The most influential minority business leaders in Arizona for 2023 offer hope for a more inclusive workplace.

DEEPER DIVE: The Most Influential Women in Arizona Business for 2022

According to a recent McKinsey report, one of the keys to improvement and success in workplace diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is the accountability and investment of business leaders. Yet, in 2022, a McLean & Company study reflected that a mere 42% of organizations possess leaders committed to active involvement in DEI. 

“More and more, employees and other critical stakeholders are calling for leaders to create a true sense of belonging and to be deliberate in their actions,” says Mary Mitchell, co-chief executive officer of Girl Scouts — Arizona Cactus-Pine Council (GSACPC), and one of the most influential minority business leaders in Arizona.

Adds Jason Pritchett, partner at Radix Law, “The CEO’s job in a company is to create a compelling vision,” he says. “That’s their sole job. Then it’s up to the people who work underneath them to then go and execute that vision.”

In order for CEOs to effectively translate a compelling vision — DEI initiatives in this case — Pritchett explains that communication is paramount. And he’s not the only one who feels this way.

“I am also passionate about facilitating discussions on redefining what it means to be ‘diverse’ in society,” says Lisa Cheng, chief of staff at Accenture Cloud First and another of the most influential minority business leaders in Arizona. “Everyone is diverse in their own way. How do we change the narrative to celebrate individuality?”

Part of how business leaders can help initiate enhanced understanding and conversations related to DEI initiatives is to appraise the existing state of DEI (or lack thereof) within their company. 

“From my perspective, organizations that seek to increase DEI must first take stock of their current state,” says Sharon Ng, partner at Stinson. “If there are diverse individuals thriving at their organizations, taking time to ask good questions about what helped them and did not help them, can aid in shaping programming and retention efforts.”

Of course, celebrating diverse leaders is another way to bring about awareness and spark DEI discourse. Without further ado, take a look at 23 of the most influential minority business leaders who are making an impact throughout the state and beyond. 

The most influential minority business leaders in Arizona for 2023

Lisa Cheng

Chief of staff // Accenture Cloud First

Cheng is the first person in her family to be born in the U.S. “I was raised by my maternal grandparents, who did not speak English, and they worried I would struggle with learning at school,” she says. “That was the least of my worries; my biggest hurdles were the emotional and mental challenges of looking and feeling different from other students. It was always grandma that would re-ground me.”

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “People development is something I care deeply about. I enjoy uplifting and pushing my team members to be their better selves. My best days at work are when I’m problem-solving with my teams, when leaders share their accolades of my team’s work or when people share that I’ve positively influenced their career paths. Looking back, I am happiest and most proud when I see someone’s hard work pay off and they earn the success they deserve.”

Ann Ching

Ann Ching

Associate clinical professor of law // Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

Prior to joining ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law as a faculty member in 2019, Ching served as an Army lawyer and achieved the rank of Major. Her military awards include the Bronze Star for combat service in Iraq and the Humanitarian Assistance Award for disaster relief operations in Japan.

Dr. José Luis Cruz Rivera

President // Northern Arizona University

“In the first year and a half of my presidency, NAU has strengthened our commitment to students from all backgrounds, identities and life experiences to reach their full potential and contribute to a more just, equitable and prosperous future,” says one of the most influential minority business leaders in Arizona. That includes full tuition coverage for members of Arizona’s 22 tribes.

Ray English

Ann Ching

Senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion // Snell & Wilmer

In addition to utilizing his three decades of leadership training to head up Snell & Wilmer’s DEI initiatives, English has also imparted his expertise nationally, conducting various trainings and has published works on topics of implicit bias, race, diversity and inclusion. 

Kentay Garvin

CEO // United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Central Arizona

Garvin brings 20 years of government affairs, business and healthcare expertise to his role for UCP. “I am both honored and humbled to be part of the leadership team responsible for helping United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona advance its mission of delivering services to individuals with disabilities across the life span,” Garvin says.

Tad Gary

Tad Gary

Deputy chief executive officer // Mercy Care

Gary has more than 20 years of healthcare experience in multiple leadership roles. At Mercy Care, he is responsible for all business activities, ensuring the success of operational, financial and clinical areas. Gary also supports Mercy Care’s business development and contract implementation efforts throughout Arizona. 

