Posts Tagged ‘Women of Distinction’

reshma_saujaniReshma Saujani was born in the United States to Ugandan refugee parents fleeing Idi Amin’s violent dictatorship. Her parents’ experiences in Uganda triggered a personal concern in Saujani for the welfare of Americans; she wanted to ensure that citizens had a political voice as well as economic opportunities. And that’s just what she did!

Saujani is a former deputy public advocate for New York City and the former executive director of the Fund for Public Advocacy. During her time in public office she promoted civic engagement and government accountability. By taking the lead on projects that aimed to increase citywide job and economic growth, engaging with immigrant communities, supporting small businesses, and improving education. Saujani made sure she could improve the quality of life for New Yorkers.

But Saujani also takes the time to empower girls through Girls Who Code, a nonprofit she founded with the mission to educate, inspire, and equip girls ages 13–18 with the skills and resources necessary to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Her organization works to fill the gender gap within the STEM fields and give girls the courage and support to take on these areas where they are often discouraged.

Saujani is a woman who cannot be stopped: a public servant, a leader, a role model, and an inspiration. She has given back to her community and leads with a vision that is bigger than herself. Her investment in bettering the lives of girls by encouraging them that they can do whatever they set their minds to pushes me to do more too. Saujani’s actions demonstrate what a leader should be. She leads for others. She leads selflessly and with passion.

With her upcoming book, Women Who Don’t Wait in Line, she advocates for women to support each other and step outside of boundaries that society has deemed normal for women. I am extremely excited to meet her at this year’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL). I look forward to listening to her empowering words and learning about her journey. I look up to Saujani, and she encourages me to move forward without fear of failure and to embrace and support other women around me. She is indeed a motivator.

Meet Saujani, a 2013 Woman of Distinction, at NCCWSL 2013! What will you be eager to ask her?

Editors’ note: In an earlier version, we erroneously stated that Saujani was herself a refugee from Uganda. In fact, she is the daughter of political refugees and was born in the United States.

This post was written by AAUW Leadership Programs Intern Nzinga Shury.

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We are thrilled to honor Donna Shalala — a teacher, scholar, and leader — as a Woman of Distinction for the 2013 National Conference for College Women Student Leaders. Her dedication and accomplishments will truly inspire anyone. Like our previous honorees, Shalala continues to make strides to better her community. Because she steps outside of the box and juggles multiple roles simultaneously, Shalala has gone above and beyond to effect change for women and girls.

Shalala currently serves as president of the University of Miami. This is an extraordinary accomplishment at a time when women make up just 23 percent of college and university presidents in the United States. She is also director of Mednax, a national health care delivery group. At the University of Miami, Shalala has led the effort to raise $1.4 billion in private support for the university’s academic and research programs.

Aside from her academic accomplishments, Shalala has been a huge figure in public service. In 1962, she served as one of the first Peace Corps volunteers in Iran. She was assistant secretary for policy development and research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Carter administration and was appointed secretary of health and human services under President Bill Clinton. In 2008, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. Shalala has received numerous other awards and also served under President George W. Bush.

Shalala’s accomplishments encourage me to continue reaching for my goals no matter what. Her achievements in education exemplify hard work at its finest, as does her commitment to giving back to the community. Her work gives me courage in a society where women may not be equally represented but where barriers can be broken.

I am truly excited that Shalala has been chosen as our first Woman of Distinction and even more excited to hear her speak at NCCWSL 2013! I look forward to asking her about how she dealt with adversity and her methods of overcoming challenges. I know her words will help us to transform our women students into better campus leaders.

Will you be there to meet Donna Shalala?

This post was written by AAUW Leadership Programs Intern Nzinga Shury.

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The AAUW Action Fund’s It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard voter education and turnout campaign represents an unprecedented investment in making women’s voices heard in the 2012 election. Follow us on Twitter and on Tumblr for the latest updates, and check out our biweekly Campaign Update for news, resources, and ideas.

New Yorker cartoonist Liza Donnelly gets (momentarily) serious in a new It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard pep talk. Addressing young women in particular, the 2012 NCCWSL Woman of Distinction talks about why she is so passionate about voting:

I have a lot of friends who are cartoonists who live around the world. And some of them live in countries where they do not have the right to vote and do not have the right to express themselves the way they want to.

