Empowering Women Nominations

  1. Barbara A. Grandinetti

As president of The Challenge Program, Inc., Barbara Grandinetti has spear-headed and expanded the Program’s outreach and recruited talented development and support personnel. She is a co-founder of The Challenge Program, Inc., and raised awareness, gained financial backing, and led the organization to be incorporated. Grandinetti opens doors to fundraising opportunities and develops lasting relationships with business partners, foundations and individual donors all with a goal to spread the word about the program. She has a unique ability to discover and tap into people’s special talents and mentor these talents. She oversaw the opening of a second location in Pittsburgh, Pa.  She is passionate about the program, just ask her!

Grandinetti was integral in creating The Challenge Program, Inc.’s now signature fundraising event – the Crystal Owl Gala held each spring.  Under her leadership, the Gala has become synonymous with the Student of the Year announcement, which brings three students finalists to this event to meet and greet the guests and to tell their special story of how The Challenge Program, Inc. helped to change their school and personal lives.

Those who work with her are often in awe of how undeterred she is from a goal, despite any challenges.

The Challenge Program, Inc.

The Challenge Program, Inc.’s mission is to build sustainable business/education partnerships while motivating students to develop the good habits required to succeed in school and in their future careers.

  1. Cathy McKinnon

Cathy McKinnon is a transformation coach, 2x international bestselling author, and founder of Wellness Warrior Coaching.  Cathy works with women to help them discover and unlock their power.  Cathy believes that we all have a warrior within and that when you have clarity on the key to your power, the path to your true calling illuminates. Cathy’s passion is helping women shift their lives and step into the ultimate vision for their lives.

After her battle with infertility, cancer, and divorce she knew she had to start sharing her journey as an example of what is possible when you bravely step into your authentic self.

“YOU are always one decision away from making a more powerful YOU.”



  1. Darlene Kruth

Darlene is a native Pittsburgher and proud graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School and Duquesne University. She is a certified public accountant and worked for three of the city’s largest and most well-respected companies, Arthur Andersen & Co., PPG Industries, and PNC Bank, N.A.

In June 2006 she left her accounting roots behind to pursue a career in real estate with Northwood Realty Services (Northwood), a family owned brokerage. In August 2018 Northwood purchased a local franchise and became Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty and with this transition, she found her passion in the real estate field!

Similar to finding a career passion later in life, Darlene was also a late bloomer in regard to her philanthropic efforts. In college she found her passion for volunteering by getting involved in various organizations that served others on campus and in the local community. This passion really intensified when she suffered the sudden and tragic loss of a classmate in her junior year at Duquesne.  Her perspective was that some good had to come from this loss and she wanted to honor her classmate’s memory and the impact that he had on the Duquesne community, so she initiated the Thomas D. Bartolec Award with a personal check for $100 and began raising the necessary funds to have the Award endowed prior to graduation.  The Award has benefited so many of Duquesne’s Palumbo-Donahue School of Business Administration students annually since 1988.

Darlene has served as a consultant to Duquesne organizations & classmates who have all established scholarships in memory of loved ones.  She continually serves on the selection committees for the Dominion Award (given to a graduating senior based on their college experiences and volunteering) and for numerous endowed funds to benefit underclassmen both on merit and financial need.  Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices began their own Dream Innovate and Grow Scholarship Program in 2019, and she serves as a consultant and on the selection committee. In just two years, the committee has received over 1,100 applications and has awarded $24,000 in scholarships.

Darlene also volunteers with other non-profit and charitable organizations, including the Northwood Charitable Foundation, the Pleasant Hills Rotary Club, the Pittsburgh CLO Guild and the South Fayette Foundation for Excellence. She has played a huge role in these organizations including serving on the board of directors, raising funds for those in need, and creating scholarships. She also spends volunteer hours conducting mock interviews for high school students.



  1. Dawn Pomaybo

Dawn’s vast knowledge of businesses, processes, and industries have brought many diverse clients to seek her knowledge and consultation. Dawn helps organizations improve their performance, primarily through the analysis of existing business problems and guides the development of plans and processes for improvement.

Organizations work with Dawn to gain external, objective advice and recommendations for long-term solutions and services. Dawn provides guidance in organizational change, development of coaching for supervisors and employees, strategy development and operational improvement. Dawn has over 20 years of experience that provide her with the skills necessary to consult in all facets of organizational development.

Being a philanthropist at heart, she helps to raise money and awareness for multiple charities. Dawn is also committed to helping others personally and professionally. She became involved with a local networking organization, WIN-Pittsburgh, and was quick to realize its potential and ability to help others. WIN-Pittsburgh was established in 2006 as a networking organization for professional women in the Greater Pittsburgh, Pa. area.

As WIN developed into a strong and vibrant local organization, it became apparent that the content and structure could easily be carried into other cities. Moving forward, Dawn put together a vision and plan to expand the reach of WIN, thereby founding WIN-National, The National Association of the Women’s Interactive Network…where professional women network with a purpose. As of today, WIN has touched thousands of professionals – men and women alike.

