Honoring Power Women of Pennsylvania

power women

From left to right: Maria Quiñones Sánchez, ADM Rachel Levine, Madeline Bell, Mary Isaacson, Susan Jacobson, and Nicole Cashman.

Curated by Metro’s editorial team, and with the help of nominations from our readers, Metro Philadelphia’s Power Women list honors local women whose efforts are advancing female leadership across various fields. These outstanding women have worked hard to shatter glass ceilings, and continue to make the city and the state proud.

Philadelphia City Councilmember At-Large Maria Quiñonez Sánches is a Power Woman who is making history in the realm of politics. In 2007, she became the first Latina to be elected to City Council, and has since created notorious projects such as the Lank Bank and Philadelphia’s water affordability program. She thinks women in the workplace need: “fair compensation, access to parental leave and family-friendly policies, [and] access to opportunities for growth and development.”

Pennsylvania State Rep. Mary Isaacson, who serves the 175th District, thinks similarly regarding what needs to change for women to thrive in the workplace: “I am an author of an equal pay bill and have cosponsored others. I am also fighting for paid leave, universal childcare, and a safe work environment free of discrimination and harassment.” Isaacson has held her position for almost four years, and prior to that, she served as chief of staff for the late State Representative for the 175th District, Mike O’Brien, for 12 years. 

Women thrive in the healthcare industry, making up 66 percent of the entry-level workforce in the industry compared to the average of 49 percent across all U.S. industries. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, the percentage of women in C-Suite positions in the healthcare industry is higher than in all other industries, reaching 30 percent in 2020. Some of our Power Women exemplify this well, one being Admiral Rachel Levine.

Levine became the assistant secretary for health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2021, when she made history by becoming the first openly transgender government official in the U.S. to hold an office that requires Senate confirmation. Prior to that, she served as Pennsylvania’s physician general and then as Pennsylvania’s secretary of health. Levine’s storied career makes her a Power Woman, as does her motivation to increase diversity, inclusivity, and visibility in healthcare and politics. “I am working to educate people […] towards the common good,” she said, “which can lead to acceptance and creating a more understanding community.”

The president and CEO of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Madeline Bell, is also an example to the community. She began her career at CHOP as a pediatric nurse, working her way up to her current position, which she had held since 2015. Since then, she has increased the diversity of CHOP’s executive leadership team to include 28 women. She shared advice for the next generation of female leaders, saying: “when someone offers you the chance to do something new, even if you’re not 100 percent comfortable, just say yes. You’ll find your biggest rewards and your most meaningful opportunities when you step outside your comfort zone.”

Some of the Power Women in the communications industry who shine are Susan Jacobson and Nicole Cashman. Jacobson is an award-winning communicator and the president of Jacobson Strategic Communications, a leading Philadelphia-based public relations firm. She is also the chair of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and a commissioner on the Governor’s Pennsylvania Commission for Women. When asked how to level the playing field for women in the workplace, she said “we must continue to promote flexibility in the workplace, especially since so many women were forced to leave the workforce due to COVID-19. Flexibility empowers women to thrive in their careers.”

Cashman is the founder and CEO of Cashman & Associates, an award-winning brand management, special events, and strategic communications agency. She got her start in the industry in New York City, where she was the public relations director for Bloomingdale’s, until she was recruited as the director of public relations and special events for 28 Strawbridge’s stores in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. In 2001, she decided to establish Cashman & Associates, and has worked with major brands including Visit Philadelphia, City of Philadelphia, Comcast, Live Nation, and more. To those future female leaders who may be doubting themselves, Cashman says: “There will be people along the way who doubt and overlook you. Use that noise as fuel to soar even further.”

These are only a few of the women who shared their experiences and advice regarding gender-based issues. The complete list includes personal insights from more than 70 women across various industries, and honors a total of 102 leaders as Power Women.