By WeNews Staff
Monday, January 2, 2012
Profiles of seven outstanding women leaders dedicated to improving lives of women and girls: Carol Jenkins, Ida B. Wells Award, Elizabeth Colton, Pat Mitchell, Deborah Santana, Deborah Tolman, Beverly Willis, Monica Winsor
You'll find her on Facebook, or you can follow her on Twitter, check out her blog or wait patiently until her book is published on systemic gender and racial bias in media.
The founding president of the Women's Media Center, Carol Jenkins also serves as chair of the board of AMREF USA, an arm of the largest African health organization on the continent, leading its U.S. fundraising efforts to support programs focused on the health of African women and girls.
The ultimate media pro, Jenkins has been agitating throughout her 40-year media career for fair and equal treatment of women and people of color in story assignments, pay and the coverage of women's issues.
"I recently found a letter from 1970 from a news director that said it had come to his attention that I was attempting to organize the women in the newsroom and therefore I should feel free to leave at any time," Jenkins recalls with a laugh.
She hung in for a 28-year broadcast career that included working for WNBC, ABC, WOR and WNYW, an Emmy and such choice assignments as covering the national political conventions and the release of South African hero Nelson Mandela from prison.
During her first "retirement," she was an executive producer of Eve Ensler's documentary, "What I Want My Words to Do to You." Broadcast by PBS, and a Sundance award winner, the film is based on the writing workshops Ensler led for women in New York's maximum security prison. Jenkins also co-authored with her daughter Elizabeth G. Hines an award-winning biography of her uncle, "Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire."
Jenkins was then called out of retirement by Gloria Steinem, Robin Morgan and Jane Fonda when the three began to form what would become the Women's Media Center. At the end of a large meeting at Steinem's home, Jenkins was recruited to be the coordinator of the nascent organization "since she had some free time."
It was rough going at first. Many people thought that media advocacy for women was already being done, Jenkins recalls. But it wasn't. She demonstrated that no other progressive organization existed with a mission to monitor women's participation in media, to enhance their participation, to keep an eye on the stories produced and to comment on the sexism in those stories.
Money was raised, New York office space was donated and the Women's Media Center was born. She continues to serve on its board because so much work remains to be done, she says.
"It is astounding that in 2011 television network executives gave the green light to series about Playboy bunnies and sexy stewardesses. Both were cancelled because women said, 'We are not watching it.' But the fact that the series made it to prime time makes it clear that there are still lots of tone deaf executives in the media's C-suites," Jenkins says.
--By Rita Henley Jensen
As the founding president of the International Museum of Women (IMOW), women's advocate and philanthropist Elizabeth Colton has developed the organization into a groundbreaking social change museum that inspires global action and connects people across borders. It does this by amplifying the voices of women worldwide via online exhibitions, history, art and cultural programs that educate, generate conversation and build community.
"When my daughter was 4 years old, I set out to find a place where, as she grew older, she could connect with her identity, power and potential as a young woman, honoring both women's history and contemporary issues," Colton says.
She sent a letter to Gloria Steinem about this vision and received the response that no such place existed. So Colton set out to search for a place that had the potential to make this a reality.
In 1991, she joined the Women's Heritage Museum in Palo Alto, Calif., and became the board chair in 1993. Four years later, she initiated the transformation of the museum to become the International Museum of Women. She and other board members started a campaign asking 250 women and men to contribute $1,000 each to create the foundation for a museum with a much broader scope and mission.
During her 17 years as board chair, IMOW has presented four major global online exhibitions, boasting more than 2 million participants from over 200 countries. The museum has archived over 1,200 women's stories and provided nearly 300 opportunities to take action. IMOW has also organized three major exhibitions in the San Francisco Bay area and has an ongoing speaker series and numerous public events.
The next step for the museum is to focus on its 2012 exhibition "Mama: Motherhood Around the Globe," which explores how mothers worldwide experience motherhood and galvanizes audiences to take action to advance maternal health.
Colton hails from the quiet and comfortable neighborhood of Pelham, N.Y., but was brought up in the Southern tradition that she says "favored boys by encouraging and preparing them for employment."
A graduate of Florida State University, Colton is now a member of the advisory board of AUDACIA, a global forum for the education of every girl everywhere, Emily's List Majority Council, the International Women's Forum, Women Donors Network and Women Moving Millions.
Colton has stepped away from managing IMOW on a day-to-day basis, but is confident that the organization will continue to grow, inspire and make change. She remains a member of the museum's global council of international women leaders.
"I will remain a close advisor and aim to write about the history and development of the museum so that the legacy will continue," she says.
--By Victoria Fitzgerald
Pat Mitchell creates buzz wherever she goes and, dressed in a signature red suit and high heels, she gives off buzz too.
Since 2006, Mitchell has led the transformation of The Paley Center for Media in New York and Los Angeles from a sleepy museum of the golden years of radio and television to a hot spot for discussions, screenings and conferences. Fueled by her career-long commitment to engaging media's power to further empower women, she has created an unprecedented presence for women with a diverse series of initiatives called Women at Paley. It has included forums, a showcase of women who have helped shape the history of media and a current series of programs produced for PBS and hosted by Mitchell, called "She's Making Media."
Partnering with Springboard, Mitchell also offered the first venture capital forum for female media entrepreneurs and, with the Women's Media Center, programs to raise awareness of the underrepresentation and misrepresentation of women and girls in mainstream media.
Growing up in Georgia, when women had very few mentors, role models or opportunities, Mitchell's activism on behalf of women was formed early by her participation in the civil rights movement and the women's movement. With a master's degree from the University of Georgia, she taught college for a few years until recruited by Look magazine, which folded a year later. Unemployed, Mitchell successfully pitched a story to NBC's local station news desk, and an unexpected career in television followed.
In 1974, Mitchell created a history-making event for women--24 hours of television programs about women, for women, produced and hosted by women. In the mid-1980s, Mitchell became the first woman to nationally syndicate her own show, "Woman to Woman," which won an Emmy. For NBC's TODAY, she reported women's stories and produced documentaries like "Women in War" and "Century of Women." Mitchell also led Ted Turner's original production division, producing documentaries that won 34 Emmys and two Academy Award nominations. In 2000, Mitchell was named president and CEO of Public Broadcasting Service, the first woman and first producer to hold the position.
"I've strongly felt that media's responsibility is to not just be the mirror of society, but also to engage its power to fully inform as well as entertain, to inspire as well as influence. I consider it a privilege to use my position in media to ensure that the ideas and stories of women and girls are more fully and accurately represented," she says.
Mitchell, who has been on the 100 Most Powerful Women in Hollywood list and was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame, was named to Newsweek's 2011 list of 150 Women Who Shake the World.
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WeNews staff reporter