Career ladder: "I have been involved in Carhartt since the 1960s. (Her grandfather Hamilton Carhartt founded the company and her son, Mark, is president and chairman.) I started my involvement with Mack Avenue Records before my husband, Robert, died in 1998. I was a traditional mother to my children, but as the main stockholder at Carhartt, I was always involved in major decision-making there." She is 90.
Power metrics: "After founding Mack Avenue Records, I wanted to feature some of the Mack Avenue artists. In 2003, Mack Avenue participated in the Detroit Jazz Festival. After a few years of working with the Detroit Jazz Festival producer, Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, I decided in 2006 I wanted to start a foundation, the Gretchen C. Valade Endowment for the Arts, to support the festival. I am chair of the organization." Valade recently purchased a block on Kercheval Avenue in Grosse Pointe Farms' Hill neighborhood. She has no immediate plans for it. In 2015, she donated $7.5 million to Wayne State University to create the Gretchen Valade Jazz Center, which will operate out of Hilberry Theatre. She received the Max M. Fisher award for outstanding philanthropist in 2007 and donated $15 million to the Detroit Jazz Festival endowment. "When the jazz festival was about to fail, I didn't want Detroit to get another black eye. I wanted to help the community. It couldn't handle another failure."
Super power: "I'm a good listener and I have vision (when it comes to starting things). All of my entities have the same model. I believe in elevating the (jazz) artist and respecting them and making sure they get paid. This has been in my core since starting Mack Avenue Records."
Board/community connections: The Parade Co. and Music Hall boards. Former chairman of the Carhartt board, now a member; Mack Avenue Records, chairman; also helps support the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation in Florida, and St. John Providence Hospital in Detroit.
Power lesson: "I'm most passionate about jazz artists. I still think about the way they were treated for years. They could play their hearts out, but they couldn't get a room to sleep. They were sleeping in their cars."
Surprising facts: "My love for dogs. I have three; two are rescue. The name of my jazz club, Dirty Dog Jazz Café, reflects my love for dogs. Some might be surprised I spend five nights a week listening to music at my club. I feel at home sitting surrounded by musicians and those who are part of this place." Valade also owns Sweet Melissa's Cafe on Sanibel Island, Fla.
Changes you have seen in how women wield power in Michigan or in your industry over the past 10 years: "Women do a lot better now. They can speak up without getting nasty."
Jennette SmithHere's how we produced this special section.
Jennette SmithWe view all of our honorees over the years as part of a "legacy list," some of whom should be considered as prospects for corporate and nonprofit board service.
Vickie ElmerNot that they have a lot of free time, but when they do, here's how the 100 Most Influential Women fill it.
Sherri WelchThe new study by Grand Valley State University of Fortune 500 boards shows a correlation between board diversity and healthier profits, and Michigan companies have ample opportunity to improve board diversity, the study's co-author says.
Jennette SmithI've been living and breathing this project for months and got by with a little help from my friends in the newsroom and at companies across the state.
Mary KramerThat's why Crain's Detroit Business has joined with the Michigan Women's Commission and Deloitte, among others, to create a path to help more companies find talent for their boards.
Crain's Detroit BusinessIn an effort to boost women's representation on for-profit corporate boards, Crain's Detroit Business on Tuesday night launched the Michigan Women's Directory. The launch coincided with the 100 Most Influential Women in Michigan recognition event that was attended by about 700 people.