Metro Detroit's Most Powerful Women in Business


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More and more women are breaking through the glass ceiling in metro Detroit.
In an effort to recognize their achievements, we asked readers to nominate female business leaders who they felt were moving their respective companies, industries, and communities forward. The only criteria was that the nominees be employed in the executive ranks of private businesses, corporations, hospitals, and universities in the five-county metro region (Oakland, Wayne, Macomb, Livingston, and Washtenaw counties).

Please join us on the following pages as we honor 10 of metro Detroit’s Most Powerful Women in Business.


Mark Shobe

Even as a young girl, when she had her own bank account, kept a budget, and babysat for an accountant, Eileen M. Ashley knew she would have a career in finance and money management.

In an industry not typically known for having women in top management positions, Ashley has steadily risen through the ranks at Comerica Bank. Today she is responsible for sales, profitability, relationship management, and intrabank relationships among Comerica’s wealth and institutional management offerings in Michigan.

“More companies are realizing the value of placing women in higher management positions,” Ashley says. “The research has shown that women change industries and have a positive effect on the bottom line.”

Ashley, who has worked in private banking, executive administration, management accounting and financial reporting, and corporate marketing and development, says her success can be traced to two principles.

“First, I’ve always been open to new opportunities and challenges, and even if I didn’t know an area I was going into very well, I was eager to learn and improve my knowledge base. I’ve also worked hard at developing long and endearing relationships, and having open communication with my employees. You have to connect with people. When we have tough times like we’ve just gone through, I believe people dig in and work even harder for you.” — Bill Dow


Genn Oliver

Susan Barkell didn’t have much time to enjoy college life. She was too busy pursuing degrees in accounting, finance, and managerial economics while working as an accountant for the Michigan Osteopathic Association (MOA).

By the time she graduated, Barkell was running the MOA’s office. It was during that time that she discovered a passion for advocacy.  “I wanted to go beyond the numbers side of accounting because I really enjoyed fighting for what I knew was right, developing relationships, and seeing the power of what people can accomplish,” says Barkell, Blue Cross Blue Shield’s senior vice president for health care value.

Determined to improve provider relations by enlisting the help of someone with an outsider’s perspective, the Blues hired Barkell in 1996. Under her leadership, satisfaction with provider relations went from 35 percent to 84 percent — all while the provider network was greatly expanding.
With a strong work ethic and a team-oriented approach that encourages a diversity of opinions, Barkell’s recipe for success centers on collaboration.

“Our principles of operation include a broad provider network that works collaboratively to provide input as we develop programs and policies,” she says. “This ultimately allows us to develop better products and have more satisfied providers. In turn, customers experience better outcomes.” — Bill Dow

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