KC Chamber Names 2021 ATHENA Award and ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award Recipients

The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce the 2021 ATHENA Leadership Award and ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award honorees.

Sherry Turner, Executive Director, Kansas City Women’s Business Center is the ATHENA recipient and Michele L. Watley, Founder and Owner, The Griot Group LLC, is the ATHENA Young Professional.

Both will receive the awards Thursday, October 7, 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm. Due to COVID restrictions, the reception is a private event, but the public can register here to watch the ceremony and see the recipients accept their awards via livestream.

Sherry Turner

Photo of Sherry Turner
Sherry Turner, Founder of OneKC for Women Alliance, 2021 ATHENA Award Recipient

With a variety of experiences from corporate management to business development to entrepreneurship, Turner is the Founder of OneKC for Women Alliance, an umbrella alliance that brings together Women’s Employment Network, Women’s Business Center, Women’s Capital Connection, and Women Lead Initiative. Previously, Turner was Director of Small Business and Entrepreneurship with the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Northwest Missouri State University and is a native of Kansas City. In 2015, she was the recipient of the Legacy Award by Thinking Bigger Business Media and was awarded the Missouri Women’s Council Award of Distinction. She is a Kansas City Business Journal’s Women Who Mean Business honoree, joining the class of 2017.

Michele L. Watley

Photo of Michele L. Watley
Michele L. Watley, Founder & Owner, The Griot Group LLC, 2021 ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award Recipient

Watley is the Founder and President of The Griot Group, a public affairs and strategic communications firm. She's contributed expertise to some of the region’s most transformative issues and campaigns, including the 2017 General Obligation bond. Driven by a passion for service, Watley founded Shirley’s Kitchen Cabinet (Shirley’s KC), a non-partisan non-profit based in the Midwest that is dedicated to amplifying the voices and power of Black women across the nation through education and advocacy.  She holds a Master of Science in Organizational Development and a Bachelor of Communications degree from Avila University.


The ATHENA Leadership Award is one of the most prestigious honors for women’s leadership in our community. It is presented to a woman (or man) who stands out in professional excellence, community service, and actively assists women in their attainment of professional excellence and leadership skills. Additionally, the ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award recognizes emerging female leaders. Past ATHENA and ATHENA Young Professionals include Karen Daniel and Chelsea Laub in 2020, Kathy Nelson and Caitlyn O’Byrne Waters in 2019, Anita Bajaj Newton and Adrienne Haynes in 2018, and Dianne Cleaver, Debby Ballard, Betsy Solberg, SuEllen Fried, and Mamie Hughes among others.