Dawn has two children, Cory & Brendan; two grandchildren, Nicholas & Landon; and one Doberman puppy, Hulk.



  1. Kristine Irwin

Kristine Irwin is a wife, mother, and advocate for ending sexual violence and bringing change to our culture. She works at Black Box as a senior recruiter focusing on military and university relations and also runs the Voices of Hope nonprofit. Kristine is a huge proponent of giving back to others not only professionally, but personally. She is a member of the executive committee of the Pittsburgh Human Resource Association and works with various organizations to mentor and help individuals grow their career. Voices of Hope allows her to educate audiences on trauma and healing, help survivors of trauma move from victim to survivor, and supports building a community. She is a popular speaker at universities, organizations, and corporations globally. Kristine resides in Pittsburgh, Pa. with her husband JR, their son Jay, and daughter Zella.



  1. Ruhi White

Ruhi White was born and raised in New York City and moved upstate during her adolescence. She studied political science in her undergrad years because she was fascinated by how people and systems functioned in society. After a few years of working in government, the Navy reserves, volunteering, and traveling, Ruhi started her master’s in business administration while balancing her full-time career in state government as the assistant director of special projects. At work, Ruhi focuses on creating and leading business policies and operations, particularly in diversity & inclusion, strategy, and employee engagement. Ruhi loves to keep up with current events, business news, trends, and upcoming technology and developments.



  1. Sally Power

Sally navigated a divorce in 2000 and “inherited” over $200,000… worth of debt! Between the debt, legal fees, and raising three children without child support, she ran $300–400 short on expenses each month. On her 50th birthday, she gathered the last of her resources and naively purchased a women’s resale shop, hoping that would sufficiently augment her teaching income. Two girlfriends ran the shop while Sally continued her full-time teaching. Nineteen years ago, resale shopping was not in vogue and “green” and “thrifting” weren’t a thing. These resale shoppers were in her situation or even worse! When Sally overheard their conversations, she was moved to action.

“Excuse me! You’re my fifth customer today! You get a free bag of clothes!” She fabricated the generous deal to offer a tangible sign of hope! For a year, Sally continued “giving away the store!”  An astute businessman recognized her heart for women, encouraged her to form a nonprofit and graciously walked her through the process. She drafted her sister and other like-minded women to join the mission of “affirming the treasure” within women navigating challenging journeys. She continues to cultivate relationships to further the mission of Treasure House Fashions: “promoting the dignity and self-esteem of women, particularly women in transition or crisis.”

Sally earned a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh and worked for 36 years in education. Sally is an enthusiastic mom of three grown children (Nathan, Stephanie, and Chad), a community advocate, a retired special needs teacher and the passionate executive director of Treasure House Fashions. She is also an inspirational speaker for small group gatherings and on the big stage. She engages audiences with humor and enthusiasm, encouraging women to transform from “hot messes” to cool masterpieces.

Power has received numerous awards for her community involvement, women’s initiatives and philanthropic efforts:

    1. Builders of Dreams and Community Award (2004)
    2. Jefferson Award Finalist (2005)
    3. ZONTA Penny Smith Status of Women Award (2009)
    4. Pittsburgh Fearless Woman Award (2010)
    5. Finalist for Social Venture Partners FAST PITCH (2014)
    6. Featured in Woman’s Day Magazine (May 2010)
    7. Women Entrepreneur for Pittsburgh North Regional Chamber (2015)
    8. Business of the Year for Pittsburgh North Regional Chamber (2017)
    9. Circle of Courage Award (2018)
    10. WBN Community Charity Award (2018-19)
    11. Western PA Gamechanger Award (2019)
    12. District 1 Difference Maker Award (2019)
    13. Larry Richard’s Home Town Hero (2020)


  1. Susan Fancsali

Susan Fancsali graduated in May 2019 from California University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a master’s degree in business administration and a master’s of science with the concentration in legal studies: law and public policy. She is currently employed by Community College of Allegheny County as a teaching assistant.  Since working at the college, she made the decision to obtain her paralegal certification and a supervision and leadership certification.

She is on the Emmaus Young Professionals Board and is a recurring emcee and speaker for Cribs for Kids. She is on the Pleasant Hills Board of Trustees for the Pleasant Hills Library. She is the recipient of the Jefferson Award and the Walmart Community Playmakers Award. Susan received the Women of Achievement Award for Cribs for Kids in 2019. For her active community service, she has received eight proclamations from city, state, and county officials.

In her spare time, she makes 1,000 homemade cards and ornaments per year for various groups, such as Meals-On-Wheels and two different Paramount Senior Living facilities.

As an avid reader, she enjoys visiting various Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh and museums. She enjoys scrapbooking, collecting comic books, and drag racing her 1973 Plymouth Satellite at Pittsburgh Raceway.