MJ Tocci, principal of Trial Run Inc. and the co-founder and director of a new academy at Carnegie Mellon University designed to enhance women’s negotiation skills – the first program of its kind in the country – received the 2011 Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Award on Monday, Sept. 19 in front of a record-breaking crowd of 900-plus at the Westin Convention Center Hotel, Downtown.

Also recognized was Jennifer L. Cairns, recipient of the new ATHENA Young Professional Award for women leaders age 35 and younger. Cairns is just the second woman to become a partner at McGuire Woods’ Pittsburgh office, where she specializes in litigation and risk management in the pharmaceutical industry. (Scroll down to see our Flickr gallery of images from the event, as well as a link to a third video of nominees.)

“It’s a privilege to recognize – for 21 years now – the professional and personal accomplishments and the service of extraordinary Pittsburgh women,” said Barbara A. McNees, president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, an affiliate of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, which organizes the annual ceremony.

Named after the Greek goddess of strength and wisdom, the ATHENA award is unique among other regional honors for women in business because of its focus on developing the next generation of women leaders through mentorship.

As a principal at Trial Run, Inc., Tocci coaches attorneys on effective communication, litigation skills, persuasion and negotiations.  Her clients range from the U.S. Navy to international law firms, government agencies and businesses  Additionally, she is the founder of Fulcrum Advisors, which helps organizations recruit, retain and promote talented women. Tocci, and Dr. Linda Babcock are building the Women’s Negotiation Academy at Carnegie Mellon University under PROGRESS. PROGRESS, on whose advisory board MJ serves, empowers women and girls to negotiate for what they want, need and deserve.

MJ Tocci (left), Jennifer Cairns

Cairns is a founding member of McGuire Woods’ Women’s Leadership Initiative, which provides professional development for women in the firm and opportunities for philanthropic giving. Cairns has mentored students through Duquesne University’s CLAAY program, and is active with the Girl Scouts, Dress for Success and the Special Olympics. She also plays defensive back with the Pittsburgh Passion, a full-contact football franchise that’s part of a 62-team North American league.

“Our population is not only growing in size, but it’s growing younger as more 20- and 30-year-olds choose to live and work here,” said Maris Bondi, chair of the 2011 ATHENA Award Host Committee. “Pittsburgh is attracting and retaining younger talent.  It’s a place with a future for individuals who will be tomorrow’s changemakers and leaders.”

The Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Award Luncheon maintains its standing as one of the largest stand-alone events of its kind among some 500 presented annually across the globe in affiliation with ATHENA International. Check out the videos above of the awards recipients, and click here to watch a video of the six ATHENA Award finalists, who include Susan Baker Shipley, Kathleen Hower, Sister Fidelis McDonough, Brenda Tate and Kim Tillotson Fleming. You can also check out our Flickr photo gallery, below.