You may or may not have heard of Jovita Foster, Stephanie Leffler or Dr. Catherine Appleton, three women who are up and comers in the business world—but you should get used to hearing their names. Leading their industries with confidence, compassion and fierce determination, these powerhouses are transforming the future of their fields and quickly becoming some of St. Louis’ best.

Jovita Foster

When it comes to her professional future, Jovita Foster wants just one thing: more challenges.

Foster already has created a successful career as an employment lawyer at Armstrong Teasdale. She started at the law firm as an intern, and has worked her way up to an ownership position. In addition to numerous awards and recognitions, Foster has attained several federal court summary judgments for a wide range of clients.

Foster describes herself as “tenacious, confident and optimistic,” but it’s taken a lot more to get where she is today, including having confidence. “The confident part is going into a situation and knowing that I’m capable of doing a wonderful job at this,” she says. “Knowing it and not having to have anyone to tell me that: I believe I’m one of the best in town. That came from a lot of hard work and slugging it out when I needed to slug it out, case by case, problem by problem, issue by issue.”

As the chair of Armstrong Teasdale’s Diversity Committee, Foster is dedicated to giving women and minorities a better chance at success in the workplace. She says she’s proud to work for a firm that is invested in diversity and equality, though society still has room to improve. “I’m excited to be the one who crafts strategies and initiatives that our firm executes to increase diversity in our organization,” she says. “I really believe that if my daughter were to decide to practice law, she’s going to have a much better workplace than I have.”

Foster suggests that women in the business world find criticism and advice wherever they can, but to develop their own road map to success, and do what is right for them.

“My parents were great at teaching me to not expect that the journey is going to be an easy one,” she says. “There are all sorts of challenges that everyone faces along the way in getting where they want to go. I’ve learned to be excited about the journey, and that in and of itself is worthwhile and fulfilling. If you can really enjoy that process, it makes for a very rewarding career and life.”

Stephanie Leffler

Stephanie Leffler is a problem solver, she says, “almost to a fault.”

Leffler is the CEO and co-owner of CrowdSource, a local company that formed when Leffler and her business partner, Ryan Noble, created a better solution to a problem than anything else that existed. By using hundreds or even thousands of remote workers to complete tasks for clients, including Staples, Coca Cola and Target, CrowdSource is transforming the traditional hiring and employment process. The company is hardly Leffler’s first success: in 2006, Leffler and Noble sold their e-commerce company, MonsterCommerce, after it reached $20 million in sales. They then went on to create, which paved the way for CrowdSource. In its third year, CrowdSource, which is based in Swansea, Illinois, employs 50 team members and more than 200,000 remote workers. Leffler says she’s excited to be creating a new way of doing business.

“We talk about what our platform does for companies, but what it does for individual workers is really powerful,” she says. “It’s an incredibly meritocracy, democratic system of work…Your connections and education don’t matter as long as you’re smart and you work hard and you choose tasks you’re capable of doing, and there’s tasks of all different levels in our system.”

Leffler credits her success to a combination of a lot of hard work and a bit of luck. Watching others succeed, she says, motivates her. While no one can know the future of CrowdSource, Leffler says she hopes the company will continue to grow as well as it has been, and will take it as far as it can go.

Recently, Leffler gave a keynote speech to a group of young female scholarship winners. She gave them four pieces of advice: Learn to shake hands. Keep a to-do list. Use LinkedIn to network. And, most important, don’t give up.

“Whether it’s a job or your company, or you just want something, don’t give up,” she says. “Maybe don’t keep coming at it the same way, but you’ll ultimately make it happen if you care enough and are willing to work hard enough.”

Dr. Catherine Appleton

From very early on, Dr. Catherine Appleton says, she was interested in science. Her mother, a nurse, encouraged her to pursue her interests and become a doctor. In med school, Appleton says she really enjoyed whatever rotation she was studying at the time. “As I went through radiology training, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to sub-specialize,” she says. “Breast imaging is the perfect marriage for me between imaging, patient contact and procedures.”

In her position as the chief of breast imaging at the Malinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University (she’s also affiliated with Siteman Cancer Center and Barnes Jewish Hospital), Appleton says she strives to be the best she can in whatever she’s doing. “Each mammogram I’m reading, each procedure I’m doing, each patient interaction I’m having, is critical to that patient,” she says. “You have to strive to excellent at all times.”

Appleton says she’s lucky to work at Washington University, and with mentors who have helped her along the way. But she knows it wasn’t just superb mentorship that has taken her so far.

“It was a lot of hard work,” she says. “There was a lot of hard work involved, and burning the candle at both ends. At the end of the day you’ve got to show up and do it.”

Working in breast imaging can be difficult—Appleton says she often sees patients on the worst day of their lives. But she’s inspired by their spirit and determination to take on a diagnosis head-on. Her goal is to make a meaningful contribution to women’s health. “I hope… to further advance the mission of breast cancer screening on a local and national level, and making sure that despite persistent controversies that seem to arise, we continue to put forth an intellectually and scientifically sound message that screening mammography is critically important to women, and make sure that message is not lost,” she says.

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