insight • Mar 25 2022

The Women That Inspire The Women Of Generis Collective

March is Women’s History Month and what better time to reflect on so many incredible women who have made a difference in the world. Our social media feeds are likely flooded with quotes from famous women and images of famous female poets, singers, leaders, and inventors. For a different spin, we thought we’d reach out to some of the amazing women right here at Generis Collective and ask them to tell us about the women who inspire them in their personal and professional lives. 

Zaha Hadid, Iraqi-British architect

selected by Sonia Parisca, Design & Development Manager, Generis Collective

Zaha Hadid (1950-2016) is an Iraqi-British architect who was the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize (2004) and she is the 2010 and 2011 recipient of the Stirling Prize, the United Kingdom’s most prestigious architectural award.

Sonia: Zaha Hadid is known for her fantastic design and futuristic architecture characterized by curving facades, sharp angles, and the use of severe materials such as concrete and steel. What impresses me most about the structures she so successfully and beautifully designed is that they are absolutely mystifying — as all great architecture strives to be. A visionary and a risk-taker, Hadid skillfully took the strongest materials in the world and manipulated them to form objects that appear simultaneously soft and sturdy. Her work is such an inspiration to me.

Hadid broke through the glass ceiling of the male-donated architecture industry to bring to life modern, cutting-edge philosophies which helped her to push the boundaries of architecture and design. Her forward-thinking vision, combined with her steadfast determination, have established her as not only one of the world’s leading female architects, but one of the world’s leading architects. Today, her firm employs 350 people and has handled 950 projects in more than 44 countries. 

Sonia: She remains a personal and professional inspiration to me and I have no doubt her profound visions will continue to transcend time, movement, and space for years to come.


Marlene Colucci, CEO of the United States Business Council

selected by Cheryl Hardy, Business Development, Generis Collective 

In her current role as CEO of the The Business Council, Marlene Colucci advises the nation’s corporate CEOs. The Business Council was originally formed nearly 100 years ago to serve and advise the executive branch of government. However, according to their website, “it has evolved to become the leading space for the world’s top CEOs to gather to engage in our own professional, intellectual, and leadership development.”

Cheryl: I admire her integrity and her emotional intelligence. Her dedication to family and friends is unwavering and unqualified. She is always there to offer advice or her time.

Colucci is an accomplished professional who holds an undergraduate degree from UCLA and a law degree from Georgetown. She has successfully and skillfully navigated her impressive career from the private sector, to public servant, and back to private “thought leader” role with an admirable balance of grace and tenacity.  


Sherry Penney, Former Chancellor UMASS Boston and Founder of The Center of Collaborative Leadership

selected by Ariel Gardner, Director of Marketing, Generis Collective 

Sherry Penney (1937-2019) was a pioneer in higher education and a champion for greater inclusive leadership in the communities where she lived and worked. She served as the first female Vice Chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY). And following her tenure at SUNY, she was selected as the first female (and longest-serving) Chancellor of UMass Boston, where she served for 11 years. 

Under her skillful leadership at UMass Boston, Penney founded the highly successful Center for Collaborative Leadership (CCL). The CCL continues to actively shape and develop future leaders in the Greater Boston area — including our own Ariel Gardner, who is among the 800 professionals over the years who have completed the Center’s signature leadership program.

Ariel: I completed the Center for Creative Leadership’s marquee program Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) in 2017 and saw firsthand the work of Sherry Penney. The CCL was built on an inclusive leadership model that embraces the idea of relationship building, rethinking boundaries in business, and seeking to give back to the community. The ELP was a 9-month program that brought together leaders from a variety of sectors and backgrounds and sought to teach us about teamwork and the value of diverse thought & experience through guest speakers, breakout sessions, readings/cases and more. 

In their remembrance of their former Chancellor, UMass Boston noted that the makeup of UMass Boston faculty and students changed dramatically under Penney’s leadership:

  • In 1988, less than a third of the faculty were female. By 2000, that figure increased to 41 percent. 
  • Faculty of color rose from under 13 percent in 1988 to 20 percent by the year 2000
  • The university went from 1 in 12 students who were women or minorities to 1 in 3.

Penney understood that diversity was a strength. Although she passed away in 2019, her rich legacy has and will continue to forever change the face of leadership in Boston and beyond. 


Thank you Sonia, Cheryl, and Ariel for your leadership at Generis Collective and for sharing these amazing women to honor and celebrate this Women’s History Month.

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