ATHENA International’s founder, Martha Mertz was asked to serve on the Board
of Directors of the Lansing Michigan Regional Chamber of Commerce. After finding herself to be the only business woman serving on the Board and discovering that her Chamber had only once honored a
woman, Martha quickly recognized that the Chamber’s boardroom did not reflect the reality of the community. Martha worked with her Chamber to recognize the leadership of outstanding professional
and business women in the community and advocated to provide opportunities for them to move into leadership positions. The first ATHENA Award was presented in 1982—and the ATHENA spirit was born.

Rosa Parks, who from the authenticity of
her core, refused once again, to go to the back of the bus. Consider Mother Theresa who expressed
her leadership by the touch of her hand, by the healing of her voice, by the power of her presence—
always giving hope. These are but two examples, albeit great examples, of women’s ways of leading
that have changed the world.

This concept led to the idea of acknowledging and honoring those quiet leaders, mostly women, whose efforts were adding immensely to the fabric of their communities while they remained unacknowledged
and not visible as leaders. The ATHENA Award® was created to raise up one outstanding role model
each year in a community to put a familiar face and voice to the idea of leader. After 2½ decades of
fierce advocacy on behalf of women leaders, ATHENA celebrates a global reach as this message
resonates around the world.


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