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Mission: Develop, support and honor women leaders and those who inspire them to reach their full potential by offering unique, impactful leadership development and award programs.

Vision: Creating a balance in leadership worldwide.

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The ATHENA Leadership Model

The ATHENA Leadership Model developed through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, identifies eight distinct attributes that are reflective of women’s contributions to leadership. These personal traits that are more intuitive to women, and combined with the strongest aspects of traditional leadership - taking risks, assertiveness, hard work - prepare women to be successful leaders in the 21st century.



Martha Mertz developed her vision for ATHENA International 36 years ago while serving on the Board of Directors of the Lansing Michigan Regional Chamber of Commerce. As the only woman on the Board, she quickly recognized that the Chamber’s boardroom did not reflect the reality of the business community.

The more Mertz observed, the more she became convinced: If women’s strengths and contributions as leaders were publicly acknowledged, they could no longer be dismissed. In 1982 in Lansing, Michigan, Mertz spearheaded a new leadership award program: The ATHENA Leadership Award, named for the strong, enlightened goddess. The award would go to individuals who excelled in their professions, gave back to their communities and helped raise up other leaders, especially women.

What Mertz conceived more than thirty-five years ago, is now a global movement. Since the program’s inception, more than 7,000 awards have been presented in over 500 communities in eight countries. 

At  a recent ATHENA International Leadership Conference, Martha noted: "Think about 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.”

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ATHENA International Board of Directors 

ATHENA International Founding Lifetime Members

Marti Morfitt, Marlene Kowalski-Braun, Mary Katherine Krause, Judith Lancaster, George Lemon, Kathryn Lima, Mary MacLaren, Jan Maddox, Karalin G. (Alsdurf) McKain, Martha Mertz, Michelle Mertz, Kathryn Michael, Carla Michelotti, Aimee Mills, Barbara Moore King, Colleen Moore Mezler, Margaret Mullen, Lynn Myers, Joanne Osmond, Heather Paquette, Lisa Pierce, Patricia Pierce, Ann Playter, Norma Rist, Ellen Ruddock, Sandi Saksena, Mari Kay Scott, Robin Shabazz, Ilene Shapiro, Billye Proctor Shaw, Rita Shisler, Patricia Shultz, Deirdre Joy Smith, Chuck Spadafora, Gabriella Spadafora, Giavanna Spadafora, Linda Spadafora, Mia-Ann Spadafora, Linda Stevenson, Naomi Stutzman, Paulette Synegal Law, LoLita Toney, Candace Wagner, Donna Waltz-Jaskolski, Cheryl Ward, Yvonne Wood, Gladys Wright Knox, Laurie Zuckerman, Pamela Kiltau, Genie Kutchins, Florine Mark

Debra Adams Simmons, James F Anderton IV, Megan Agyeman, Bonnie Benkula, Crystal Swann Blackdeer, Jane Blain Gilbertson, Kathi Bond, Tina Boone, Christine Brown, Dr. Katherine Y Brown, Joan Bump, Marian Carrington, Carla Carstens, Eloise Childers, Sam Childers , Mark Coe, Andrea Conner, Marie Covington, Yolanda Crittenden, KL Daly, Jan Davies McDermott, Angela Dash, Cathy Harris, Jocelyn Davey-Hawreluik, MaryLee Davis, Debra Dellaposta, Jackie D'Escoto, Dwain Deville, Dianne Dinkel, Lee Anne Doyle, Barbara Dzur, Tori Farmer, Kay Feagles, Janet Fry-Cappy, Linda Furgason, Paula Giovacchini, Bridget Glavaz, Margaret Goatcher, Janet Green, Patricia Hallberg, Terri Hedges, Adrianne Henderson, Barb Hodel, Janine Janosky, Mary Ann Jones, Ph.D., Sarah Jennings

This site was created with design expertise provided by Stephanie Parrish, a true ATHENA leader.