Tampa’s Most Influential Women 2019

The Tampa Bay area is propelled forward each year by the women in our community.  Here is a small selection of so many women who keep the ball rolling in Tampa.

Photo courtesy of pvfla.org

Judith Lisi

President/CEO of Straz and GM of Tampa Opera

Judith joined the Straz Center in 1992. Over her career, she has directed more than 40 productions and has written six plays. In 2002, the League of American Theatres and Producers honored Judy with the Samuel J. L’ Hommedieu Presenter of the Year Award and in 2008, she received the Patrick Hayes Award for Lifetime Achievement from ISPA, the International Society for the Performing Arts.

Penny Vinik

Co-founder and Director of Vinik Family Foundation

Teaming up with her husband, Penny cofounded the Vinik Family Foundation. This foundation, established in 1997, has donated more than $75 million to education, human services, healthcare, and arts nonprofits. The foundation was in an attempt to help increase exposure and understanding of art. While this foundation is worthy of celebration in and of itself, Penny’s philanthropy doesn’t stop there. She currently serves on the Boards of Tampa Prep and the Tampa Museum of Art.



Photo courtesy of ericadawsonpoet.net

Erica Dawson

Erica Dawson is a phenomenal poet and the director of the low-residency Master’s of Fine Arts program at the University of Tampa. She has brought writers like Colson Whitehead to the area for readings and lectures in an attempt to further the community’s experience with poetry and writing. She got her Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati in Creative Writing. While teaching and getting her degrees, Erica wrote and published three books of poetry: When Rap Spoke Straight to GodThe Small Blades Hurt, and Big-Eyed Afraid. She recently appeared on PBS NewsHour, discussing African-American poetry. She is currently working on a collection of essays examining the intersections of the personal and the political. She also works with children in several local schools promoting poetry, art, and the power of English.


Photo courtesy of dressforsuccess.org

Katie McGill

Executive Director of Dress for Success

For more than 25 years, Katie has worked for a number of non-profits organization helping the community better itself through classroom workshops, retreats, and workplace development programs. Katie developed the Success Strategies program for the Centre for Women which provides intensive employment services to women 18- 35 who are unemployed and underemployed. Katie has been a volunteer for Hillsborough County Women’s Correctional for the last 9 years. She also was a volunteer for the Crisis Center of Tampa for 20 years.



Jeannie Pierola

Chef and owner of Edison: Food+Drink Lab

A local powerhouse and 5X James Beard Semifinalist, Jeannie leads the Edison. Jeannie has once again been nominated for a James Beard Award. She is one of the area’s most celebrated chefs. On top of running Edison, Jeannie has also opened Swigamajig at Sparkman Wharf.


Phoebe Kushner

Executive Director of Apple-a-Day Foundation

Phoebe Kushner went from a radio personality to the Executive Director of Apple a Day. She started a podcast entitled, “She Is.” On this podcast, Phoebe and her co-host Mika introduce listeners to women who have overcome hardships. By highlighting these empowered women, She Is strives to inspire others to face their own challenges and to keep fighting. At Apple a Day, Phoebe heads up the organization that works to provide devices, such as tablets, iPhones, iPads, other smartphones and laptops to children ages 2 to 17 undergoing cancer treatment, at no cost to them or their families.


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