and families facing homelessness, mental illness, addiction, and domestic violence.

Audrey Russo is President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, the oldest and largest technology trade organization. She wins the ​Science & Technology Award​ for her tireless work to ensure that women and people of color are represented and supported in the historically masculine world of tech. Audrey advocates fiercely at the systems and individual levels for gender and racial parity and works diligently to bridge knowledge and access gaps. She stresses the importance of elemental skills, including financial know-how, reading balance sheets, and understanding profit and loss. She hosts a quarterly gathering for women-led start-ups in her home, investing her personal time and resources in women's success. 

Summer Lee grew up in the East Pittsburgh municipalities of North Braddock and Rankin and attended Woodland Hills High School. In 2018 she was elected to the State House of Representatives, winning by a massive margin against the 20-year incumbent. Summer is one of a growing faction of young, progressive, female leaders who challenge entrenched norms and bring the promise of a new future to underserved groups. She wins the Young Leadership Award​ for her unflagging advocacy for social justice. Summer's legislative priorities include criminal justice reform; education, health care, and energy policy reforms; a progressive tax structure; and a $15 minimum wage.

Did you know?

According to the Center for Disease Control, African American women are over three times more likely to be murdered with a gun than white women.

Read more about YWCA's position on gun violence.

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