September 29, 2023
Women leaders in Florida
Nancy Hogshead-Makar -- Founder/CEO, ChampionWomen, Jacksonville

Photo: Jensen Hande

Women leaders in Florida
Val Demings -- U. S. representative, Florida’s 10th congressional district, Orlando
Women leaders in Florida
Carol Craig -- President/CEO/CFO/senior software engineer, Craig Technologies, Cape Canaveral

Photo: Norma Lopez Molina

Nadine Smith

Nadine Smith -- Co-founder/CEO, Equality Florida, St. Petersburg

Photo: Mark Wemple

Women leaders in Florida
Debbie Calder -- Executive vice president of Greater Pensacola Operations, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pensacola

Photo: Navy Federal Credit Union

Women leaders in Florida
Laura Gonzalez- Estefani -- Co-founder/CEO, TheVentureCity, Miami

Photo: TheVentureCity

Women leaders in Florida
Pam Iorio -- President/CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Tampa
Women leaders in Florida
Wendy Link -- Managing partner, Ackerman Link & Sartory, West Palm Beach
Women leaders in Florida
Shelley Broader -- President/CEO, Chico’s FAS, Fort Myers

Photo: Chico's

Women leaders in Florida
Marsha Powers -- Regional CEO, Tenet Healthcare, Coral Springs

Photo: Tenent Healthcare

Hilarie Bass, co-president, Greenberg Traurig

“It’s critically important to the profession that we not have diverse and highly skilled attorneys walking out the door at a time when they should be reaching the pinnacles of success.” – Hilarie Bass, co-president, Greenberg Traurig

Women Leaders

Profiles of women leaders in Florida

Amy Martinez | 9/28/2017

Nancy Hogshead-Makar
Founder/CEO, ChampionWomen, Jacksonville

A three-time Olympic gold medalist, Nancy Hogshead-Makar transitioned from competitive swimming to the legal advocacy world, becoming a civil rights attorney focused on federal Title IX issues. As the creator of Champion Women, a Jacksonville non-profit, she advocates for equitable treatment of girls and women in sports. She points to studies showing that women who played sports in high school are more likely than other women to earn college degrees, get good jobs and be healthy as adults. “Most high school sports departments in Florida should double,” she says. “It would be a good investment in our collective future.”

A mother of three, she is married to Scott Makar, a judge on Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Duke University and a law degree from Georgetown.

Val Demings
U. S. representative, Florida’s 10th congressional district, Orlando

Growing up poor in Jacksonville — her dad was a janitor; her mom was a maid — Val Demings knew she’d have to get an education to be successful. With a bachelor’s degree in criminology from Florida State University, she began her career as a social worker and then became a police officer in Orlando. “Going into this male-dominated environment, I just didn’t quite know what I was capable of,” she told Elle magazine. “But I learned on the way that I could do anything.” In 2007, she made history by becoming Orlando’s first female police chief, serving in that role until 2011. After winning Florida’s 10th district race last year, she now aims to make history as a U.S. congresswoman. A mother of three, she is married to Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, who was Orlando’s first African-American police chief (1999-2002).

» One of every five directors at Florida’s major public and private companies is a woman, according to a report by 2020 Women on Boards, a national campaign to increase the percentage of women on corporate boards to at least 20% by 2020. Nationally, women hold 19.7% of all board seats, up from 14.6% in 2011.

Carol Craig
President/CEO/CFO/senior software engineer, Craig Technologies, Cape Canaveral

Even by the standards of business owners, Carol Craig leads a busy professional life. A former Naval flight officer, she employs about 400 people in 20 states as founding CEO of Craig Technologies, which does more than $50 million a year in business with commercial and government customers. The company, based in Cape Canaveral, specializes in aerospace engineering, software development, information technology and precision manufacturing.

“In the upcoming years, our plan is to diversify more strongly into commercial offerings,” such as software, she says. “The toughest challenge for me has always been to continue an upward trajectory of growth as a company. It’s very easy to sit back and forget that everything can change in a moment.”

Craig’s influence extends beyond her company. She serves on the U.S. Commerce Secretary’s manufacturing council and is a board member for multiple organizations, including the Florida High-Tech Corridor Council, Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando and the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts in Melbourne. She and her husband, John, a commercial airline pilot, have two children, including a son diagnosed with Prader-Willi syndrome. To support research organizations focused on children’s medical disorders, she created the non-profit Danny Craig Foundation.

