Outstanding Women in Business: 2015 Alumnae

Susan A. Gunnell

2015: Executive vice president & COO at Southbridge Savings Bank
Now: Executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Cornerstone Bank in Southbridge
Susan A. Gunnell, since winning the 2015 Outstanding Women in Business award as chief operating officer, still works for the bank she started with as a teller in 1980. Only it's no longer known as Southbridge Savings Bank; it merged with SpencerBANK and is now Cornerstone Bank.
As chief administrative officer, Gunnell said the bigger bank is the latest evolution in an industry she has loved since switching over from insurance work many, many years ago.
“That was back during the gas crunch,” she said. “I could only get five dollars' worth of gas at a time for my commute from Charlton. I knew someone who worked at a bank closer to my home who said, 'Would you ever consider being a teller?'”
Gunnell – who has always liked computers and is skilled in math – has been told she takes on more than is expected. That is likely the reason behind her climb up the ranks in banking, which has seen changes such as remote-mobile deposit capture and other technological advances over recent years.
“I like to learn about new things,” she said. “You have to be really adaptive.”
She has adapted to delegating work, something she says is easy with the team at Cornerstone. Now, there are certain departments she oversees, trusting others to do the work with her guidance if needed. The bank's hiring of a human-resources director with the merger took those responsibilities from Gunnell, but it means she can focus more now on other areas, like the bank's involvement in giving back to its community.
The industry still has a need for face-to-face customer service, but mobile technology is rapidly advancing. Use of social media is another trend she's seen since winning the award, along with stronger economic and employment opportunities overall, Gunnell said.

2015 & now: Vice president of projects at Worcester Business Development Corp.
What have been your career highlights since 2015? It is amazing what can be accomplished with a coordinated effort, a common goal, and a vision. WBDC continues to work with its partners to pave the way for jobs and growth in Worcester.
And personally? Great trips with the family, a focus on professional development, and 15 years of marriage!
How has the world changed? There has been much more focus on women, the impact of women, and the value of women. This focus, has in some instances led to intentional change to create more opportunities for women.

2015 & now: Executive director of YWCA Central Massachusetts
What have been your career highlights since 2015? Hit 26-year milestone at YWCA
And personally? Became a great-grandmother and celebrated 30-year wedding anniversary with John Medbury.
How has the world changed? We launched a $7.5-million capital campaign and $24-million renovation project of YWCA headquarters in Downtown Worcester.

2015: Co-owner of Pepper's Fine Catering in Northborough
Now: President of Peppers Artful Events in Northborough
What have been your career highlights since 2015? Supporting the development of our leadership team.
And personally? Continuous learning with an open heart.
How has the world changed? There are so many opportunities to grow and express the talents of one's particular business, from communication to technology.

2015: Senior global director for NTT Data in Shrewsbury
Now: Co-founder and chief learning officer at Teach the World Foundation in Washington, D.C.
What have been your career highlights since 2015? I co-founded Teach the World Foundation, a nonprofit focused on improving literacy for children in the developing world using tablets and educational games. We have thus far deployed our solution in seven different geographies, and TTWF has shown learning outcomes 2.5-times more effective than the traditional school/teacher model.
And personally? I have been very proud of the work my daughter Anaiya has done over the last five years on girls' empowerment through her “Beads for Hope” initiative. Just this year for her 13th birthday, Anaiya created a viral campaign recruiting other young girls. The success of her initiative was recognized by Malala Yusufzai, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who personally visited Anaiya this past June!
How has the world changed? Professional women have taken greater control of their careers and demand the recognition they rightly deserve. Companies I have consulted for have made a conscious effort to adjust female employees' salaries to be at par with males. I have been approached by corporations looking for better female representation on their boards.

2015: Executive vice chancellor & chief executive for UMass Medical School & Commonwealth Medicine in Worcester
Now: Advanced leadership fellow at Harvard Business School in Cambridge
What have been your career highlights since 2015? Awarded Chancellor's Medal for Excellence from UMMS in August. Honored with the John M. Corcoran Excellence Award on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the St. Mary's Center for Women and Children in Dorchester, where I served as founding president.
And personally? Establishing with others the Women's Leadership Council at Curry College. I'm spending more time with family and friends during brief break between UMMS and Harvard.
How has the world changed? The culture of the workplace in general is being more focused upon, and the #MeToo movement has opened up some unfortunate situations women have been exposed to over the years.
Read more about the 2018 Outstanding Women in Business:
Kate Sharry, president of Group Benefits Strategies 
Carla McCall, CPA, CGMA, co-managing partner of AAFCPAs
Laurie Masiello, president of Masy Bioservices
Jennifer Luisa, vice president of marketing and communications at The Hanover Insurance Group
Marianne Lancaster, president of Lancaster Packaging Inc.
Sandra Brock, PE, vice president and chief engineer at Nitsch Engineering
Read about this year’s judges
Read about the nine previous years of Outstanding Women in Business award winners:
2017 alumnae 
2016 alumnae 
2015 alumnae 
2014 alumnae 
2013 alumnae
2012 alumnae 
2011 alumnae 
2010 alumnae
2009 alumnae
Check out a column from this year's Innovative Business Leader of the Year on the importance of women business leaders in the Central Mass. community
Successful women shape our community