Image courtesy of the ATHENA Awards of Greater Pittsburgh.

Each fall, the ATHENA Awards of Greater Pittsburgh recognizes the accomplishments and contributions of women in the region. Now in its 26th year, ATHENA is once again giving organizations and individuals the chance to honor inspiring women in their lives.

The ATHENA committee is seeking nominees for two main awards, the traditional ATHENA Award, and the Young Professional Award for emerging professional women 35 years old or younger. They also need candidates for the new Barbara McNees Spirit of ATHENA Scholarship, the winner of which will get the opportunity to attend the Carnegie Mellon Leadership and Negotiation Academy for Women tuition-free.

The scholarship is a fitting tribute to McNees, who served in a pioneering role as the first woman president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce for over two decades.

“She was a driving force behind ATHENA in Pittsburgh for years,” says ATHENA host committee chair Beth Bershok. “When she retired a couple of years ago, we asked what she would like as a legacy, and she said a scholarship.”

Awards finalists are chosen based on professional success and their level of community involvement. The most important factor, however, is their effort to help other women succeed through mentorship.

For the scholarship, recipients must be 35 years old or younger and demonstrate a financial need. Backed by an initial grant from the Elsie H. Hillman Foundation, the scholarship funds will be administered by ATHENA’s sponsor, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

Bershok explains that the ATHENA award has boosted hundreds of women and their causes by giving them a platform to make their voices heard. Last year, finalists were profiled in video presentations that played to a crowd of over 800 attendees.

“Every recipient has said the exposure is one of the awards of becoming an Athena finalist,” says Bershok. “This gives them a forum to get their names out.”

ATHENA Award and Young Professional Award nominations must be submitted online by 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 30. The deadline for the Barbara McNees Spirit of ATHENA Scholarship is Wednesday, July 29. Those interested in submitting can reference the new tutorial video on the ATHENA website, which walks viewers through best practices for writing a nomination.

The ATHENA Awards ceremony will take place on Monday, September 26 at the Westin Convention Center ballroom.

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated to covering Pittsburgh film culture. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and oversized house cat.