Women for Economic Leadership and Development honors the leaders of 2023

At the start of his career, Ronnie Marquez-Posey dreamed of being a “wall person”.

From her office at the Ohio Department of Employment and Family Services, she admired the leaders who had offices along the wall.

“They were the ones who made the big decisions,” said Marquez-Posey, 48, of Canal Winchester, who rose through the ranks to head of the Trade and Veterans Services Bureau at the Office of Development of Workforce.

“I wanted to do it. I started going to school part-time and ended up getting my MBA. Now it’s my turn. I walked into this wall.

Marquez-Posey is one of 12 Columbus women honored as “high impact” leaders in a 19th annual initiative of Women for Economic and Leadership Development (WELD), a Columbus-based nonprofit. Westerville. The “Women WELDing the Way” winners will be highlighted in a 2023 calendar, themed “Intentional Leadership: Making Meaningful Connections.”

The women will be recognized at a ceremony at the Ohio Statehouse Atrium on November 3.

"Women are welding the way" winner Ronnie Marquez-Posey

Marquez-Posey is also a board member of the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio and a member of the Columbus Women’s Commission. She said she seeks to affirm others inside and outside the workplace.

“You can either hurt someone or build someone up with the words you say,” she said.

This philosophy is shared by Charlene Free, owner of Flow of Life, a speech and leadership development company.

She describes herself as a “transformational leader” who tries to build a pipeline of other leaders.

“A lot of times people just need someone to tell them they can lead,” said Free, 54, of Pickerington. “Sometimes people also need a chance to lead. They may need to develop some skills, but I will help them do that.

"Women are welding the way" Honored Charlene Free

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Free is also a longtime speech-language pathologist serving the geriatric population.

“I make a difference in their lives,” she said. “Often these people are left behind, left behind or forgotten.”

But Free hopes to dedicate more time to her business and plans to launch an initiative for women and girls.

“It’s my dream call,” she said.

Aditi Bhatiya knows all about trajectory changes. After immigrating from India, she studied biology and worked as a scientist for Ohio State University. She discovered that she was more interested in running the research lab than in research.

She worked her way up to assistant director of research operations and compliance at the Ohio State College of Medicine. Today, she is a business operations consultant for the university’s technology commercialization office.

But that’s not all. Bhatiya also runs a digital marketing business, an event planning business, and a catering service, all of which are housed within his company, The Spice Age Group.

Her non-profit organization, Passport 2 Fashion, provides a platform for diverse designers to showcase their clothes, which cater to a wide range of cultures, body types and gender identities.

"Women are welding the way" honored Aditi Bhatiya

“There are a lot of sacrifices to make to keep this going,” said Bhatiya, 40, of Hilliard. “But there’s nothing else I’d rather do.”

Bhatiya uses the hashtag #BlandisBanned to promote his projects.

“It’s really important that different minds and bodies feel like they belong,” she said. “Whether it’s through fashion, whether it’s bridging cultures through food, whether it’s bringing people together through shared experiences, that’s really the foundation of it all.”

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Like Bhatiya, Shelli Wuerth has her hands full. As Director of Business Administration at Huntington National Bank, she supports the management team in everything from mergers and acquisitions to risk management to diversity and inclusion.

“I love taking chaos and structuring it,” said Wuerth, 52, of Arena District, who is also active in a women’s leadership group at the Community Shelter Board. “And that allows me to work with a lot of different people.”

Having spent nearly 25 years at the bank, Wuerth has worked to refine his approach to leadership, which includes responding to harsh criticism. During an early career leadership assessment, her colleagues said she was short and direct, and lacking in emotion.

“It was so eye-opening,” she said. “It was really good feedback. And I think it helped me grow and develop my skills.”

"Women are welding the way" Honored Shelli Wuerth

Wuerth said leaders not only have to be ready to adapt, but also have to seek out mentors, expand their network and apply the advice they receive.

“You have to be vulnerable,” she says. “You have to create your own brand and understand how it works for you.”

Other WELD winners include:

  • Sierra Austin-King, Central Ohio Educational Service Center
  • Elizabeth Boyuk, Fifth Third Bank
  • Lorraine Lutton, Mount Carmel Health System
  • Tei Street, Ohio State University
  • Angie Thomas, Cardinal Health
  • Beth Thomas, Change 4 Growth Consulting
  • Milly Valverde, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
  • Danielle Willis, Knight Consulting Group

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