• WBDC Women Rising Gala to Honor Connecticut Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs

    STAMFORD, Conn. — Retired tennis star and former President of the United States Tennis Association Katrina Adams will deliver the keynote address at the Women’s Business Development Council’s (WBDC) 2023 Women Rising Annual Gala and Awards Celebration on Friday, October 27. This year’s event is being held at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich and will feature an awards ceremony recognizing several individuals and entrepreneurs from throughout Connecticut for their contributions to women’s economic empowerment. Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz will serve as the event’s honorary chair.

    The event begins at 11:00 a.m. with a networking reception and raffle, followed by lunch at noon.

    The gala will recognize several business leaders and entrepreneurs, presenting awards to a pair of Impact Award honorees, the Patricia Billie Miller Award for Outstanding Community Service, and several Women Rising Award recipients.

    2023 Impact Award Honorees

    The Impact Award honors individuals who have exemplified WBDC’s mission and goals by promoting economic equality and prosperity for women.

    Leander Dolphin, Managing Partner, Shipman & Goodwin LLP (photo)

    Dolphin is being recognized for her commitment to cultivating equity as an attorney and in the community at large. As the first African American woman to serve as Shipman’s managing partner, Dolphin is committed to enhancing diversity among the firm’s leadership. Her law practice is dedicated to advising educational institutions and organizations that foster the development of children and young adults. A gifted leader, Leander was named by Governor Ned Lamont as a Commissioner of the Connecticut Judicial Selection Committee and was elected to Chair the Commission. She was recently named to the Hartford Business Journal’s Power 50 List and Top 25 Women in Business.

    “It is an honor and a privilege to receive the Women’s Business Development Council Impact Award,” said Dolphin. “I have long supported WBDC and believe deeply in WBDC’s mission to provide tools and resources to help women thrive in business. I am grateful to represent Shipman – a law firm that strives for equity and inclusion every day in our business.”

    Jeffrey Flaks, President and CEO, Hartford HealthCare (photo)

    Flaks is being recognized as the leader of an organization that is dedicated to women’s economic equity throughout the state. As President and CEO of Hartford HealthCare, Connecticut’s second-largest private employer, Flaks is deeply committed to creating an organization that values its colleagues and celebrates diversity and inclusion. He is a recipient of the Anti-Defamation League of Greater Hartford’s prestigious Torch of Liberty award, presented to “outstanding citizens who contribute to building strong communities that are open to all people without regard to race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.” As a member of the American Hospital Association’s Health Systems Council, Flaks provides leadership in advocacy and public policy issues nationally and regionally.

    “Receiving the Impact Award from WBDC is an incredible honor for Hartford HealthCare- and I accept this on behalf of my 37,000 colleagues who are focused on ensuring everyone has access to world-class healthcare,” said Flaks. “The Impact Award reminds us that when we lift up women in business, we lift up entire communities. That is why Hartford HealthCare has a strategic focus on increasing our organization’s spending with minority-owned and women-owned businesses. Since launching the initiative, Hartford HealthCare has increased minority spending by more than 80% for a total spend of $192 million – with a goal to increase the budget to $250 million this fiscal year.”

    2023 Patricia Billie Miller Award for Outstanding Community Service

    The Patricia Billie Miller Award for Outstanding Community Service is presented annually to a dedicated WBDC volunteer – an individual whose dedication inspires others to achieve their dreams and exhibits a passion for and commitment to WBDC and the women it serves throughout our state.

    Joanne Brun, Ph. D., CEO, Xlerant (photo)

    “Each year, the Gala provides us an opportunity to honor our clients but also to acknowledge our supporters and stakeholders, without whom we could not continue the important work we do to help Connecticut’s women entrepreneurs thrive,” said WBDC CEO Fran Pastore. “Leander and Jeff share a deep commitment to equity that is synergistic with WBDC’s mission. Joanne has contributed countless hours, sharing her expertise to the benefit of so many of our clients. We are excited to honor them all at this year’s gala.”

    Recipients of the 2023 Women Rising Awards, presented annually to WBDC clients who show a strong commitment to WBDC and demonstrate success in their business and tenacity in pursuing their goals, will be announced next month.

    In addition to the recognition of the award winners, the Women Rising Gala celebrates 26 years of supporting economic prosperity for women and strengthening communities through entrepreneurial and financial education services. Since 1997, WBDC has:

    • Served more than 18,000 clients from all 169 Connecticut cities and towns

    • Helped launch, sustain, or scale more than 13,500 businesses

    • Created or retained 29,600 jobs

    • Made accessible to clients $52.5 million in capital

    • Supported more than $640 million in client-earned revenue.

    In the first six months of 2023 alone, WBDC has:

    • Served 1,838 clients

    • Hosted 6,486 hours of classes and business advising

    • Helped start 26 new businesses

    • Created or retained 4,849 jobs

    • Made accessible to clients more than $4.5 million

    Additional information and ticket sales can be found at

    The Gala Title Sponsor is PMI. Other sponsors for the event include: Impact level – Hartford HealthCare, Mastercard, Travelers; Investor level – GenRe; Shipman; Webster Bank; Capital level – Alex Brown, a Division Raymond James; drbank; Gibson Dunn; Hearst Connecticut Media Group; Henkel; JPMorgan Chase & Co.; Linde; M&T Bank; Moffly Media; Point 72; Tidal River; Union Savings Bank; Wiggin and Dana; Wondr Nation; Empower level – Alvarez & Marsal; Bourgeon Capital Management; Gilda Bonanno LLC; Hexcel; Libertas; PWC; Stamford Health.

    About Katrina Adams

    As a tennis player, Adams was a specialist in doubles — winning 20 Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) titles in a career spanning 12 years. Following her tennis career, Adams became a commentator for the Tennis Channel and a contributor to the CBS Sports Network’s all-female sports panel, We Need to Talk. In 2015, she became President and Chairman of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), becoming the first former professional tennis player, first African-American, and the youngest person to serve as president in the 135-year history of the organization. In 2021, she published her first book — Own the Arena: Getting Ahead, Making a Difference, and Succeeding as the Only One.

    Adams is currently Executive Director of the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program, Vice President of the prestigious International Tennis Federation, Chairman of the Billie Jean King Cup Committee, and Chairman of the Gender Equality in Tennis Committee. In the private sector, she serves as a Board member of Pivotal Acquisition Corp III and GSE Worldwide. She is also a broadcaster and author and serves on multiple Advisory Boards: Athletes Unlimited, Highlight Pro Skydiving, Full Court Tennis and Racquet Magazine.

    About the Women’s Business Development Council 

    The Women’s Business Development Council’s (WBDC) mission is to support economic prosperity for women and strengthen communities through entrepreneurial and financial education services that create and grow sustainable jobs and businesses across Connecticut. WBDC educates, motivates and empowers women to achieve economic independence and self-sufficiency. Since 1997, WBDC has educated and trained nearly 18,000 clients in all of Connecticut’s 169 towns—helping women to launch, sustain and scale almost 13,500 businesses, create and maintain more than 29,600 jobs in Connecticut, and access more than $52.5 million in capital. Visit for more information.