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Empowering women: Momentum programs offer opportunity for female leaders

Empowered women can significantly impact businesses and communities in far-reaching and positive ways. This is especially true when women have the support of other women as they grow personally and professionally. 

According to KPMG’s Women in Leadership Study, 67% of women said they learned the most important lessons about leadership from other women, and 82% percent of professional working women believed access to and networking with female leaders would help them advance in their career. The same study suggests that leadership programs that develop and connect high-potential women with female leaders may be key to helping more women achieve success.

In Alabama, one nonprofit organization has worked to elevate the professional potential of women since 2002, and Protective has supported their mission for the last 19 years. Momentum invites aspiring executive women each year to participate in a nine-month curriculum that addresses the unique challenges women face in leadership positions. 

The program offers skills-based leadership training and mentoring as well as networking opportunities that allow women to learn and work on problems together. Program attendees have the opportunity to learn from renowned authors, trainers and facilitators. Graduates of the program go on to not only make an impact in the workplace but also in their communities, with some becoming mentors to emerging leaders, serving on nonprofit boards and running for public office.

"It was an honor and a priceless gift to have been selected to represent Protective and participate in the Momentum Leadership Program," says 2VP Acquisition Integration Lead Necole Ezell, Class of 2020-2021. "I am grateful for the opportunity it gave me to grow professionally, personally and develop relationships with people across a broad spectrum of industries. It is a privilege to join the impressive group of Protective Momentum alumnae who have preceded me!"

Protective is proud to have had 14 female leaders join Momentum since 2003, including 2VP and Counsel, Felicia Lee, who was most recently selected to join the 2021-2022 leadership class.

Felicia will join members from organizations such as Alabama Power, Regions Bank, VIVA Health, the city of Birmingham and O’Neal Steel as well as emerging leaders from a number of local nonprofits.

Protective’s Momentum alumnae include:

  • Nancy Kane, Retired, Class of 2003-2004
  • Laura Akin Taylor, VP Financial Operations, Class of 2005-2006

  • Kathy Britton, Retired/Consultant, Class of 2009-2010

  • Wendy Evesque, EVP and Chief Human Resources Officer, Class of 2010-2011

  • Stella Swetnick, Retired, Class of 2011-2012

  • Patty Cobb, 2VP Cash Management, Class of 2011-2012

  • Eva Robertson, Executive Director, Protective Life Foundation and VP, Community Engagement, Class of 2013-2014

  • Edna Boatright, VP Marketing Shared Services, Class of 2014-2015

  • Amy Savoie, VP and Senior Counsel, Class of 2015-2016 

  • Jessica Kubat, VP and Senior Counsel, Class of 2017-2018

  • Sherri Hickman, VP Investment Accounting and Operations, Class of 2018-2019

  • Anne Leyden, VP Corporate Financial Planning and Analysis, Class of 2019-2020

  • Necole Ezell, 2VP Acquisition Integration Lead, Class of 2020-2021

Upward Early-Career Program

In 2019, Momentum launched a new program targeted to early-career women called Upward, and two Protective team members were part of the inaugural class. The program leverages Momentum's expertise and alumnae network to develop the next generation of talented leadership. The Upward program gives women who are early in their careers an opportunity to expand leadership skills, both personally and professionally. 

The Momentum selection committee, made up of volunteer Momentum alumnae, selects applicants with diverse roles from a variety of industries to participate in the program. April Benetollo, CEO of Momentum, says the selection committee considered many factors, including achievements, community service, diversity across industry, role and background, as well as recommendations, when selecting the participants for the class. 

The participants meet for half-day sessions once a month for nine months. Protective is excited to have two team members as part of the 2021-2022 Upward Early-Career Program class: Kimberly Piazza, Senior Project Manager, and Margaret Schneider, AVP and Actuary.

Sixty women in the Birmingham metro area were selected to participate, representing the top emerging talent in some of the city's leading business and nonprofit organizations, such as Children’s of Alabama, VIVA Health, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, Regions Bank and Spire.

Protective’s Upward program graduates include:

  • Lauren Jones, Agile Product Portfolio Manager, Class of 2019 
  • Corinne Anderson, 2VP Annuity Product Manager, Class of 2020

  • Jennifer S. Ray, AVP, Investment Operations, Class of 2020

  • Brittany Knox, Associate Product Owner, Class of 2021

  • Kendal Schilling, Senior Staff Accountant, Reinsurance Accounting, Class of 2021

  • Alicja Foksinska, Lead IT Auditor, Class of 2021

Protective is proud of our Momentum and Upward alumnae, and we look forward to continuing to maintain an environment that provides our employees opportunities to fully participate in creating business success.

Want to learn more about networking and mentorship? Find out how to identify the right mentor to help grow your career.



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