I can. I live in America. I can draw what I want. I can think what I want. I can write what I want, and nobody’s going to throw me in jail, or smash my hands, or kill me.

Some of these cartoonists don’t have that right. They can’t vote, for one thing, and they can’t even express what they want to express.

So I’m here to tell you how important it is that you use your vote to express yourself. I’m going to go to the poll in November, and I’m going to vote, and then I’m going to come home, and I’m going to draw whatever I want to draw because I can do that. I have the freedom to in this country. So don’t abuse that, and use your right to vote.

At the end of her pep talk, Donnelly whips out her pen and draws a cartoon just for voters. Watch and share!

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On Thursday night, nearly 600 college women sat quietly in their seats, staring up at a stage where six amazing women gathered.

The 2012 Women of Distinction Award Recipients (left to right): Michel Martin, Liza Donnelly, Noorjahan Akbar, Alison Cohen, and Maggie Williams.

It was the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) Women of Distinction Awards ceremony. The women on the stage — NPR host Michel Martin, women’s activist Noorjahan Akbar, cartoonist Liza Donnelly, bike share entrepreneur Alison Cohen, political phenom Maggie Williams, and birth control advocate Sandra Fluke — have already made extraordinary contributions to their professions or communities. We in the audience were hoping to follow in the awardees’ footsteps.

Thankfully, we — the (mostly) young and inexperienced but eager — were about to get a little advice. While all the speeches were inspiring, the messages went well beyond the typical ideas of hard work and perseverance.

Donnelly, who has broken great barriers for women as a New Yorker cartoonist and comedian, described how she learned from an early age to be submissive. Her spunky sister often got in trouble for challenging authority, so Donnelly learned that it was wrong to do that. But comedy is all about challenging the rules, she said, so her advice was to take risks, never give up, and speak out.

If Fluke, then a Georgetown law student, had not challenged the chair of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee — who wouldn’t allow her to testify on a panel about the need for access to birth control — she would not have become the face of a national movement. But Fluke said that eventually testifying in front of Congress was an opportunity she received only because of her extraordinary education. And she was not the only woman who spoke about the privilege that education affords us.

If Akbar, who is in her early 20s, had not had the opportunity to get an education, which few women in Afghanistan do, she might never have been up on that stage. She also would not have founded Young Women for Change, a nonprofit that is committed to empowering Afghan women.

Hearing these women speak, I was reminded of how lucky I and the other women in the room are to have our education. As a kid, I joined every club and sport possible, and I used those experiences in my college applications. After I graduated from high school, my parents generously paid my way to the University of Maryland, College Park. Throughout my time there, I had endless support from my family and friends. They trusted my decisions and were excited for my future.

Now I’m in “the future.” I’m a year out of college, and I’m doing work that I really love with the American Association of University Women (AAUW). For the first time in my life, I finally have an answer when people ask me what I want to do. I used to tell people what I thought they wanted to hear or something unrealistic because I had no idea how I would pursue such a goal. But now I know I want to make a difference.

And I realize, thanks to the 2012 NCCWSL Women of Distinction, that my experience has to inform my understanding of the struggles of others. We’ve all dealt with internal struggles that made our experiences our own and maybe a few that stumped us at times. But we can look to the opportunities we have today for reassurance. We, as a gathering of college women, must take the responsibility that comes with our education and use it to help people. We are the voice of those who don’t and won’t have the opportunity to change reality like we can.

That’s what we, the women in the audience, learned. And that’s what we need to do to become the women on the stage.


This post was written by AAUW Communications and Marketing Intern Marie Lindberg.

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The 2012 National Conference for College Women Student Leaders is coming! In fact, it starts today. Are you prepared?

I started to panic the other day when I realized that NCCWSL will be the largest conference I’ve been to. I have never gathered with so many women leaders at one time! How can I make the most of this experience? AAUW National Student Advisory Council members are attending NCCWSL as volunteer leaders, and they provided some great tips for how to maximize your time at this one-of-a-kind conference.

Be open.

At NCCWSL, you will be surrounded by more than 550 women student leaders from all walks of life. Being yourself and being open to learning different things, meeting new people, and absorbing new ideas will help you make the most of this experience. Networking is a key benefit of gathering at NCCWSL, so be willing to open up and make connections with people. You never know what someone has to offer you or what you can offer her!

