Highest Leaf Awards Expand to Chicago

The Women’s Venture Fund held their first Chicago-based Highest Leaf Award ceremony on July 9th at the offices of Goldman Sachs. The event awarded four exceptional women for their willingness to take risks, leverage resources and for their commitment to helping women succeed.

The Women’s Venture Fund was founded over a decade ago by Maria Otero and has since grown into one of the leading organizations in the New York metropolitan area. Since then, WVF has helped over 13,000 women meet the various needs of their growing businesses. WVF offers informational courses, financial support, and mentorship opportunities, and educates women on how to think like entrepreneurs, read financial statements, and develop HR, management and marketing skills. This year, the Women’s Venture Fund honored Hilda Gurdian, Publisher of the Spanish language newspaper La Noticia; Jennifer Fortner, Vice President of Investment Management at Goldman Sachs, Phyllis Tabachnick, Managing Director of Private Client Services at Bear Stearns/JP Morgan and Telle Whitney, President of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology at the Chicago event.


Ms. Tabachnik talked about the professional and personal risks she had taken throughout her career when she accepted her Highest Leaf Award. When she was installed as the first female President of the Jewish Council for Youth Services–formerly known as the Young Men’s Jewish Council—in 2000, she was hesitant about how much time the role would require. “I gained the confidence in myself to fix a problem and if I didn’t know how to fix it then I learned how to use my resources. This is what we should educate women on when they take risks.”


Ms. Fortner also talked about taking risks. She recommended that the women in the room reach out to a new mentor and to also find someone to mentor. She believes that being mentored and mentoring will make one a better, more productive person. She also said that women can have it all when it comes to balancing work and life. “You have to be creative with your solutions,” she said. “It’s hard but not impossible.”


As the foundation expands, Ms. Otero looks to build on the relationships she shares with her Chicago contacts and to create a planning group for future award ceremonies. She hopes that by expanding into the Midwest, she will help more women achieve their professional goals, further expanding the Highest Leaf Award candidate pool.


To learn more information about the Women’s Venture Fund or to nominate someone for the Highest Leaf Award, please visit their website .