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21 Leaders 2012 - Seven Who Catalyze Culture

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

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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



Carol Jenkins: Multi-Media Agitator Against Bias
Ida B. Wells Award for Bravery in Journalism

Carol Jenkins

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.

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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

Elizabeth Colton: Developer of Interactive Global Museum

Elizabeth Colton

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: Celebrator of New Narratives

Pat Mitchell

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.

 

In 2010, Mitchell partnered with the TED, the premiere global conference and online organization, to curate the first ever TEDWomen in Washington, DC, followed this year by TEDXWomen which was convened at the Paley Centers in New York and Los Angeles and connected live to 117 TEDxs worldwide. The TEDTalks from these two conferences have been viewed more than 10 million times, spreading  the stories, ideas and innovations of women and girls.

 

"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.

--Stephanie Yacenda

Deborah Santana: Journeyer to New Spaces

Deborah Santana

Deborah Santana has just returned from Kenya, where she narrated and co-produced the award-winning documentary, "Girls of Daraja," celebrating an all-girls secondary school in East Africa.

The boarding school accepts Kenyan girls with top academic scores and exceptional leadership skills but no means to continue their education. The academy provides shelter, food, health care and counseling services, which allows students to focus on their academic and personal potential without being hindered by the everyday barriers of poverty.

"I will continue to visit the school because when I meet people who inspire me, they fill me with positive energy to go out and change the world," she says.

Santana is founder of Do a Little, a nonprofit donor-advised fund that serves the needs of women in health, education and happiness. Founded in 2008, the inspiration for Do a Little came from her travels.

"So many people are completely disempowered around the world and in America. My mission is for women. Women are still marginalized. I believe that women should be leaders; women need more power, education and access to health and reproductive care," Santana says.

In 2005, she published her memoir, "Space Between The Stars: My Journey to an Open Heart." For Santana, her writing and spirituality keep her closely intertwined with her work on behalf of women.

"Writing my memoir gave me strength to be who I am in my fullest. If we can all live who we are to the fullest and we can feel whatever it is calling us to be passionate about life, then we can create the change we need to make the world a better place," she says.

Santana's progressive upbringing and home environment helped inform her gender lens.

"My mother worked my whole life and it was my father who stayed at home with two girls, which was very unusual at the time," she says. "My father was African American and my mother Irish English, so I grew up in a household with tremendous power and feminism without even labeling it. I was not only a woman, but a biracial woman."

In addition to "Girls of Daraja," Santana has produced "Road to Ingwavuma," which chronicles a seven-day trip of artists exploring South Africa's triumphs and struggles after the fall of apartheid.

To Santana, her writing, her philanthropy and her filmmaking are equal components of her work towards a peaceful and just world.

--By Stephanie Yacenda

Deborah Tolman: Spark for Teen Media Activists

Deborah Tolman

Deborah Tolman has devoted her academic career to research and writing about the way in which society understands, views and responds to women's sexuality, particularly teens.

A professor of social welfare and psychology at Hunter College and The Graduate Center at CUNY, Tolman is also an activist. She is a co-founder of SPARK, a girl-fueled movement against the sexualization and objectification of women and girls in the media.

"I grew up before Title IX and did not know that I could be as strong with my body as I was with my mind. As an adult, I stumbled into body competence by accident and have been pursuing it, along with my emotional and intellectual growth, ever since," she wrote in a SPARK blog. "I love feeling as strong in my body as I do in my mind."

She added that she is dedicated to girls knowing--no matter what media or other people tell them--that their bodies are first and foremost theirs, that they are entitled to their own thoughts, feelings, desires and emotions, and they are fabulous.

"Every time I interview someone and hear their outrage at the inequality that they feel or their disassociation from their own bodies, I am saddened. This is not something I hear occasionally; it is constant," she says.

Growing up in Massachusetts, Tolman remembers: "I was always aware of the disparity between boys' and girls' sexuality and the ways people reacted. I kept thinking that it wasn't fair. I began asking questions and I wasn't going to stop until I had answers."

She received her doctorate in applied developmental psychology from Harvard's Graduate School of Education. From there she went on to be the founding director of the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality at San Francisco State University. Tolman has also served as senior research scientist and associate director of the Center for Research on Women at Wellesley College.

Her current research includes longitudinal studies of the impact of television's sexual content on adolescents and a development study of gender, relationships and sexuality. The second study focuses on how messages about masculinity and femininity affect boys' and girls' abilities to pursue healthy relationships.