Dr. Steven Gonzales

Chancellor // Maricopa Community Colleges

With close to 25 years of instructional and administrative experience in higher education, Gonzales champions the mission and vision of the MCC District, spearheading initiatives that promote economic prosperity and academic and civic opportunities throughout Maricopa County. Prior to his position as Chancellor, Gonzales served as the eighth president of GateWay Community College.

Daniel Haughton

Director of technical engineering support // APS

In addition to providing technical engineering support services in his role as director, Haughton continues to aid in the mission to further innovation, technology implementation and grid intelligence for APS.

Rickey Jimenez Jr.

Rickey Jimenez Jr.

Senior vice president and director of community reinvestment // Enterprise Bank & Trust

Bringing more than 20 years of experience to his role as senior vice president/director of community reinvestment, Jimenez oversees the development and execution of Enterprise’s Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) strategy, while cultivating and maintaining strategic alliances with community groups and governmental agencies.

Steve Jordan

Director of development // Ryan Companies US

Jordan provides and implements strategies and initiatives to promote diversity and an inclusive workplace. This includes a focus on training, recruiting, and development programs. He has been with Ryan for 27 years and also oversees the company’s Employee Resource Groups and assists with Emerging Business Inclusion outreach.  

Nyla Knox

Business litigation associate attorney // Fennemore

One of the challenges Knox encountered early on in her path to success is what she describes as impostor syndrome, which often had her second-guessing herself and navigating feeling inadequate and underqualified. “Over time, I gained confidence in my abilities, my work ethic and my intelligence,” she says. “I continue to learn new ways to overcome this challenge. However, I am grateful to work at a law firm that values my contributions and encourages my growth.”

SOURCE OF HOPE: “I hope that the next generation of diverse business leaders continues to bring awareness to DEI issues — not only in their workplace but also in their community. I also hope that diverse business leaders continue to make efforts to mentor the generations following them to ensure that diverse candidates have the tools they need to succeed in their chosen field.”

Ken Manuel

CEO // Gila River Resorts & Casinos

Manuel’s journey from line-level casino floor employee to becoming the CEO of Gila River Resorts & Casinos is an inspiring one, helping spark hope and optimism for a whole new generation. “I think if you have a baseline principle of respect,” he says, “then diversity is something that just almost comes naturally. And I practice what I preach. I want people to feel comfortable.”

Mary Mitchell

Co-chief executive officer // Girl Scouts — Arizona Cactus-Pine Council (GSACPC) 

One of the biggest challenges Mitchell has had — and been able to overcome — in her career is the perspective and assumptions of others regarding her identity as a female and African American professional. “My view has always been that I am centered and grounded in my self-worth and value; therefore, I have chosen to focus on bringing forth my skills, experience, and leadership, spanning over 35 years of service in several different sectors,” she says. 

HOPE FOR NEXT GENERATION:“My greatest hope is that they find a career that will meet and sustain their passion and deliver the change they want to see in the world. And that they find a great place that provides that opportunity, and, if not, that they are fierce enough to create it.” 

Sharon Ng

Sharon Ng

Partner // Stinson 

One of only two female associates in the firm’s Phoenix office when she entered her practice in 2007, Ng initially felt isolated, and her confidence faltered. But ultimately, she persevered, finding mentors and sponsors exhibiting a great deal of empathy. “Even though those mentors and sponsors came from a different background than me, they were incredible allies,” she says. “I leaned into those relationships to find a path forward. The firm also invested in multiple resources to support my engagement in diverse national legal programming.”

HOPE FOR NEXT GENERATION: “My greatest hope for our next generation of diverse business leaders is to see them continue to pay it forward. While some individuals have succeeded by their own sheer will, I know that many of us — like myself — have had the benefit of mentors and sponsors who served as guides and role models. I hope we all continue to support one another to strengthen DEI within our organizations and communities.”