Be smart and selective.

Think carefully about which workshops you attend — choose the ones that best match your leadership skills. Be ready to network with the other participants and the speakers in the workshops, and follow up with them afterward. Do the workshops that you want to attend overlap? Talk with your fellow participants or other students from your school who make it to different sessions, and share what you learned with each other.

Do your research.

During our keynote speakers’ presentations and the Women of Distinction Awards ceremony, you will hear inspiring stories of how these women became the leaders they are today. Do your research on the speakers before the conference so that you know what you want to ask them when you have the opportunity to meet them in person. And find out what to bring and how to prepare by reading the NCCWSL Frequently Asked Questions.

These are just a few tips for a how to have a successful NCCWSL experience. If you’ve been to NCCSWL before, what suggestions do you have for 2012 attendees?

This post was written by AAUW Leadership Programs Intern Nzinga Shury.

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Registration for the 2012 National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) sold out in record time! But we still have tickets available for the Women of Distinction Awards ceremony, which is held the first night of the conference. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased by calling 800/326-2289. Don’t miss your chance to meet this year’s six phenomenal Women of Distinction!

The ceremony — which will be held on May 31 at the University of Maryland, College Park — pays tribute to women leaders who have made extraordinary contributions to their professions or communities. We’ve already introduced you to four of this year’s awardees, Noorjahan Akbar, Alison Cohen, Liza Donnelly, and Sandra Fluke. Without further ado, we’d like to present our final two awardees.

Michel Martin

Host, Tell Me More

Michel Martin hosts Tell Me More, an NPR talk radio program focused on the headlines and issues relevant to multicultural life in America. As a host, Martin orchestrates a gathering place for dialogue on important issues facing the country and discusses these challenges and opportunities with a range of guests, regular contributors, and NPR reporters.

Maggie Williams

Founding Partner, Griffin Williams Consulting

Maggie Williams is a founding partner of Griffin Williams, a consulting firm that specializes in helping public- and private-sector clients navigate transition, change, and challenging communication environments. A seasoned communications practitioner, strategist, and organizational manager, she led then-Sen. Hillary Clinton’s historic 2008 presidential campaign and served as a senior adviser to Clinton’s secretary of state confirmation and transition teams.

Read more about all six of the 2012 Women of Distinction, and buy your ticket today!

The Barbara Fetterhoff Honorary Fund is a platinum sponsor of the 2012 NCCWSL Women of Distinction Awards ceremony and reception. AAUW of Maryland, many generous friends of Barbara’s, and AAUW donors from across the country are contributing to this fund to honor AAUW member Barbara Fetterhoff for her continuing leadership, vision, and commitment.

Part 1 Part 2  |  This is part 3

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Last week, we introduced you to two of the six women who will be honored at the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL). The Women of Distinction Awards ceremony, which is held during the conference, pays tribute to women leaders who have made extraordinary contributions to their professions or communities. NCCWSL attendees will hear each of these inspiring women speak on Thursday, May 31. Don’t miss your chance to meet this year’s awardees!

Registration for the 2012 conference closes on May 16. Sign up for NCCWSL today to secure your opportunity for unparalleled leadership training.

The following are two of the six outstanding Women of Distinction. We’ve already introduced you to Noorjahan Akbar and Alison Cohen. Stay tuned for a blog post that will feature the two remaining honorees!

Liza Donnelly

Cartoonist and Writer, The New Yorker

Liza Donnelly is a staff cartoonist for the New Yorker. When she first began selling her work to the magazine in 1979, she was the youngest and one of only three women cartoonists at that time. In addition to her work as a cartoonist, Donnelly is a public speaker and has appeared at TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design), the United Nations, and the New Yorker Festival as well as on CBS Sunday Morning, NBC, and BetterTV.

Sandra Fluke

Women’s Advocate and Georgetown Law Student

Sandra Fluke is completing her final semester as a public interest law scholar at Georgetown University Law Center. She has devoted her career to advocating for gender equity in all sectors of society. Recently, she testified before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on the need to provide access to contraception, which she has been advocating for since she arrived at Georgetown.

