This years’ honoree: Leah Merritt
Leah Merritt has served in many roles since joining the organization in 1994. Through the agency’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women, she focuses on equity and social justice.
As President and CEO of YWCA Mahoning Valley since July of 2012, Merritt has worked to provide impactful services for women, families, and marginalized persons, especially those of color, emphasizing affordable housing.
She also serves as a Board Member for the League of Women Voters of Greater Youngstown and chairs the budget committee as the past Treasurer. In addition, she is a Board member of the Warren Kiwanis, Co-Chair Elect for the Ohio Council of YWCAs, and a proud member of the Social Justice League.
YBPW has a long history of partnering with YWCA for various events. Its mission of educating and empowering women in the Valley often intersects with Merritt and her team’s work. “Not only has Leah been a leader in our community with her work helping women and families, but also she’s been an avid supporter of the work YBPW has done. We’re so excited to be able to honor her as this year’s Woman of the Year,” states Rene Butler, YBPW President.
Woman of the Year Award/NBWW
National Business Women’s Week is a BPW Foundation signature event started in 1928 that recognizes the achievements of working women throughout history. Each year during this week, the BPW Foundation salutes exceptional female leaders in the workplace. The celebration of NBWW has helped to promote leadership roles for women and to increase opportunities for their advancement professionally and personally.
Similarly, Youngstown BPW carries on this tradition by honoring one outstanding local woman in business each year during NBWW with its’ Woman of the Year? dinner and award ceremony, which doubles as a fundraiser that supports the Dr. Anne McMahon Scholarship Award. During the event, the YBPW Woman of the Year is honored for her achievements as YBPW pursues its vision of the empowerment and advancement of women through education and mentorship by providing resources for a future leader of our community to achieve her educational goals through our scholarship.
If you’d like to donate to or sponsor the Woman of the Year event, you can learn more here.
History of the Woman of the Year Award
The YBPW Woman of the Year Award was first bestowed in 1966 to Esther Hamilton, an outstanding columnist for the Youngstown Vindicator with years of service to the community. In the 1980s, the Woman of the Year Award was transformed into the Athena Award when YBPW partnered with The Vindicator to bring the first Athena program to Youngstown. As the program and award ceremony grew in size, the Vindicator and eventually the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber took over the award program.
In 2011, YBPW chose to reinstate the Woman of the Year Award. Since then, the club has reached beyond its membership to look at female leaders in the community that has achieved in their career, mentored others, and worked as advocates for equity for women.