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CEO | Athena

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Holly Smithson is Chief Executive Officer of Athena, a premier women's advocacy organization that fast-tracks women in STEM through its portfolio of leadership development, mentoring, and global advocacy initiatives.

She’s successfully led the launch, merger, and financial turnaround of three California, member-based companies in the cleantech, biotech, and STEM sectors, respectively. Previously in Washington DC, Smithson was appointed by President G.W. Bush as a “Presidential Appointee” to advance his legislative agenda inside the U.S. EPA and the U.S. State Department and served as a registered lobbyist for several trade associations.

Smithson began her career in broadcast journalism as a News Director and Anchor for television and all-talk radio stations. She is a graduate of the Harvard Business School Executive Leadership Program and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in broadcast communications from East Carolina University.

She is recognized throughout California as a disruptive and innovative leader by multiple organizations including “The San Diego Women’s Hall of Fame in 2023" by Women’s Museum of California, “Top 500 Most Influential Leaders” from 2018-2022, “CEO of the Year” and “Businesswoman of the Year” in 2019 by the San Diego Business Journal, as “Champion of Women” by Connected Women of Influence in 2019, and was an Appointed Delegate by California Governor Jerry Brown for his Cleantech Trade Mission to China in 2013.

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