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Annie Madonia

By Annie Madonia

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Honoring a Lifetime of Leadership

Thu, March 30, 2017

Eileen McDonnell

From very early in life, it was evident that Eileen McDonnell was a leader.

Elementary school president, high school president, college treasurer, Eileen McDonnell, now chairman and chief executive officer at Penn Mutual, always knew she was born to lead. “My parents told me I could be anything I wanted, and I was naïve enough to believe them,” Eileen says.

The life insurance company executive worked her way up in a male-dominated industry and entered Penn Mutual’s C-suite at age 45 as chief marketing officer.

“Moving up the corporate ladder is as simple as just asking for help. You have to have the confidence to ask,” Eileen says.

While Eileen’s leadership savvy led to several promotions, it also gave her the platform to help inspire others to grow.

“The key ingredients to growth are having a game plan and preparing someone to move up and take your position,” she said. “Inspiring others and helping them achieve is how you become a better leader.”

Eileen credits her success to great mentors, the insight they shared and the doors they opened. That’s why she’s dedicated her career to paving the way for talented women to shine and advance.

“When asked who should be considered for an assignment or promotion, I always advocate for other talented women to be put considered,” Eileen says. “My experience is often that it isn’t an error of commission but omission,” she shares, saying often times talented women were overlooked simply because they weren’t noticed by executives.

It’s also why Eileen remains passionate about helping women and girls succeed. She teaches a variety of classes on financial literacy and launched the Girls Going Places Program, a national financial literacy program for girls’ ages 11-15 interested in entrepreneurship.

Eileen notes, “It’s critical for girls to be prepared early and committed to achieving success. One way to ensure success is for women and girls to be both financially educated and empowered to create an equal playing field within their personal and professional lives.”

For Eileen, receiving United Way’s 2017 Women’s Leadership Initiative Award at the Women’s Leadership Initiative Gala on March 22 at the Crystal Tea Room was truly humbling and serves as a reminder that her passion and dedication to service is making a difference.

“I look at all the other women who came before me, and I’m proud to be considered and standing shoulder to shoulder with such great women,” she reflects. “I am enjoying the journey and will keep reinventing the destination.”