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Carolene Mays: Championing generations of women leadership

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Junior Achievement of Central Indiana inducted Carolene Mays into the Central Indiana Business Hall of Fame Friday, Nov. 3.

She was one of four new inductees and the only woman inducted this year, and she is one of the few Black women ever inducted.

RELATED: Prominent Indianapolis leader inducted into the Central Indiana Business Hall of Fame

“It was an honor of a lifetime. I am absolutely humbled and very honored, a little shocked, but I feel very blessed to be inducted,” said Mays.

The experienced leader has a diverse career background in various sectors, including entrepreneurship, government agency leadership, elected office, corporate business, small business, TV and print media.

Mays also has over 30 years of experience serving the community on international, national, university and local nonprofit boards as well as chairing major events.

She currently helms a leadership training organization and consulting business, Black Leadership and Legacies.

Carolene Mays: The mentor

Carolene Mays: Championing generations of women leadership
Shannon Williams and Carolene Mays at the induction ceremony. (Photo provided by Shannon Williams)

“I knew of her before I knew her through her work at the Recorder and her family name. I then met her as a speaker at her church. We bumped into each other at an event, and she said she was inspired by my speech,” said Latrece Murdock, an entrepreneur involved in Mays’ leadership programs.

“She has consistently progressed up the ladder of success and has always remained authentically Carolene. She was never lost in the work that she’s done,” said Murdock.

Tavonna Harris Askew, executive director of global investigations & right environments at Cummins, Inc, serves as advisory board chair for the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana, which sponsors Mays’ executive leadership program.

“Carolene is thoughtful, she’s caring and she’s tough. Her personality is the perfect makeup to help you build what you need. I am incredibly proud of her, watching her for the better part of 20 years,” said Askew.

“I have seen her succeed, and I’ve seen her pivot. It’s been an inspiration to see as a Black woman.”

Carolene Mays: The career woman

In a statement to the Indianapolis Recorder, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission Chairman Jim Huston said:

As a former Vice Chair of the Commission, Carolene has a longstanding history of dedicated public service in the utility sector. Her knowledge and expertise were evident in her leadership roles in a number of organizations, including serving as the elected president of the Mid-American Regulatory Conference, chairing the Critical Infrastructure Committee at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, and also sitting on its board of directors.

“On a personal level, Carolene is a dynamic, thoughtful leader – hardworking and high energy – with an infectious personality. She served the Commission and Hoosiers with the highest distinction and is well deserving of being inducted in the Central Indiana Business Hall of Fame,” said Huston.

Shannon Williams is another local leader mentored under Mays’ leadership at the Indianapolis Recorder.

Carolene Mays: Championing generations of women leadership
My left to right, Bruceil Mays, Carolene Mays and Jada Benedict. (Photo provided by family)

“She gave me my first start in the industry after I graduated college. Since then, she’s been a mentor, a friend, a sister, a mother figure and all of the things. She’s had multiple career paths, and they’re all different, but she’s excelled in each of those,” said Williams.

Carolene Mays: The mother and daughter

Those closest to her, like her mother, Bruceil Mays, can attest to her drive for success.

“Even when she was a little girl she always wanted to get to work. She was eight years old and wanted a job. She got the newspaper, looked up jobs and found one asking for dancers. So, she pulled up a chair, grabbed the house phone and called them,” said Burceil Mays.

“The man asked her how old she was, and when she said her age, they told her she wasn’t old enough to dance. She didn’t know it was actually for a strip club. That still tickles me.”

Carolene Mays’ daughter, Jada Benedict, said even with a lot of work on her mom’s plate, Mays always made sure to be present while she was growing up.

“Every night, she tucked me in until high school. Even when I was sleeping, she would come in and pray over me. Those were the little things I appreciated. She always made time for me, and she definitely instilled a work ethic,” said Benedict, who just graduated with her masters.

“Following in her footsteps can feel like pressure at times, but it’s a testament to how proud of her I am, and I want to step in and fill those shoes.”

Named a 2024 Champion of Diversity on Nov. 6, Carolene Mays continues to champion success.

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at (317) 762-7853. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON. 

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