Prosper Jefferson Seminar Series
Women in Leadership
March is Women’s History Month. What better way to celebrate the many contributions that women make to the economy and the community than to attend a panel discussion from female leaders who will share their stories, perspectives, and advice?
JEDCO and the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce teamed up to bring you the Prosper Jefferson Women in Leadership Panel later this month. Join us to hear from four female leaders across a diverse range of industries and backgrounds. They will share their personal experiences in leadership roles, how they got there, and how they continue to grow their businesses and organizations. This panel will offer frank discussions on work/life balance, the challenges women have faced in the workforce in recent years, being a female leader in male-dominated industries, and so much more.
MEET THE PANELISTS
Laurie Carriere Bernhard Laurie joined Bernhard in 2021 as the Mechanical Division Financial Manager and Business Partner. Her most recent position, which she assumed in 2022, is the role of Director of Operational Finance.
As Director of Operational Finance, Laurie’s primary mission is developing financial management, risk evaluation and operational strategies that support Bernhard’s strategic goals. She is also charged with financial reporting, strategic initiatives and is part of the executive management for the Mechanical Division’s execution and operational services. Laurie is continuously driving improvements for both project accounting and finance, as well as operational processes that champion the strategic goals of Bernhard, mitigate risk and increase profitability.
Laurie has 25 years of experience in public accounting, residential construction and consulting in the petrochemical industry. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting with a Minor in Management from the University of New Orleans and is a Certified Public Accountant. She has spent many years as a board member for multiple local non-profits, as well as a dedicated volunteer in her community. Laurie is the mother of two daughters and has been married to her husband, Robbie, for almost 27 years.
Meghan Donelon Red River Bank Meghan was born and raised in New Orleans, LA. She graduated from the Academy of the Sacred Heart in 2004, received her bachelor’s degree from LSU in 2008, and completed the Executive MBA Program at LSU in December of 2017. She is a 2021 graduate of EWF International’s Emerging Leaders Program (Dallas, TX), and also a 2019 graduate of CABL’s “Leadership Louisiana” program. Meghan is now the New Orleans Market President of Red River Bank, the 4th largest Louisiana-based bank, headquartered in Alexandria, LA. She is responsible for its de novo expansion, and her responsibilities include recruitment, retail site selection and acquisition, and business development. She was formerly a Senior Vice President and Commercial Banking Team Leader at IBERIABANK in Dallas, TX, and in New Orleans, LA. She has been in the industry for over thirteen years. Meghan serves on several Boards in Greater New Orleans. She has been affiliated with the following organizations through Board and/or Finance Committee service: The New Orleans Museum of Art, The NOCCA Foundation, The Jefferson Community Foundation, Friends of the Cabildo, The Academy of the Sacred Heart, The All-State Sugar Bowl (Associate Member), The International Women’s Forum, The Legacy Donor Foundation, NAMI New Orleans, and The Jefferson Business Council. She loves to give back to her community, understands and appreciates non-profit service, and has banked many schools and non-profit organizations throughout her career. She is an avid Saints, Tigers, and Pelicans fan, and in her spare time enjoys playing tennis, listening to music, traveling, and spending time with her eight nieces and nephews.
Coretta Lagarde American Heart Association
Coretta LaGarde is the executive director in New Orleans. In this role, LaGarde is responsible for driving the strategy and execution of corporate revenue, communications, and health impact goals for the Greater New Orleans market advancing health equity.
Coretta has led EmPOWERED to Serve by providing strategic program oversight, engagement, and collaboration leadership, and technical expertise to ensure the implementation of health equity solutions. EmPOWERED to Serve is a platform inspired by American Heart Association volunteers around the country who are passionate about driving change through health justice and empowerment in their communities. Under Coretta’s leadership, through EmPOWERED to Serve, the American Heart Association has found opportunities to close disparity gaps in New Orleans and the country by growing the number of social entrepreneurs, strategic partners and community coalitions trained through the Business Accelerator; increasing investments in community-led solutions to address health inequities in under-resourced communities across the country; and prioritizing health literacy by working to inform, educate, and empower communities through health education and community advocacy. The direction of EmPOWERED To Serve has sparked interest from new partners and continued engagement with strategic alliances, ambassadors, and scholars through opportunities to share their stories.
With 18 years of experience in nonprofit and corporate engagement, 11 of which have been with the American Heart Association, Coretta's people-management journey, paired with performance leadership at the Regional and National levels. Her most recent accomplishments include: an American Heart Association national Pillar Award in 2019, the American Heart Association Southeast Region Community Impact Collaboration Award in 2020, and the Jefferson Chamber Chairman’s Award in 2021.
Coretta is the treasurer of the board of directors for the New Orleans Council on Aging, chair of the Health & Wellness Committee/Executive Board Member at the Jefferson Chamber, and active on several health-related commissions and coalitions throughout Louisiana. “I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the New Orleans market’s work for the American Heart Association. While we’ve had many gains, the work is far from done. I’m looking forward to banning together with the volunteers, sponsors, staff and community to ensure equitable access to healthy living options for all and to ultimately make a positive impact on the health and well-being of our neighbors so that we have a healthy New Orleans,” said LaGarde.
She is a graduate of the University of New Orleans with a Master of Public Administration, and Louisiana State University with a Bachelor of Science degree.
Akasia Lee-Nicholas Akasia Lee Global, The Culinary Queens of New Orleans
Akasia Lee-Nicholas is the founder of Akasia Lee Global, the umbrella brand for her companies: Let Us Cater for You Catering, her autobiography “Out of Bounds”, and the professional networking
organization The Culinary Queens of New Orleans and the nonprofit Carnival Krewe, Krewe of TCQNO. All of Akasia’s companies are managed by ADN Enterprises. Akasia Lee-Nicholas is a lifelong native
of Marrero, Louisiana. She graduated from West Jefferson High School in 1991 and went on to receive an Associate degree in Healthcare Management (2009) and a Bachelor of Science degree in Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship in 2017. During the height of the COVID 19 pandemic, Akasia built a platform to support ladies who own food and beverage brands to help them cope with the economic stress and loss resulting from the worldwide pandemic. The result? Greater
New Orleans’ first and only carnival krewe honoring women in the food and beverage industry. The Krewe of TCQNO made history on 2-22-22 as the first parade to roll on the Westbank of unincorporated
Jefferson Parish in 30 years. Akasia’s life is a true testament of strength, perseverance, and the power of faith in the face of adversity: from spending years in federal prison to the loss of her son…Akasia uses her tests to power her testimony. She continues to build and inspire others.
MODERATOR: Ruth Lawson, President Jefferson Chamber of Commerce Ruth Lawson is the President of the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, a five-star accredited organization with a long history of advocating for, educating, and connecting the Jefferson Parish business community.
Before stepping into the Chamber’s top leadership role in late 2021, Ruth was the Executive Director of the Jefferson Parish Finance Authority where she managed an operating budget and portfolio of approximately $20 million in investments, cash and securities. She is a small business co-owner with her husband Brett of several Smoothie King franchises, a nutritional beverage company founded in Kenner. Lawson, a graduate of LSU Law School who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from the same university, also served as a Senior Parish Attorney and as a Chief Administrative Officer in Jefferson Parish. She was a corporate attorney and compliance officer for Barriere Construction Company, L.L.C. following her years in Jefferson Parish government Lawson became the fourth president of the highly respected business organization.