Becomes First Black Woman at the Helm of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
Allyson Browne McKithen recently broke a formidable glass ceiling after becoming the first African-American woman to lead the World Trade Center Washington, DC (WTCDC) as executive director and vice president of International Programs at Trade Center Management Associates (TCMA), the exclusive manager of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center (RRB/ITC). And while she recognizes the significance of her appointment and welcomes the challenges ahead, she credits her family for instilling the kinds of values which include an appreciation of “all things diverse” during her formative years that led her on the road to success.
“My sisters and I have been blessed with a wonderful family – a blend of Blacks born in the U.S. and those from the West Indies whose common threads included strong, hard-working women and men who held progressive views in terms of women’s roles long before such ideas were in vogue,” said McKithen who grew up in a multiracial and multicultural community in New York. “We learned the value of compassion, social responsibility and community engagement by watching members of our family who were social workers, ministers and leaders in the Civil Rights Movement,” she said.
McKithen joined the WTCDC team in 2011 and most recently held the position of associate director. During that time, she served as an integral force in the Center’s growth, developing new partnerships and programming, including being the creator of Winternational – an Annual Embassy Showcase that bridged the D.C. community with diplomatic organizations. The uniquely D.C. experience attracted more than 90 embassy participants, hundreds of fifth and sixth graders from D.C. Public Schools and thousands of others over the event’s 10-year evolution. “I’m proud to say that Winternational was my brainchild that provided a unique opportunity for people from a host of countries and cultures to gather under one roof where they shared their stories,” McKithen said. She added, “As for the children, mostly minority youth, who participated and whose classrooms were adopted by a diverse group of foreign diplomats, they began to see themselves in a very different light.”
Poised and Ready for the Job Ahead
In her new position, McKithen will guide the global mission of WTCDC by leading international trade missions, fostering diplomatic relations, developing international and cultural programming, supporting international business development initiatives and leading strategic partnerships with both private sector entities, NGOs and U.S. and foreign government agencies. In addition, she will oversee the Congressional mandate of the RRB/ITC, positioning the landmark building as Washington’s premier location for convening global events, including international trade conferences, cultural festivals and expos, diplomatic delegations and national day celebrations for various countries.
John P. Drew, president/CEO of TCMA and president of the Drew Company, shared his excitement over McKithen’s appointment in her new role. “We are pleased to see Allyson, [who] has exhibited exceptional leadership, event management and diplomacy, day in and day out, step into this pivotal role. Her passion, skills and experience will, no doubt, advance WTCDC and lead to new and exciting business opportunities under her direction.”
Lastly, McKithen acknowledged the buzz that has arisen because of her being the first African-American woman to take over as executive director. However, she pointed to diversity as the real strength of her team and the organization. “Working with the international community gives us the opportunity to explore and create unique events and to partner with a variety of interesting organizations,” she said. “But my success rests on the multiplicity of skills and perspectives that my team represents – a diverse pool of citizens from around the nation and the world.”
I simply plan to continue what we’ve been doing for the last 25 years – welcoming the global community to D.C. and to our doors.” “I am deeply honored to join the dynamic group of executives at TCMA and look forward to welcoming new partners and programs which support cultural diversity, global business and further the trade mission of the RRB/ITC,” she concluded.
Through the World Trade Centers Association, WTCDC utilizes a global network of 750,000 affiliated businesses from 300 trade centers in over 100 countries to maximize its connections and capabilities. With this extended network, WTCDC works diligently to ensure the RRB/ITC offers a rich mix of signature events such as high-profile economic summits, conferences and cultural programs. These initiatives foster international dialogue, enhance diplomacy and generate business opportunities. For more information, visit