Stirling Pascal

Vice president // Stream Realty

As vice president of office leasing, Pascal is tasked with expanding Stream Realty’s presence throughout the Valley. He also serves as membership chairman for the Developing Leaders steering committee for NAIOP Arizona and participates in the Scottsdale Police Department’s Use of Force Review Board, Major Incident Review Board and Community Engagement Board.

Cherry Perez

Market manager // JP Morgan Chase & Co.

Perez has 20 years of experience in banking and has been with JP Morgan Chase & Co. for more than a decade. She has received several accolades throughout her career, including Leadership Development Program Mentor, Good Works Volunteer of the Year, The President’s Volunteer Award, National Achiever and more.

Jason Pritchett

Partner // Radix Law

One of the main challenges Pritchett has faced in his career thus far has been accumulating experience. “Experience is one of the things that you can’t buy. You can’t earn it. You just have to live it,” he says. “Whether it’s a good experience or a bad experience, it shapes how you view the world and how you deal with the things that you meet in the world. And the only way you can really get that is actually going through that experience.”

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “I think the accomplishment for me was when I started my own law firm, being able to step out there and actually do it. I comment a lot — and I don’t remember where I read it — but I’ve stolen this saying and use it quite a bit: ‘The furthest distance between any place on earth is from the head to the hand.’ You can have all the ideas in your mind, but actually putting them in writing and executing them is the longest distance.”

Perla Salinas

Vice president/commercial portfolio manager // Bell Bank

Born in Texas and spending the bulk of her time growing up in Juarez, Mexico, much of Salinas’ career history centers on industrial and commercial business and banking. In her current role with Bell Bank, she helps acquire new loan deals, takes care of renewals and existing loan portfolio issues and enjoys her face-to-face interactions with customers. 

Andrew Sampson

Andrew Sampson

Investment advisor representative // Wilde Wealth Management Group

An Arizona native, Sampson has been in financial services for more than a decade after exiting a successful fitness industry career run. Now, he specializes in private wealth, prioritizing his role as his clients’ family advisor, helping them identify and rectify financial blind spots.

Jennifer Sanchez

Community affairs manager // Intel 

One of the most significant challenges Sanchez faced early on in life was access to explore different career pathways. “As a first-generation college graduate, I’ve navigated my career by being fearless in trying various industries, from journalism and nonprofits to politics and tech,” she says. “Career exploration has been my greatest tool as I’ve strived for success. It’s amazing my career journey has finally led me to Intel, where I’m using the expertise and skills that I’ve honed over 25-plus years in the workplace.”

HOPE FOR NEXT GENERATION: “My greatest hope for young leaders is that they get to be authentically 100% who they are at work. I hope they don’t allow anyone to dim their light. I hope they shine as bright as they want to. All of our cultures, sexual orientations and intersectional identities should be embraced by employees, so we can build stronger teams.”

Christina Spicer

Co-chief executive officer // Girl Scouts — Arizona Cactus-Pine Council (GSACPC) 

Spicer credits her Latina roots and the support of strong women in her life for helping her build a foundation to overcome challenges. “I was diagnosed with Dyslexia in fourth grade and have always been very self-conscious of my writing abilities,” she says. “I had to learn to be vulnerable and ask for support from my teammates, but the gift it gave me was an openness to accept each person’s strengths and challenges.”

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “The professional accomplishment that gives me the most pride is stepping into a co-leadership position with Mary Mitchell. It brings me joy to show our girls that other ways of leading include wellness, shared authority, partnership and collective impact. I am glad that both Mary and I accepted the opportunity to lead Girl Scouts — Arizona Cactus-Pine and use our strengths and talents to make the world better for our girls and their families.” 

Ankita Trivedi

Senior tax manager // Wallace Plese + Dreher

With more than 10 years of public accounting experience, Trivedi oversees individual and private business tax engagements and helps clients navigate compliance issues in addition to managing tax provisions, compliance reviews, income and estate tax treaties and tax calculations. 

Mistie Weishaar

Mistie Weishaar

Diversity, equity and inclusion senior manager // Greenberg Traurig 

Weishaar provides support to the firm’s Affinity Groups to elevate the firm’s brand and drive business by working with the groups to advance the firm’s DEI strategy, initiatives, and programs, while working with the marketing team and as an integral part of the firm’s DEI team.