"We all know Pamela as the person who takes care of the homeless," Hillis said. "But I think what's important, in the context of the Athena award, is that she was a corporate woman who took a personal mission and really influenced the corporate world. She's made a huge difference, and will continue to."
Atkinson hesitates, slightly, before talking about being a "role model."
"It's been very enjoyable to mentor young women in business and watch them progress over the years," she said. "That has given me great joy.
"My role in business has been one of the most exciting in my life. I've learned so much from others I've had both male and female mentors. But, I also have to admit that I've learned some of the most important lessons in life from those who have reported to me."
In her 19 years in Utah, Atkinson said she's seen the community grow and progress, perhaps slowly in some areas. She maintains that women in business still "have a way to go."
But, she said, "I think we're learning what we've got to do to succeed."
"What I'm seeing here in Utah is that women are being promoted and appointed to positions not because of their gender but because they're the best possible candidate for their position," Atkinson said. "I think that as more men and women learn the differences in management styles the left brain and the right brain, if you will I believe there will be more respect for the other. I think we're all changing."
But that doesn't mean we're there yet, she said, and Atkinson isn't about to stop. She'll keep stepping up, and asking the same of business."Businesses in Utah have even more potential to affect people's lives," she said. "They've done a really great job, but I know that there's even more that, if we all work together, can be accomplished to improve the quality of life for everyone."