The BPW Foundation Board of Trustees
Roslyn Ridgeway BPW/GA
Roslyn Ridgeway is a seasoned executive and passionate activist for women’s rights. Prior to this position, she served as the national president of Business and Professional Women /USA. During her presidency, the Women Joining Forces: Closing Rank, Opening Doors program was successfully launched, to support the transition of women veterans upon their return from deployment.
In addition to her role with BPW Foundation, Ridgeway is a small business owner. She is the president and chief executive officer of De Roz Productions, Inc., an entertainment production company that specializes in artist management, entertainment production and promotions. In 2002, having overcome the challenges that many women face in a male-dominated entertainment business, Ridgeway founded the National Council of Women in Entertainment, Inc. which provides mentoring and networking opportunities for women working in the arts and entertainment.
Ridgeway’s international affiliations include participating in the Tokyo Women’s Forum, the Liberian Conference, the South African Women’s Conference, the London Business Exchange and the Beijing Women’s Conference. All of these events gave her the platform to speak strongly on the areas of equality, women’s rights and community leadership. She is an Executive Committee member of the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) and also participated as a member of the Institute of Women’s Policy Research Job Quality Advisory Group.
Ridgeway became involved with BPW/USA in 1985 through a BPW local organization in Atlanta, as a representative of the Young Careerist program. She quickly climbed the ranks of the organization to become the president of BPW/GA. In 2003 she joined other BPW members and rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange in honor of the 75th anniversary of National Business Women’s Week.
Roslyn serves as Goodwill Ambassador for Georgia and Arkansas; an Outstanding Georgia Citizen, and holds honorary citizenships in various states. Several counties in Georgia recognize May 17th, July 9th and 16th as Roslyn Ridgeway Day. In 2011 she was selected to be a member of Who’s Who in Black Atlanta.
Ridgeway, a graduate of Clark Atlanta University, resides in Atlanta, GA.
Diane Polangin BPW/MD
Diane Polangin is an elected official, small business owner and a passionate advocate for working women. She has over 41 years experience in business, business management services, nonprofit work and currently serves on the Bowie City Council and is Mayor Pro Tem.
Diane is the owner/operator of Total Tax Service in Bowie, Maryland. In this capacity, she provides services for businesses and individuals, including income tax preparation. She is a notary public and teaches income tax preparation.
Previously Diane was a partner in a southern Maryland-based builder/developer company that developed over 1,000 acres with moderately-priced homes and two office buildings. For many years, Diane was administrator of an architectural firm where she was responsible for business development, contract negotiation and zoning matters, financial and personnel management, as well as client relations and the development of complex projects.
She is active and shares her talents with a number of civic and professional organizations including the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, National Society of Tax Professionals, Calvary Baptist Church (on the Board of Trustees serving as treasurer), Business and Professional Women of Laurel, Maryland Business and Professional Women, Soroptimist International of Bowie-Crofton, and the Greater Bowie Chamber of Commerce (past Legislative Chair).
Her community outreach and volunteer activities include serving as a mentor for S.O.C.S. (SomeOneCareS), a program for young women from Bowie High School, secretary of the City of Bowie’s Community Outreach Committee, and chair and mentor for the Huntington Community Center’s Choices and Challenges Program, which provides developmental guidance for youth ages 6-17.
Diane’s past involvement with BPW includes serving as President of BPW/USA, President of BPW/MD, and CFO of the Business and Professional Women’s Education Foundation of Maryland.
Diane has received awards from the city, county, and state government of Maryland and from several national organizations for her community service and national advocacy of women’s issues, such as domestic violence, equal pay for equal work and other family issues. Councilmember Polangin was elected to the Council in 2007 and re-elected in November 2009, 2011 and 2013.
Velma R. Hart, CAE, BPW/MD
Velma Hart, is a proven and respected nonprofit financial professional who has worked for a wide variety of nonprofit organizations over her career in several capacities. However, her passion and home is in the area of finance which she considers to be the heart and soul of business.
With over 20 years of nonprofit experience, Velma is currently the Chief Financial Officer for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization and nationally known public speaker. Prior to these assignments, she served as the National Finance Director/Chief Financial Officer for AMVETS National Headquarters for 10 years until December 2010. Velma has held various positions with organizations such as The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) and the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). She was also a Secretarial appointee to the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans for the Department of Veteran Affairs leaving that post in 2009, a proud Army veteran, a 2005 ASAE Fellow and earned her Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation in 1994.
Velma is an innovative thinker with vision and leadership; and, is known for her strategic focus in moving companies and organizations forward in their goals. She serves on various nonprofit boards, including Past Chairman of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Treasurer of the Alliance for Nonprofit Management, and of the Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs (NOVA) Foundation and as a member of the Army Women’s Foundation Planning Committee.