She holds two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s and is pursuing a Ph.D. in systems engineering at Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne.

“The best advice that I can give to women is to stop apologizing for the very qualities that make you successful. Being a mother or being emotional or being more of an open book are some of those qualities that we seem to think aren’t professional. Maybe it’s OK to ‘lean in,’ but definitely don’t try to be something you aren’t.” – Carol Craig, CEO, Craig Technologies

» The combined annual revenue of women-owned businesses in Florida was $78 billion in 2012, up 61% from 1997.

Nadine Smith
Co-founder/CEO, Equality Florida St. Petersburg

In 1997, former journalist Nadine Smith saw an advocacy void in Florida’s LGBT community. She responded by co-founding Equality Florida, a statewide non-profit dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Last year, in the immediate aftermath of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, Equality Florida launched an online fundraiser for victims, collecting more than $9 million from contributors in 120 countries. Today, Smith says, she’s working to prevent policymakers in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., from rolling back the clock with anti-LGBT measures. She is a Florida Chamber Foundation trustee and a member of the Florida advisory committee for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Debbie Calder
Executive vice president of Greater Pensacola Operations, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pensacola

Under Debbie Calder’s management, Navy Federal Credit Union has grown its Pensacola operation from 850 employees to more than 5,800 over the past decade. Before moving to Pensacola in 2007, she worked for 16 years at Navy Federal’s headquarters in Vienna, Va. She now is leading Navy Federal in the next phase of its expansion in Escambia County. The credit union, which has about 6.8 million members and $79 billion in assets worldwide, plans to employ 10,000 people in Pensacola by 2026. Calder also is working to improve education and economic prospects locally through a community initiative called Achieve Escambia.

“We have entire families working for us,” Calder says. “I often talk to our young professionals, who say they plan to retire from Navy Federal. That makes my day.”

Laura Gonzalez- Estefani
Co-founder/CEO, TheVentureCity, Miami

After spending nearly a decade in high-level positions at Facebook, Laura Gonzalez- Estefani teamed with Clara Bullrich, a private banking and asset management veteran, to form The Venture City this year. The pair aims to increase diversity in the technology industry by supporting entrepreneurship via a 36-month incubator or 18-month accelerator program for startups that seek to operate in multiple countries. VentureCity — based in Miami with a location in Madrid, as well as a presence in San Francisco — offers tech entrepreneurs the tools to get started and grow internationally, including product engineering, data analysis and help with funding strategies. Gonzalez-Estefani, who’s from Spain, previously was director of international business development and mobile partnerships in Latin America for Facebook. Before that, she worked for eBay, Siemens and Ogilvy. She also supports women entrepreneurs through mentoring and angel investing.

» Women business owners make up about 39% of all business owners in Florida, vs. 36% in the U.S.

Tags: Trendsetters, Women Leaders

Florida Business News

  • Florida’s population boom drives bigger hurricane losses, despite tougher building codes

    Florida leads the nation in strict building codes, and the decades of hard work have paid off in the increasing number of homes and buildings that survive each time a hurricane slashes the state. But all those hard-won gains have been undermined by the explosion of growth along the coast.

  • Business BeatBusiness Beat - Week of September 29th

    Get top news-to-know with Florida Trend's headline-focused video news brief, hosted by digital content specialist Aimée Alexander.

  • Enterprise Florida exiting

    The doors are ready to close on Enterprise Florida, the business-recruitment agency long targeted by state House leaders.

  • Seeking protection

    Three activist groups served notice to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that they intend to sue to force the agency to invoke Endangered Species Act protection for the ghost orchid.

  • State jobless claims decrease

    An estimated 5,155 first-time jobless claims were filed in Florida last week, a decrease from the previous week and below the average for the year.

Florida News Releases

Florida Trend Video Pick

It appears no steps have been taken to begin testing whether slightly radioactive waste from fertilizer production can be repurposed for Florida road construction projects.

Video Picks | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

Do you believe that home values in Florida have finally peaked?

  • Absolutely!
  • No way!
  • The jury's still out...
  • Other (Let us know in the comment section below)

See Results