Celebrating New Mexico Women in Business

Dr. Barbara McAneny, CEO of New Mexico Cancer Center and winner of the New Mexico Women in Business Vision Award.

In this Business Outlook we deliver a report on the status of New Mexico women in the workforce and we celebrate, applaud and recognize our first annual Top Women in Business as voted by our readers.

Women have made great progress in New Mexico’s business world.

But barriers and challenges remain, while some changes in place promise a better future.

Several women leaders spoke to the Journal about their journeys. All said the playing field is not yet level between men and women in the workplace, but most said opportunities are opening up for women.

One woman focused on opening such opportunities is Agnes Noonan, president and CEO of WESST, who stresses obstacles still exist. She sees that first hand by leading an organization that has spent 30 years providing support to entrepreneurs, many of them women, in the form of loans and training.

State Rep. Melanie Stansbury, a newly elected Albuquerque Democrat, points out how far women have come. “Just five generations ago women couldn’t vote. But our (boomer) mothers trail blazed into careers and late Gen-X’s and early Millennials are moving into leadership positions.”

Also in this special report, the Top Women in Business winners are announced. They were selected based on the most nominations by the public in each category over a monthlong voting period, and recognition of an individual was limited to the two categories in which they received the most nominations by the public. Several hundred nominations were received.


Leah Penland of Be Inspired New Mexico creates live paintings at charity auctions and other events. (Courtesy of Leah Penland)

Leah Penland is being honored with the Excellence Award for receiving the most nominations overall.

She created her live painting endeavor, Be Inspired, from scratch and turned it into a successful business.

Penland teaches paint classes around the metro area, for special events and even at home for private parties.

She is known for donating her time and artistry to support local causes, including offering free therapeutic paint sessions for foster children.

Her supporters said she is a joy to be around and a great teacher and excellent at “not just creating art but helping other everyday people create art.”

And from yet another supporter: “Leah is a lovely soul who exudes talent and inspiration both in her business and everyday life. She is a wonderful artist and she has made it her life goal to teach others how to be more artistic and use their talents. An inspiration to the community and to her son.”


Dr. Barbara McAneny (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Landing the Vision Award is Dr. Barbara McAneny, CEO of New Mexico Cancer Center and one of the state’s leading oncologists.

Just last month, she completed her tenure as the 173rd president of the American Medical Association, where she served as the voice of the nation’s largest physician group.

Criteria for this award was a leader who takes risks and thinks outside the box to find pioneering ways to improve businesses.

“When it comes to New Mexico leaders, there is no one as visionary as Barbara … she recognized the need for New Mexicans to have easy access to high-quality, comprehensive, affordable, patient-centered care,” said one supporter.

But her impact reached worldwide. As AMA president, she traveled the globe, speaking on issues including affordable access to care, the opioid epidemic, the surge of diabetes diagnoses and more.


Michelle Coons, New Mexico Regional President, Washington Federal Inc.

Earning the Development Award – for an individual who uses their experience to guide, mentor employees and inspire future leaders – is longtime local leader Michelle Coons. She is the New Mexico regional president for Washington Federal, which has 190 employees in the state.

Those nominating her noted her 30-plus years in banking, her ability to elevate other up-and-coming female bankers, her knowledge as well as her approachability, and the fact that she that she is an important “go to” person within New Mexico.

“She doesn’t take no for an answer – she tries to always advocate for her clients and employees,” according to one nominator.

“Michelle knows banking inside and out. She is known in all of the communities we serve. She is articulate and kind,” from another.


Terry Lynn Belzer

Terry Lynn Belzer received the Leadership Award — for one who inspires colleagues to achieve company and employee goals by leading by example.

Belzer is the marketing director and part of the leadership team at S-One Holdings.

This global holding company, headquartered in Sarasota, Florida, oversees a half dozen subsidiaries involved in development, manufacturing and distribution to digital imaging, design and print professionals.

Her supporters noted that she: “Does inspire us to constantly improve and do more”; “She sees the strengths everyone on our team has and then uses her own maximizer strength to push us forward”; and “She truly has the desire to see us succeed and lift us up.”

From her colleagues in marketing: “While most view her as a colleague, many of us in marketing view her as a mother figure in the way she encourages, empowers and motivates us to be our best.”

She directs a team of 14 within a company of 150 people from her home office in New Mexico while most of her employees work from the Sarasota, Florida, headquarters and offices around the world.

NM women in business: A rising tide

Stepping up: NM women business leaders work to level the field

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