Her book on adolescent girls' sexuality, "Dilemmas of Desire: Teenage Girls Talk about Sexuality," was awarded the 2003 Distinguished Book Award from the Association for Women in Psychology.

"We need to change the way we think and talk about young people and try to expose and refuse the moral panic and anxiety that surrounds them, as well as our compulsion to control and contain them," she says.

-- By Victoria Fitzgerald

Beverly Willis: Forewoman of New Culture in Architecture

Beverly Willis

Beverly Willis is a fearless and irreplaceable advocate for the contribution of women to the built environment. To ensure that the legacy of women in architecture lives on, she founded the nonprofit organization the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation (BWAF) in 2002, and embarked upon a journey to push the boundaries of the "male dominated, macho culture of the building industry" and support the rise of female executives in the world of architecture.

After over 30 years of leading her own architecture and development firm, Willis had an epiphany: "I looked around and realized that women architects were not in the history books. That meant my legacy, like those before me, would be lost upon my death."

In 10 years, BWAF has grown from providing a grant program for individuals and national organizations doing research to delivering numerous core programs about women in architecture, including education, research and outreach.

BWAF has also collaborated on projects with major exhibitors, including the Museum of Modern Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the National Building Museum. It works with several member organizations as well, including Professional Women in Construction, the Society of Architectural Historians and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture.

Willis grew up in the oil fields of Texas and Oklahoma amidst the oil boom of the 1920s.

"Oil derricks were my backyard swings and I loved climbing them," she says.

She learned to pilot an airplane at the age of 15 and, with basic know-how about the workings of motors, Willis set off to Oregon State University to study aeronautical engineering. She later transferred to the University of Hawaii and switched to art.

While in charge of a design project for the military in Hawaii, Willis annoyed an architect by giving him instructions and he snarled, "If you think that you are so smart, why don't you become an architect?" She knew a good idea when she heard it, and shortly after took the five-day exam and passed, becoming a licensed architect.

Willis is the winner of numerous design and leadership awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from Professional Women in Construction in 2011 and Top Women in Real Estate from NY Residential Magazine in 2010. Willis is also a founding trustee of the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., and a leader of the BWAF Industry Leaders Roundtable, a group of the world's largest engineering and architecture firms.

Her future goal is to help the foundation change the patriarchal culture of the design and building industry to one that values a woman's vision, and her thoughts and work. Meeting this challenge, she says, will take a continuing and collaborative effort from all women and men alike.

--By Victoria Fitzgerald

Monica Winsor: Instructor in Giving

Monica Winsor

For Monica Winsor, philanthropy is a bit like yoga: stretching oneself to find balance and to be in touch with one's authentic self. The certified yoga instructor is a founding vice chair of Women Moving Million, a loose-knit organization of women who have each agreed to channel a $1 million donation to nonprofits dedicated to improving women's lives and to encourage others to do the same. To date, more than 180 women have made the pledge.

The founder of her own consulting company to assist philanthropists as they make their decisions where to invest, she "has that conversation" with donors in her professional life, as well as her volunteer work with women of means, about what touches them deeply and to lead them through their "own personal inquiry." The desired result, Winsor says, validates the values of the donor and assists them in supporting what feels "authentic and important to them."

For Winsor, that has meant donating to and raising money for women and girls. Her commitment began as a volunteer at a domestic violence shelter while she was a student at Brown University taking women's studies courses. After college, she worked in Kenya with FXB International, a Geneva-based organization that equips individuals with training and resources so they can achieve lasting self-sufficiency and stability. There, she learned the value of "practical" philanthropy, but also further appreciation for the importance of women's well-being to communities.

At the same time, she became a trustee of two family foundations and within several years, the single mother of two daughters. But Winsor knew she wanted to go her own way as a philanthropist, even though supporting organizations focused on helping women and girls had not been a part of the family's giving history.

In 2008, she found herself at a gathering for women of wealth, sitting between Gloria Steinem and feminist philanthropist Helen LaKelly Hunt. The purpose was to begin what has become Women Moving Millions. Winsor signed on quickly.

Her work encouraging more women to make the commitment permits her to continuously practice her personal values of fairness, effectiveness and social justice. She also believes that the structure of women's organizations often reflects their values and tends to be less hierarchical and more collaborative.

"I like bringing voices in from the margin," Winsor says.

--By Rita Henley Jensen

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