Women's Economic Imperative

Executive Team

Dr. Margo Thomas

Founder and CEO​

Graciela Hijar Santibanez

Board Secretary

Vonn Ricks​

Information Technology​

Dooter Malu​

General Counsel

Teewa Akers​


Noreen Cesareo​

Marketing & Outreach​

Anugraha Hadke

Communications Lead

Dr. Margo Thomas – Founder and CEO

As Founder and CEO of the Women’s Economic Imperative (WEI), Dr. Margo Thomas serves as a catalyst for initiatives aimed at increasing opportunities for the economic empowerment of disadvantaged and under-represented groups around the globe.

Throughout her career spanning more than two decades as a senior official at the World Bank Group, Dr. Thomas has provided policy advice to over fifty national and sub-national governments.

Dr. Thomas successfully completed her appointment as the Chief of Secretariat for the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment in 2017. Under the Argentinian Presidency of the G20, she was appointed as Co-Chair of the 2018 Think 20 Task Force on Gender Economic Equity. Dr. Thomas was invited by the Japanese Presidency to continue her work and serve as Co-Chair of the 2019 Think 20 Task Force on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Under the 2020 Saudi Arabian Presidency of the G20, Dr. Thomas is a member of the COVID-19 Response Task Force and the Social Cohesion Task Force. Dr. Thomas has been appointed as an inaugural Global Solutions Fellow.

Web: https://www.margothomasphd.com/

Graciela Hijar Santibañez​

Graciela Hijar Santibañez is a human rights lawyer and advocate for women’s rights. In addition, she is a certified Project Manager with over 5 years of experience in sustainable development and international affairs and she holds a Joint Master in Public Administration and International Relations. Graciela has worked with a wide array of stakeholders, ranging from the United Nations to national and sub-national governments, civil society and academia. ​​


Throughout her career, she worked on and managed projects aimed at strengthening institutional frameworks and evidence-based public policy, empowering women in non-traditional areas, tackling rural poverty and promoting sustainable management of natural resources. Graciela has a proven experience in innovation, project management and fostering partnerships for development.​

Vonn Ricks – Director, Information Technology​​​

Vonn comes to the organization with 20+ years of IT experience working with and supporting small businesses, universities and multiple global organizations. His background is in systems design, configuration and support for networks environments of 20 to over 8 thousand users. His mission is to continuously use technology to enhance and support the collaborative work efforts in an ever-changing world.

Vonn’s superior qualities include his attention to detail, relentless troubleshooting and resolution planning skills, and excellent professionalism. Vonn studied and earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Bowie State University and is a Microsoft Certified Professional. Vonn has a signature saying to describe his passion for the IT field, “I turned my hobby into a career and that has been the best decision of my life. I get to help people and play with technology all day. Work doesn’t get much better than that!”​

Dooter Malu – General Counsel​​

Dooter Malu is an attorney with years of experience in law reform, financial institutions, human rights and international humanitarian and criminal law. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he previously worked with the office of the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court. ​​


Mr. Malu also worked as a Principal Legal Officer with the Human Rights Commission in Nigeria. He previously served as an in-house counsel for Keystone Bank in Lagos and is currently a Senior Manager with Kings & Goodman where he leads its strategic engagement in North America. ​ 

Teewa Akers – Accountant​​​

Entrepreneur Teewa Akers works to increase financial literacy one individual at a time. She is the CEO & Principal Accountant at The Bookkeepers Accounting Services MD, Inc., a company specializing in bookkeeping and accounting services for individuals and small businesses headquartered throughout the continental United States, U.S. Territories and Canada. She also serves clients in other geographies with additional locations in Central Asia and Latin America. ​

Ms. Akers holds a degree in Accounting from Howard University and a MS in Accounting and Financial Management from the University of Maryland.

Noreen Cesareo – Director, Marketing & Outreach​​

Noreen Cesareo MA BA is an experienced international specialist in marketing, brand and communications. She has over 30 years of experience working with global brands and businesses across industries including financial, technology, travel, supply chain and professional services. In 2007, she set up Market Accents, a WE Connect International Certified woman-owned business. ​

A Masters in Marketing, she channels her knowledge and experience to provide big company expertise to businesses. Together with her team, Noreen helps them achieve sustainable growth using smart marketing strategies and effective branding and integrated communications. Noreen is passionate about new technologies, educating and empowering women in enterprise, collaboration and communities. She works across cultures and speaks a number of languages. ​

She is actively involved in a number of international initiatives, boards and working groups. These include: Trustee, The Commonwealth Girls Education Fund (CGEF); Director, The Malta Business Network (MBN); Ambassador, Pink Shoe and TeamEB Lead, Marketing and Markets (Exports). TeamEB is building the first UK Economic Blueprint for SMEs and women-owned businesses. She also sits on the All Parliamentary Party Group (AAPG) for Women and Enterprise where she is a lead in the International Trade and Connections sub-group.​

Anugraha Hadke – Communications Lead​

Anugraha Hadke is an editor, writer, and storyteller who has spent almost a decade at the intersection of digital media and social justice, working with the faith that each and every one of us has the power to create change. She is currently also leading communications at UrbanHealth360 – a global nonprofit focused on the health of urban populations in the Global South and beyond. Previously, she’s worked with organisations like WaterAid India, Agami, and Youth Ki Awaaz – India’s largest writing platform for students – where she led its editorial, social media and growth teams over a span of 5+ years and trained thousands of young writers and change-makers on impact-driven social justice.

Janiece Welcome Bio

Janiece Welcome has worked for several years in the fields of management, administration and education. She has developed her management and administration experience in a number of different large corporations, including Starbucks Coffee Company. In addition, she has worked with AmeriCorps Project Change and the Montgomery County Public Schools. 

Her commitment to incorporating diversity into her project management work contributed to her successful completion of projects and increased the impact of her efforts in effecting progressive change within her community.

Janiece is a leader, whose outstanding customer service and drive shines through her work. She has extensive operational and technical skills.

Janiece attended Arizona State University, where she received her Bachelor of Science degree. She has completed a training program at the Project Management Institute and is currently pursuing her certification in Project Management.