Women Inspire

For the eleventh year, Women Inspire showcased Maryland Smith’s fearless alumnae leaders excelling in business. This annual event celebrated female empowerment that inspired attendees and challenged them to realize and reach their full potential.

The 2022 Honorees, Maryland Smith alumnae Margo Thomas, PhD, MS ’90, Founder and CEO of Women’s Economic Imperative, and Audrey Awasom ’18, Founder and CEO of Noble Uprising, Inc., were celebrated during a moderated discussion held at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center on Maryland’s College Park campus. Smith professor Nicole Coomber served as the moderator for the discussion.

Event highlights       Watch video

For additional insights about women in leadership, check out the following videos:

For questions about the event, please contact the Smith Office of Alumni Relations 301-405-4095 or maf31@umd.edu.

Margo Thomas, PhD, MS ’90

Margo ThomasDr. Margo Thomas is a thought leader and catalyst for inclusive economic growth focusing on private sector development, business ecosystems, entrepreneurship and competitiveness. In her current role of Founder and President of the Women’s Economic Imperative, Dr. Thomas serves as a catalyst for initiatives aimed at increasing opportunities for the economic empowerment of disadvantaged and under-represented groups globally.

In August 2021, Dr. Thomas was appointed to Advisory Board of the Center for Global Business at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. She continues to serve on the International Advisory Board of the Newcastle University Business School.

In September 2019, Dr. Thomas was appointed as a Global Solutions Initiative Fellow to provide thought leadership on critical issues underpinning the work of the G20. She played a significant role during the 2020 Virtual Global Solutions Summit in moderating and curating global tables on the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In November 2017, Dr. Thomas was appointed as a Fellow at Chatham House, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, in the Global Economy and Finance practice. She has worked on a range of issues, including gender economic equity, within the G20 space as an active participant in the Think 20 Engagement Group. In 2018, Dr. Thomas was appointed Co-Chair of the T20 Taskforce on Women’s Economic Equity under the Argentine Presidency. This role was carried forward under the 2019 Japanese Presidency of the G20. Dr. Thomas is a member of the T20 Task Force on SDGs, serving as Co-Chair on Women’s Economic Empowerment. Under the 2020 Saudi Arabian Presidency of the G20, Dr. Thomas is a member of the COVID-19 Response Task Force and the Social Cohesion Task Force.

Read Margo Thomas’ full bio.

L. Audrey Awasom ’18

L. Audrey AwasomL. Audrey Awasom, or Audrey Awesome as many affectionately call her, is the Founder and CEO of Noble Uprising, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that serves, educates, and empowers women to overcome hardship through socially-responsible programs and resources necessary to enhance their overall quality of life. As an anti-poverty advocate, Audrey has pioneered various initiatives that provide essential resources to women. She has collaborated with several community organizations including the Prince George’s County Family Justice Center, Lakeview Apartments, and Interfaith Works to help execute her vision of a society where every woman has access to good health, affordable housing, and sustainable employment.

Audrey is passionate about cultivating the next generation of change-makers and currently leads the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s (WBENC) Women of Color Program where she works with Fortune 500 companies such as Altria, the Coca-Cola Company, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Southern California Edison, and Walmart Inc., to build and strengthen a dynamic ecosystem that drives growth forward for Women of Color entrepreneurs.

At WBENC, Audrey established the Women of Color Incubator, a program sponsored by Marriott International and ActOne Group. The program provided black women student entrepreneurs attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities with the coaching, resources, and training needed to strengthen their business ideas and grow their early-stage ventures.

Read Audrey Awasom’s full bio.


Wendy Sanhai, PhD, EMBA ’09
Specialist Leader, Deloitte Consulting

Ali von Paris ’12
CEO and Founder, Route One Apparel


Meg Goldthwaite, MBA ’96
Chief Marketing Officer, NPR

Sherika Ekpo, MBA ’09
Global Diversity and Inclusion Lead, Google AI


Carly Fiorina, MBA ’80
Chairman, Carly Fiorina Enterprises


Donna Blackman, MBA ’10
Senior Vice President of Business Operations, BET Networks


Marguerita M. Cheng ’93
Founder and CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth


Past Honorees Reunion


Andrea Brody ’87
Senior Vice President of Global Marketing, BravoSolution


Brenda Freeman ’87, MBA ’91
Global Head of Television Marketing, DreamWorks Animation


Kristen Welch ’90, MBA ’96
Senior Vice President, Global Content Operations, Discovery Communications


Lisa Anders, MBA ’95
Vice President, Business Development, McKissack & McKissack

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