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Executive Insights

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A Roundup of Recommended Books, Practices & Perspectives from Women Executives at Our Sponsor Firms

Cynthia Stokley Teresa Cachero Anna Koulas Colette Pierce Burnette Michelle Wang Goodridge Funmi Williamson Kate Allison Falguni Desai Shannon Gath Joy Liu Cathy Toner Aruna Ravichandran
Special thanks to: Cynthia Stokley (Bayer Crop Science); Teresa Cachero (Biogen); Anna Koulas (Drexel Solutions Institute); Dr. Colette Pierce Burnett (Huston-Tillotson University); Michelle Wang Goodridge (Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health); Funmi Williamson (PECO); Kate Allison (The Philadelphia Foundation); Falguni Desai (P&G); Shannon Gath (Teradyne); Joy Liu (Vertex Pharmaceuticals); Cathy Toner (Villanova University); and Aruna Ravichandran (Cisco).


  • Caste by Isabelle Wilkerson
  • Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life by Eugene O’Kelly
  • Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez.
  • Get Over I Got It: How to Stop Playing Superwoman, Get Support, and Remember That Having It All Doesn’t Mean Doing It All Alone by Elayne Fluker
  • Limitless by Jim Kwik The Conversation by Robert Livingston.
  • My Life in Full by Indra Nooyi.
  • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
  • Nice White Ladies by Jessie Daniels
  • Sorry I’m late, I didn’t Want to Come by Jessica Pan
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism by Anne Applebaum


  • I ask myself: “If I don’t complete this today, what is the worst that will happen?”
  • Spending time with students. They remind me of my “why” and keep me mission-focused.
  • I make every effort to walk at least five miles, five days a week. It allows me to have quiet time to focus and organize my thoughts and prepare for the tasks at hand.
  • I journal five things I am grateful for each day, and I try to be as specific as possible.


  • A combination of staying active (5-mile run at 5 am and 20,000 steps/day) and embracing nature (outdoor dog walks/hikes regardless of sun, rain, or snow). The right music also helps: Amos Lee.
  • Playing the flute in a chamber group, traveling, and reading. An avid fitness enthusiast, I exercise every day from running and cycling to strength and conditioning training.
  • Spending time with my little girls and family as well as traveling.
  • Walking is very therapeutic for me, so I make time for a 30-minute walk every day.
  • I wish this answer could be more original and insightful, but sleeping really does wonders for me and my psyche.
  • Reflection. Meditation. Prayer. Writing down and visualizing my priorities.
  • My garden! It is so therapeutic to be out among the plants and flowers. I find it really relaxing, even when I’m ripping out plants!
  • The surprise of learning new things that make me think differently.


  • Aim high and do not accept “no” for an answer.
  • Ideas are possibilities to explore, not certainties to defend.
  • You eventually become the company you keep so choose wisely.
  • It’s OK that you don’t know what you want to do, and that you don’t have a five-year plan, much less a career plan. As long as you’re doing great work and you like what you’re doing, good things will happen.
  • Choose your life partner wisely. Be with someone who is your biggest champion, who celebrates your wins, helps you up when you stumble and puts you first in all things.
  • Conventional notions of success are measures that belong to others and interfere with your distinct potential and possibilities. Develop a strong personal rubric and consistent habits for evaluating nearly everything that matters to your life from relationships to opportunities and goals. Trust your instincts, stick to your principles, and don’t waste time second-guessing yourself.


  • My mother, who raised me as a single mom due to the death of my father in Vietnam at a very young age. She taught me strength, courage, independence, and goal setting. She pushed me to think outside the box and never quit. She was recently diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma and, still, she never quits.
  • My daughter Daana Burnette. She is fearless in the pursuit of her dreams and aspirations overcoming obstacles with a focus and strength that I find extraordinary.
  • I draw my inspiration from the incredibly smart and ambitious women who I’m fortunate enough to work with every day. I learn so much and source all of my energy from them.
  • My mother, Bharati Desai. I don’t think I ever realized how hard (and rewarding) it is to be a mother until I became one. I appreciate her so much and am thankful for the sacrifices she made so I could pursue my hopes, dreams, and aspirations.
  • Allyson Felix. She is the most decorated woman in Olympic track and field history with 11 medals, and she is a devoted mom and entrepreneur. She helped bring about positive changes regarding sponsorships for pregnant women athletes and started her own footwear and sneaker company.
  • My grandmother is my hero. She was and will always be a huge inspiration to me as well, because of her strength and resilience.