You wouldn’t know it by looking at Az Business magazine’s list of the Most Influential Women in Arizona Business for 2018, but women are underrepresented in business leadership positions.

“I waited to run for mayor until I had served eight years on City Council,” says Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans. “I considered running sooner, but I worried that I didn’t have the knowledge and experience. I think women often underestimate ourselves.”

Consider this: Women make up only about 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. Previous research has suggested that beyond the “glass ceiling,” which makes moving up in a company more difficult for women, a “glass cliff” exists that represents increased challenges for women who attain leadership roles. But for the Most Influential Women in Arizona, a challenge is just another step along the way.

“The smartest decision I made was to ignore pessimists who didn’t think I could succeed as president because I was a woman,” says Audrey Monell, president of Forrest Anderson Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning. “They repeatedly told me family business succession rate is almost non-existent by the third generation. Instead, I accepted the challenge to make our family business a success.”

To put even more pressure on women leaders, new research from the University of Missouri has found that businesses led by female CEOs are more likely to be targeted by activist investors, who buy shares of a company with the intent to direct management decisions.

“Our results are quite disconcerting,” said Daniel Turban, a professor of management and the Emma S. Hibbs/Harry Gunnison Brown Chair of Business and Economics at the Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. College of Business. “Shareholders who buy 5 percent or more of a publicly-traded firm with the intent of changing the direction of that firm must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission as activists, which makes activist investing a very public act. If gender bias is present in such public actions, we have to wonder what other challenges these women are facing that are less public.”

For the Most Influential Women in Arizona, overcoming those challenges to become a leader has been what defines them and helped them ascend to a leadership position.

“ I believe every leader should have a passion for what they are doing,” says Lisa Reilly Payton, senior partner at Frazer Ryan Goldberg & Arnold. “Passionate people take risks, step up to the occasion and help their team grow to the next level. All the knowledge in the world is not what makes someone a good leader. It’s the care for the work you are doing and the people that are involved that makes the difference.”

But there is one word that can describe each of the women who made the list of the Most Influential Women in Arizona Business for 2018: And that word is “courage.” Without courage, they would not have been able to shatter the glass ceilings and leap from the glass cliffs to safety.

“A leader must have the courage to try, the courage to succeed and the courage to fail and start over again,” says Amy Altshuler, a partner at Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie.

While their resumes, backstories and industries may differ, each woman on the Most Influential Women in Arizona list procured influence in their respective fields through hard-earned track records of professional excellence, leadership, innovation and community impact. The Most Influential Women in Arizona Business are changing the face of Arizona business.

The Most Influential Women in Arizona Business for 2018 will be honored at a reception that begins at 5:30 p.m. on August 23, 2018 at The Camby. For tickets or for sponsorship information, email or call (602) 277-6045.

To buy copies of the Most Influential Women in Arizona issue, click here.

Here are the Most Influential Women of 2018

Amy Altshuler, partner, Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie 

Cathy Carlat, mayor, City of Peoria 

Jennifer Carusetta, executive director, Health System Alliance of Arizona 

Peggy Chase, president and CEO, Terros Health 

Jill Chasson, partner, Coppersmith Brockelman 

Victoria Coley, market vice president, desert states, Humana 

Amy Cotton Peterson, partner, Quarles & Brady 

Lisa Dahl, executive chef and owner, Dahl Restaurant Group 

Lisa Davey, vice president, Washington Federal 

Helen R. Davis, president and chair of the board, The Cavanagh Law Firm 

Jane Dobbs, president and CEO, Canyon State Credit Union 

Kristina Draper, chief technology officer, Wells Fargo 

Lisa Duran, member, Dickinson Wright, 

Coral Evans, mayor, City of Flagstaff 

Stephanie Fierro, partner, Jaburg Wilk 

Wendy Forsythe, COO, HomeSmart International 

Kris Gaw, COO, Maricopa Integrated Health System 

Nicole M. Goodwin, managing shareholder, Greenberg Traurig 

Marianne Guenther, CEO, BIG YAM, The Parsons Agency 

Cammie Hancock Beckert, co-owner and managing director, Camelot Homes 

Pamela Higdon, senior vice president, Northern Trust 

Mary Holman, executive vice president and private banking director, National Bank of Arizona 

Misty Hyman, Olympic gold medalist, spokesperson for FitPHX, founder and president of MistyFly, LLC

Susanne E. Ingold, shareholder, Burch & Cracchiolo 

Norma Izzo, chair of the firm’s Family Law and Domestic Relations practice, Jennings, Strouss & Salmon  

Michelle Just, president and CEO, Beatitudes Campus 

Pam Kehaly, CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona 

Drena Kusari, general manager, Southwest and Hawaii, Lyft 

Karen C. McConnell, partner, Ballard Spahr 

Audrey Monell, president, Forrest Anderson Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning 

Nina Mullins, senior director of land and Papago Park Center, SRP 

Lisa Ordóñez, vice dean, Eller College of Management 

Michelle Olson, head of Scottsdale office, Fingerpaint 

Jenny Poon, founder and CEO, CO+HOOTS

Jessica L. Post, director, Fennemore Craig 

Kim Post, CEO of the hospital division and chief clinical office, HonorHealth 

Lisa Reilly Payton, senior partner, Frazer Ryan Goldberg & Arnold 

Liz Shabaker, CEO, Versant Capital Management 

Holly Shill, MD, director, Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute 

Kim Shepard, market president, Cigna Arizona

Diana Thomas, founder and CEO, The World Egg Bank 

Christine Wilkinson, senior vice president, Arizona State University 

Robyn Young, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Western Alliance Bancorporation