Venita Garvin, BPW/FL
Venita Garvin is the Chief Executive Officer of the Domestic Abuse Shelter, Inc. serving victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in the Florida Keys from Key Largo to Key West. Venita has been with the Domestic Abuse Shelter, Inc. for thirteen years. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, she has a B.S. degree in Psychology with a concentration in Mental Health from Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tennessee. She has a Masters degree in Liberal Arts from New York University, New York, New York. Venita has been involved in the domestic violence movement since her first position with the YWCA in Cincinnati, Ohio where she was the Director of the Alice Paul House and the Transitional Housing Center from 1990-1991. She became the Director of the YWCA, Women’s Advocacy Program in Richmond, Virginia from 1991- 1995. Venita has experienced a lot of firsts in her lifetime. She was the first woman of color to hold the position of Director for the battered women’s program of the YWCA in Cincinnati and Richmond, Virginia. She was the first woman of color to hold the position of CEO for the Domestic Abuse Shelter and the first woman of color to hold the office of President for the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence since the inception of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1977. Venita held the office of President from 2002-2003.
Venita held the position of State President of the Florida Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc. from 2008-2010. She serves as Secretary for the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation in Washington, DC, serves as an advisory board member for the Florida Diversity Council, and a member of the Blue Ridge Institute, a leadership institute for Southeastern Executives with representation in 14 states. Venita also serves as a board member on the International Board of the Professional Woman Network 2010 -2012.
Leslie Wilkins BPW/HI
BPW Foundation Trustee
Leslie Wilkins serves as vice president for the Maui Economic Development Board, Inc. (MEDB). Wilkins joined MEDB in 1999 to launch its Women in Technology Project and in June 2000 she was elected by MEDB’s Board of Directors to the position of vice president.
Wilkins continues to direct the Women in Technology (WIT) Project which has grown from a Maui pilot to a national demonstration project, funded in part by the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education and Agriculture. The program serves a statewide constituency of more than 5,000 students, teachers, and industry members each year, including administering regional partnerships. The program designed to recruit and retain girls/women and under represented groups into the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) pipeline has garnered ‘best practices” recognition and received a 2005 International Economic Development Council multi-year performance award. WIT has published more than a dozen papers in academic and education association conference proceedings.
Wilkins is a seasoned advocate for women in business, workplace equity and economic development opportunities. She has served in state and national leadership roles with Business and Professional Women/USA (BPW/USA) for more than two decades, including national president and foundation chair. She was appointed by the governor for two terms on the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women and currently serves as chair. She also served as chair from 1996 – 2003. She is a board member of the Hawaii Women’s Fund. Prior professional experience includes a decade in the commercial banking industry and private practice consulting with non-profit organizations on program development, revenue diversification and proposal writing.
Deborah L. Frett
BPW Foundation Chief Executive Officer
Deborah Frett joined BPW Foundation as CEO in May 2005. Frett is an accomplished executive with over 30 years of experience providing strategic direction and executive management to associations, for-profit and start-up organizations. As CEO, she is a frequent speaker and panelist on the implementation of successful workplaces, providing expertise in the areas of workforce development, workplace policy and job readiness as they pertain to working women and businesses.
Frett engages in policy discussions in forums across the country and is an advocate for women veterans, green job development, and redefining the workplace to meet the needs of the 21st century. She has provided congressional testimony and served as an expert for key briefings on issues impacting working women, families and veterans. She is a creative leader and has demonstrable experience ensuring that working women are included in today’s marketplace.
Under her leadership, BPW Foundation conducted the first research on the challenges facing women veterans in their transition from military to civilian careers and hosted the Inaugural Joining Forces for Women Veterans National Summit. Most recently the organization launched the Joining Forces for Women Veterans and Military Spouses Mentoring Plus®.
She is a member of the Pfizer Small Business Council, the Army Women’s Foundation Planning Committee, the Inter Department Work Group on Women Veterans Employment, a founding member of SCORE’s Women’s Mentoring Network Advisory Council and served on the planning committee for the Department of Veterans Affairs 2011 National Training Summit on Women Veterans. In May 2013 she was one of five women to receive the “Honorary Woman Veteran” award from Women Veteran’s Interactive for her work in support of women veterans and their families. As a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America Women and Girls’ Champion (2012 and 2013), Frett helped to shape the small business working group discussions to reflect the needs of women. She was the Park University Commencement speaker in December 2013 and was honored in June 2014 for her advocacy and exemplary leadership at the first annual Women Veteran Leadership Awards Symposium, a YEU (Young Entrepreneurs of the Universe) Veteran Initiative, Wounded Lady Warriors Green Project.
Prior to BPW Foundation, Frett was an entrepreneur serving as an independent consultant and chief executive officer for DFA Project Solutions. She provided senior level management and consultation on business strategy development, marketing, management and operations for various projects and initiatives, including women’s health issues. Frett previously served as executive director for an online start-up, SeniorNavigator, a public-private partnership initiative with the Virginia Health Care, AOL Time Warner and CollisWarner Foundations. Ms. Frett began her career in association management at the American Hospital Association, Chicago, IL. During her 23 year tenure she served in a number of positions including CEO of Healthcare InfoSource, COO of Health Forum and vice president of Special Membership Services.
Frett has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Quincy University in Quincy, Ill. She has earned advanced certification in Nonprofit Management through The Nonprofit Organizations Program at Virginia Commonwealth University.