Women Who Lead 2023: Meet the Coachella Valley’s High Achievers

Confident and driven, the 2023 Women Who Lead honorees know how to meet the moment.

Jessica Ritz Arts & Entertainment, Vision

Jessica Campbell, assistant coach of the Coachella Valley Firebirds.

The Coachella Valley is a place of ambition, determination, and achievement, where community-minded compassion and commitment — to the land, to local progress, to the general well-being of the population —  empowers its residents to thrive.

Each year, Palm Springs Life recognizes women in the Coachella Valley who have excelled as role models in business and in life. These women create platforms to uplift others around them. They imagine new ideas and innovate solutions. They inspire young people and prove that perseverance gives rise to great possibility.

This year’s Women Who Lead honorees, determined by a Palm Springs Life selection committee, embody these characteristics and more. They will be fêted at a luncheon May 25 at The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage, featuring International Air & Space Hall of Fame inductee Tammie Jo Shults as keynote speaker.

Honorees were selected in four categories: Rising Star, Nonprofit Leader, Outstanding Achievement, and Business Leader. Ranging from senior executives to entrepreneurs to nonprofit founders, these remarkable women drive us to dream big, grow stronger, and give back. For more information about Women Who Lead — presented by SBEMP Attorneys, sponsored by Raymond James, and benefiting the Palm Springs Air Museum and Young Science Professional Scholarship Fund — palmspringslife.com/women-who-lead.


Assistant Coach, Coachella Valley Firebirds

Jessica Campbell’s path has been anything but predictable. “To be honest, if someone would have told me even a year ago that I would be coaching in Palm Desert, I don’t know if I would have believed them,” she says.

Not only is the assistant coach of the Coachella Valley Firebirds hockey team living and working in a climate that starkly contrasts her native Canada, she’s also blazing a trail as the first female assistant coach hired by an American Hockey League or National Hockey League franchise.

“For me, growing up in a small town in Saskatchewan, where we play[ed] hockey on a freezing pond until you couldn’t feel your toes and fingers anymore, I don’t know if you can really have bad days,” she says, referring to life in the desert, where she relocated for the job in 2022. Campbell transitioned from playing to coaching about five years ago; she worked in Sweden and Germany before the NHL’s Seattle Kraken, an expansion team and Firebirds affiliate, enlisted her.

“It’s been so well received, and the community has been unbelievable,” she says of her inaugural AHL season with the Firebirds. “Everybody’s been ‘all hands on deck to make a successful winning culture and team.”

Nonprofit Leader
Jane Garrison

Founder and executive director, Oswit Land Trust

A capable visionary rising to the call of an urgent cause is a special form of kismet. Without any expertise in real estate, urban planning, or habitat protection, Jane Garrison was compelled into action when potential development in South Palm Springs threatened the pristine Oswit Canyon.

The Palm Springs resident’s background as an entrepreneur, elephant protection specialist, and emergency animal rescue expert prepared her for the formidable challenge. “I started organizing the same way I would have organized had it been a disaster,” Garrison recalls.


Her Save Oswit Canyon initiative resulted in the October 2020 purchase of 114 ecologically sensitive acres that are forever protected. “It doesn’t take long to drive around and see that open space is rapidly declining,” she says. “When it’s gone, it’s gone forever.”

The organization that has evolved into Oswit Land Trust has since acquired three more important and vulnerable properties that it now manages with the help of more than 200 volunteers. “This is definitely a community effort,” Garrison says. “I feel like I’m a conductor, making sure that all the different instruments are functioning and being played to the best of their ability.”


Founder and president, Kay Hazen and Company

Kay Hazen doesn’t bat an eye at controversy. The Midwest native, who moved to the Coachella Valley in 1986, has served governmental agencies and academic institutions, steered strategy for large-scale public and private projects, and developed major initiatives to raise funds for important causes.

“I was raised in a volunteer household,” she says, “so it’s part of my DNA.”

Hazen worked in healthcare administration at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs for seven years, then applied and expanded her expertise in public and government affairs at Mine Reclamation Corporation. In 2000, she established her eponymous communications and public affairs consulting firm. Along the way, Hazen’s civic commitment grew. She was a founder of Friends of the Desert Mountains and has held leadership roles at Desert Healthcare District, Coachella Valley Economic Partnership, Palm Springs International Film Festival, American Heart Association Desert Division, and the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce.

“The desert is unique in so many ways,” Hazen observes. “It’s a land of highs and lows, and the issues and the opportunities are also extreme.” She makes it her mission to seek out the extremes — to make sense of complex situations, identify what needs to be done, and shape actionable plans for her clients to achieve their goals and, ultimately, celebrate the outcomes.


COO, Fidelis Health Group
Founder, HR Advantage

A self-described ranch girl who grew up in La Quinta, Norma Castañeda has built a career that’s taken her around the world while allowing her to stay close to her Coachella Valley roots. “We were always very involved in our community,” the business development consultant and operations strategist says of her local upbringing.

After earning an MBA at the University of La Verne, Castañeda served in human resources management at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, where she created an ambitious employee training and education program, offering English language classes and other growth opportunities. Her next position, at a healthcare company, required extensive travel — domestic and throughout Japan — while she was raising three children in the desert.


“I’m an entrepreneur at heart,” Castañeda says of her résumé, which now includes 
chief operating officer of Fidelis Health Group and founder of HR Advantage consultant firm. She also serves on the College of the Desert Foundation board of directors.

A human-centric, compassionate ethos guides her approach to leadership and company culture. “When you start empowering and believing in people, and letting them make mistakes, people get on a trajectory,” Castañeda says. “They really flourish in that type of environment.”


Tammie Jo Shults, who served from 1985 to 2001, stands in front of an F/A-18 in her fleet squadron VAQ-34.

Keynote Speaker


A boundary-breaking, decadeslong career in aviation propelled Tammie Jo Shults to great heights. But much of her earned wisdom traces back to growing up on her family’s ranch in New Mexico.

Her parents entrusted their children with not only responsibility, but authority. “I knew where to go and be helpful,” Shults says. “Information is powerful.” On the ranch, ability was more important than gender. This value kept Shults focused when she entered the United States Navy and was among the first female fighter pilots to fly an F/A-18 Hornet aircraft.

Later, as a commercial pilot for Southwest Airlines, Shults experienced the unimaginable when an engine exploded, and she was forced to land a Boeing 737 with five crew members and 144 passengers on board. She shares her story in a 2019 memoir, Nerves of Steel, and in Women in Aviation, a new documentary produced by the Palm Springs Air Museum, available for streaming on YouTube.

As a leader who values insight over overt advice, Shults, who is retired but remains active as a volunteer for various aviation organizations, understands firsthand how collaboration and support elevate all pursuits. “Even if you’re in a single-seat fighter, you are not in a solo sport,” she observes. “The most powerful aircraft in the world fly in formation. They don’t do missions alone.”