Simone D. Ross

Navigating the workplace as a woman can be challenging, especially in industries where gender disparities persist. In such environments, classes like the CU Denver Business School’s Empowering Women in Business (EWiB) serve as invaluable resources, providing a platform for young women to gain insights, develop skills, and build networks to help them overcome barriers and thrive in their careers.

At the heart of CU Denver Business School lies a commitment to opening doors and lowering barriers to success, a principle that resonates deeply with the mission of EWiB. This commitment was exemplified during a recent session of the EWiB class, where Simone D. Ross, CEO of the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director of the Colorado Women’s Chamber Foundation, and CEO & Founder of Simone D. Ross, LLC, shared her insights and experiences, shedding light on the challenges and opportunities faced by women in the corporate world and advised on how to achieve work-life balance. Later, the school met with her to hear her story further and highlight key moments and reflections that have shaped her passion for empowerment and advocacy.

If one thing, in the realm of women’s leadership, representation holds immense power. Simone D. Ross’s journey is a testament to this, embodying the transformative impact of strong female leaders who pave the way for future generations.

From Family Legacy to Personal Mission

Her family’s legacy and experiences deeply influenced Ross’s journey toward empowerment. Her upbringing in a single household with her mother helped her develop her current strategic mindset. Though it was a challenging time, Ross takes pride in this experience, which enabled her to mature from a young age and helped set the stage for her extraordinary leadership capabilities.

Coming from a lineage where her grandmother, a black woman, despite her impressive accomplishments, was denied a college education due to racial discrimination, Ross felt a profound sense of duty to address societal inequities. Later, her grandmother became the first African American to serve 8 different Denver mayors as an executive secretary. Similarly, Ross’s great-grandfather, George Morrison Sr., referred to as “Denver’s godfather of Jazz,” was a trailblazer who was the first Black man to be signed to Columbia Records. Her grandfather, George Morrison Jr., became the first Black principal at a DPS school and the first Black Administrative Director for secondary education. Together, her grandparents paved the way for the Civil Rights movement’s success in Denver.

Reflecting on these brilliant figures, Ross takes immense pride growing up in a family of firsts and community servants. With this trait of high achievers running deep in her blood, she emphasizes her responsibility to create opportunities for marginalized individuals. She has founded Simone D. Ross, LLC, a consulting firm that catalyzes human thriving and elevating opportunities for women and people of color. “For me, it’s all about creating equity for women […] After all, I have inherited the traits of a strong black woman,” Ross asserted.

Navigating Business and Advocacy

When reflecting on her experience in the corporate world, Ross reminisces about the complex realities of navigating the corporate workplace as a black woman. From a very early stage in her career, Ross shared that she encountered many challenges, from experiencing microaggressions and micro-invalidations to facing a lot of gatekeeping with opportunities and having people force her into boxes. As a young woman, she reflected on how challenging this was in defining her identity and finding her purpose. Yet, this made her aware of societal disparities in underrepresented communities and inspired Ross’s passion for building sustainable, empowered, and educated communities.

Her commitment to empowerment extends beyond the boardroom. Through her work with the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Women’s Chamber Foundation, she fosters inclusive economic growth and champions initiatives to make Colorado a leading state for women in business.

Finding Fulfillment in Advocacy and Inspiring the Next Generation

As she contemplates her most rewarding work, Ross finds fulfillment in the tangible outcomes of her advocacy work, from empowering women to negotiate for fair pay to advocating for legislative change. “It’s rewarding and gratifying when I hear feedback from women who come to me and tell me that they’ve been able to advocate for their pay,” Ross revealed. Being the first black woman CEO of the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce, she proudly represents and uplifts underrepresented voices, striving to create a more inclusive and equitable society.

However, Ross’s dedication to community work doesn’t occur solely in the workplace. As a mentor and advisor to various youth organizations in Denver, she provides guidance and support to young individuals from underserved communities, helping them navigate educational and professional pathways. Through those mentorship efforts, Ross aims to instill confidence and resilience in the next generation of leaders, equipping them with the tools they need to overcome obstacles and achieve their aspirations.

“These were conversations I wished I had growing up.”

– Simone D. Ross

It was, therefore, with great honor that the CU Denver Business School welcomed her to the Empowering Women in Business (EWiB) class. As a speaker there, Ross shared her insights and experiences, offering guidance to young women aspiring to make a difference in business. Drawing from her journey, she emphasized the importance of work-life

balance and navigating gender obstacles to achieve success in the workplace. “These were conversations I wished I had growing up,” Ross confided.

Leadership and Mental Health

Leadership is hard, and it is no surprise that it can take a heavy toll on a leader’s mental health, especially when they encounter challenges in their personal lives.

“Being a CEO is the most humbling job I’ve ever had. It was really eye-opening to realize how much I need people to be effective and succeed in my mission, and I’m learning from people from all walks of life every day.”

– Simone D. Ross

Ross relates too well to this statement. In 2023, she lived one of the scariest and most vulnerable moments of her life as a leader. At the time, she was going through some struggles in her personal life and felt that it was only right to be transparent with her team and seek their support. “Admitting to going through a tough mental health period is never easy, especially for leaders who are accustomed to being pillars of strength. But if we’re going to thrive together, we have to know where we each are. So, I decided I wanted to be a leader who would speak up and be transparent so my team could understand every moving part,” Ross declared. In this moment, she witnessed the power of the collective and was able to use this as an opportunity to strengthen the organization’s mission. “Being a CEO is the most humbling job I’ve ever had. It was eye-opening to realize how much I need people to be effective and succeed in my mission, and every day, I’m learning from people from all walks of life,” Ross emphasized.

So, while she aspires to foster empowered and safe communities, Ross is committed to prioritizing her well-being first, as this is an essential prerequisite to showing up for her business. Through her advocacy for mental health awareness and destigmatization, Ross hopes to inspire other leaders to prioritize self-care and foster cultures of well-being within their organizations. She aptly said, “Being present for the team and the business is essential, as our mental health directly correlates to the health of the organization we lead.”

As Ross continues to inspire and uplift underrepresented voices, her legacy reminds us that authentic leadership transcends boundaries and leaves an indelible mark on society. Her last piece of advice to all people, particularly young women, is to “lean in, take up space, honor your voice, and bring other women with you along the way.”

Empowering Tomorrow

Simone D. Ross’s journey is a beacon of resilience, advocacy, and empowerment, illuminating the path for future leaders. As her last piece of advice, she exhorted, “Lean in, take up space, honor your voice, and bring other women along the way.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

CU Denver

Business School

1475 Lawrence Street

Denver, CO 80202


CU in the City logo
%d bloggers like this: