The GEO Awards recognition program aims to help companies improve and evolve their company’s share plans by bringing people together to share knowledge, tools and best practices.  

Through the GEO Awards applicants and winners, we hope to spotlight examples of the very best in share plan excellence to encourage companies around the world to continue raising the bar and share their innovations so that others may follow their example.

This year's winners were unveiled at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee, a fittingly opulent event held as part of GEO's 25th Anniversary conference.


The winners of the 2024 awards highlight the diversity and excellence within the industry.

They come from 16 companies of various sizes, ranging from small ones with 1,000 employees to large ones with over 1.5 million. These companies are based in eight different countries and work with 19 expert service providers.

These winners show that successful equity plans can thrive regardless of budget or location. Each one demonstrates the brilliance of the global share ownership industry.

Best in Financial Education

Best Plan Communication

Best Plan Effectiveness

Best Use of Employee Share Plans in an Emerging Market

Best Use of Technology

Most Creative Solution

Most Innovative Plan Design

GEO Pioneers

The Judges' Award

GEO Star Awards

The GEO Chapter Awards


The GEO Awards are rigorously assessed by a distinguished panel of industry leaders exclusively drawn from issuer companies or esteemed members of academia, all recognized as authorities within their respective domains.

In addition to meeting rigorous criteria about their experience, expertise, and accomplishments, each judge commits to devoting their valuable time to the thorough evaluation process.

GEO expresses heartfelt gratitude to this exceptional cohort of professionals for their unwavering dedication and invaluable contributions to this process.


"As Head Judge, I am privileged to lead the esteemed judging panel and participate in this enriching experience. The GEO Awards program plays a vital role in spotlighting innovative solutions to common issues, fostering unity and alignment among companies striving to overcome shared obstacles. It provides a valuable platform for networking, learning, and celebrating achievements as a community.

On behalf of GEO, I want to extend thanks to the judges for their time, expertise, and dedication throughout the judging process. Your contributions have ensured the integrity and fairness of our awards program. This year, we continue to uphold the rigorous standards of our evaluation process and while there are categories without award winners, this is a testament to the stringent criteria we apply.

We extend our gratitude to all organizations that submitted entries this year. Your tireless efforts to safeguard and enhance employees' equity-based rewards have surpassed expectations, reaffirming the exceptional standards of achievement prevalent throughout our industry.

The submissions we received exemplify the pinnacle of achievement in equity and executive compensation, showcasing companies that take pride in executing superior employee ownership strategies. These shining examples of excellence not only raise the profile of the companies involved but also serve as beacons of inspiration for others facing similar challenges worldwide.

Please join us in applauding the 2024 GEO Award winners and celebrating their outstanding contributions to employee ownership and equity compensation."

GEO Board Member
Vice President, Global Total Rewards, Gallagher (US)

Thomas J. Paleka, FGE

Vice President, Global Total Rewards Gallagher
United States

Tom Paleka joined Gallagher in September 2008 as Vice President of Global Compensation, a newly created role.  Promoted in 2016 to lead the global rewards function, he has overall responsibility for guiding the company’s equity, compensation, benefit, mobility and payroll organizations.  In 2018, he was named an officer of the company.  

He has been instrumental in designing the company’s short and long-term incentive plans, including securing shareholder approval of five equity plans. Other accomplishments include building a global team to centralize support of Total Rewards, automating many compensation and payroll processes, driving a global benefit philosophy, and integrating many acquisitions into Gallagher from a rewards perspective. 

Tom joined Gallagher from Tellabs, a telecommunications infrastructure manufacturer.  As Director of Global Compensation and Benefits, he was responsible for all broad-based and executive programs.  Prior to Tellabs, he had twenty years of extensive background in the telecommunications industry in sales compensation, direct sales, sales management, and sales operations.  

Tom has served on the GEO Board of Directors since 2017, and serves as Secretary of the Executive Committee, Chair of the Issuer Advisory Council, and as Lead Judge for the GEO Awards.  He also has been an active member of the Fidelity Stock Plan Services Client Advisory Board.  He has spoken at conferences for such organizations as GEO, NASPP, CEPI, Equilar, World at Work, and the Conference Board.  Tom has also been involved with Junior Achievement for nearly 40 years and has served on the Junior Achievement DuPage County Board of Directors for nearly 20 years.

Dr. Joseph R. Blasi

Beyster Professor of Employee Ownership Director, Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing
Rutgers University
United States

Joseph Blasi is a distinguished professor and sociologist at the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University where he teaches the undergraduate and graduate courses on corporate governance. He is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His work includes economic sociology, the social and economic history of the corporation, and public policy, particularly broad-based employee stock ownership, profit sharing, gain sharing, and stock options in corporations, in countries, in industries, for example, with a study of Silicon Valley, and in different historical periods of American history.

He has written 13 books including Employee Ownership (Harper and Row, 1988), The New Owners with D. Kruse (HarperCollins, 1991), Kremlin Capitalism with M. Kroumova and D. Kruse (Cornell University Press, 1996), A Working Nation with various co-authors (Russell Sage Foundation, 2000), In The Company of Owners with D. Kruse and A. Bernstein (Basic Books, 2003), and Shared Capitalism at Work with D. Kruse and R. Freeman (University of Chicago Press, 2010). His articles have appeared in the British Journal of Industrial Relations, Industrial Relations, and the Industrial and Labor Relations Review, among others.

Jules Shepherd, FGE

Director, Share Plans
The Sage Group plc

Over the past seven years as Share Plan Director at The Sage Group plc, I've spearheaded various initiatives to enhance our equity programs and administration. This includes overseeing the tendering and outsourcing of administration for all our plans, as well as successfully launching a global all-employee plan to 12,000 eligible colleagues spanning 19 countries. Notably, I played a pivotal role in supporting significant corporate transactions, such as the acquisition of a Silicon Valley tech company, which involved navigating a complex rollover of share options, earning Sage our inaugural GEO award.

More recently, our efforts in enhancing communication and financial education have been recognized with two additional awards, proudly showcased in our London office. Under my leadership, our discretionary awards have seen substantial growth in both size and complexity, now catering to over 800 colleagues across four plan types. In 2023, I orchestrated the successful launch of a 423 ESPP for our USA colleagues.

My dedication to advancing the field extends beyond my role at Sage. I am an active member of both Proshare and GEO, organizations I encouraged Sage to join. Additionally, I serve on the GEO Issuer Council and support the UK GEO chapter, regularly participating in meetings and contributing insights.

In recognition of my contributions, I was honored to be named a GEO Fellow in 2019 and achieved the ICSA Certificate in Share Plans with Distinction. Furthermore, I currently serve as Vice Chair of the Proshare Global Focus Group. My extensive network within the Share Plan community is evidenced by my regular appearances as a speaker at Proshare and GEO conferences, where I engage in panel discussions across various locations including the UK, USA, Berlin, and Amsterdam.

I remain an active member of the UK Share Plan User Group, where I collaborate with fellow Share Plan professionals from both FTSE and private companies, frequently hosting and attending meetings. My commitment to advancing the field of equity compensation remains unwavering, and I look forward to continuing to contribute to its growth and development.

Joanna Mak

Director, Reward, APAC & IMETA and Global Share Plans Lead
Brambles Limited

Joanna brings over 15 years of experience at Brambles Limited as an Issuer, coupled with 17 years of diverse Rewards expertise spanning both in-house and consulting roles. With a specialization in Executive Rewards and Equity, Joanna is a seasoned professional in remuneration and benefits management, international assignment management, and share plans.

Her track record includes delivering high-level analysis and strategic counsel to senior management, both as a corporate practitioner and a human resources management consultant. Joanna has demonstrated success in steering the development and implementation of complex initiatives, leveraging her strong leadership, teamwork, project management, and change management skills.

Known for her rapid adaptability and ability to thrive in diverse environments, Joanna has achieved professional and academic success across four continents. She possesses comprehensive knowledge of employment laws in Hong Kong and Australia, along with a working understanding of Indian and Chinese industrial relations practices and regulations.

Fluent in English, Cantonese, and Mandarin—both spoken and written—Joanna is equipped with the linguistic capabilities to navigate international business landscapes effectively. 




Sepehr Samari

Senior Manager
Microsoft Corporation
United States

Sepehr Samari is a Sr. Manager at Microsoft Corporation. In his role, Sepehr is responsible for the global compliance and mobility management of Microsoft’s broad-based equity compensation programs (stock options, RSUs, and ESPP) to over 220,000 employees in over 110 countries.

Prior to this, Sepehr was a Global Mobility Manager at Microsoft supporting end-to-end compliant mobility offerings and was responsible for managing global mobility policies. Prior to joining Microsoft, Sepehr was a Manager at PwC advising a portfolio of multi-national companies on tax and regulatory compliance issues related to equity compensation programs and mobile employees.

Sepehr has over 15 years of experience in equity compensation and global mobility. Sepehr received his B.S. in Business Administration from University of California, Berkeley, and his MBA and LLM from University of London. Sepehr is an Enrolled Agent (EA) and holds a Certified Equity Professional (CEP) designation.

Eaton Williams

Director, Executive Compensation and Equity

Eaton is a seasoned professional serving as the Director of Executive Compensation & Equity at Seagate. With more than ten years of dedicated experience in executive compensation and equity administration, Eaton has honed her expertise in this specialized field. She is recognized for her proficiency in data analytics, a skill she leverages to propel HR practices into the realm of data-driven decision-making.

Eaton holds a Master’s degree in Data Analytics, augmenting her educational background with an MBA and a CPA license. Her academic achievements reflect her commitment to staying abreast of industry trends and equipping herself with the necessary tools to excel in her role.

Beyond her professional pursuits, Eaton finds joy in outdoor adventures, particularly skiing. She embraces the thrill of exploring different destinations worldwide in search of pristine snowscapes, embodying her adventurous spirit and love for travel.


The GEO Awards recognize excellence in share ownership structures across ten distinct categories, highlighting the diverse ways in which companies can create effective share plans and drive employee engagement.


GEO’s Excellence thought leadership program offers a unique way to learn from the best and gain insights into the best practices and strategies that drive successful share plan implementation.


Attend GEO's Annual Conference or purchase seats at the GEO Awards gala. The black-tie evening with industry leaders is your chance celebrate success in our industry.