The Barbara Fetterhoff Honorary Fund is a platinum sponsor of the 2012 NCCWSL Women of Distinction Awards ceremony and reception. AAUW of Maryland, many generous friends of Barbara’s, and AAUW donors from across the country are contributing to this fund to honor AAUW member Barbara Fetterhoff for her continuing leadership, vision, and commitment.

Part 1  |  This is part 2  |  Part 3

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Registration for the 2012 National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) closes on May 16. The Women of Distinction Awards ceremony, which is held during the conference, pays tribute to women leaders who have made extraordinary contributions to their professions or communities.

Don’t miss your chance to meet this year’s six phenomenal award recipients and to listen as they address conference attendees. Register for NCCWSL today to secure your opportunity for unparalleled leadership training and to hear from these amazing women in person.

The following are two of the six outstanding women who will be honored as Women of Distinction. Stay tuned for blog posts that feature the other four honorees.

Noorjahan AkbarNoorjahan Akbar

Co-founder and Assistant Director, Young Women for Change

Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1991, Noorjahan Akbar has had the rare opportunity to receive an education, something not available to the majority of women in her country. She earned scholarships to attend two years of high school at the George School in Pennsylvania, and she is currently a sophomore at Dickinson College. She is a leading women’s activist in Afghanistan.

Alison CohenAlison Cohen

President, Alta Bicycle Share

Alison Cohen is president of Alta Bicycle Share, the only company in the world that is focused on operating urban bike-share systems. She oversaw the launches of Melbourne (Australia) Bike Share, Washington, D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare, and Boston’s Hubway and currently is leading the effort to build a 10,000-bike system in New York City.

The Barbara Fetterhoff Honorary Fund is a platinum sponsor of the 2012 NCCWSL Women of Distinction Awards ceremony and reception. AAUW of Maryland, many generous friends of Barbara’s, and AAUW donors from across the country are contributing to this fund to honor AAUW member Barbara Fetterhoff for her continuing leadership, vision, and commitment.

This is part 1  |  Part 2  |  Part 3

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Well, I certainly didn’t pay heed to that advice from Connie Chung as I sat listening to an awesome set of women during the 2011 National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL). Although, in fairness, she was giving business advice to more than 500 students, not talking about the other tear-jerker stories that came up that night.

Every year during NCCWSL, AAUW and NASPA give Women of Distinction Awards to a select group of well-deserving women who either broke through barriers themselves or are helping others break through barriers on behalf of women and girls. It’s their personal stories that made me and, from what I could tell, most in the audience, shed a tear, give a gasp, or shake our heads at the examples of continuing discrimination women often still face today.

2011 Women of Distinction Honorees (left to right): Lisa Jackson, Marsha Guenzler-Stevens, Swanee Hunt, Natalie Randolph, and Connie Chung

Swanee Hunt started the evening by dedicating her award to Bosnian War survivors (yes, my first tear), providing anecdotes from her award-winning This Was Not Our War: Bosnian Women Reclaiming the Peace and her most recent manuscript, Worlds Apart: The Bosnian Case in Pursuit of Global Security. “Fight for justice, not revenge. Power is in empathy,” she reminded us. The Eleanor Roosevelt lecturer in public policy at Harvard University, Hunt’s distinguished career ultimately led to her induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

“Always show up, put your head down, and ignore the noise. If you do your job, people will have to recognize that,” Natalie Randolph advised the students. A native of Washington, D.C., and an accomplished high school and collegiate athlete, Randolph graduated from the University of Virginia in 2002. In 2010, Randolph was named the head coach of the Calvin Coolidge Senior High School varsity football team — becoming one of only a few other women football head coaches in the country. “Immerse yourself in whatever you are doing without fear,” she said.

“Stories empower us to find answers,” Marsha Guenzler-Stevens began as she told us her story. She has spent her entire professional career working in higher education (receiving numerous awards) and currently serves as the vice president of the board for the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation. “The seeds of doubt are sown because we think we need to be flawless. Not true!” she eagerly told the students. “When you find your purpose, you will find your passion,” said Guenzler-Stevens, who is a marvelous example of that. Her passion for teaching and leading was very evident as we all sat spellbound — and laughing — through her stories.

“Do not trust other people to do it for you. If you wait for it, shame on you,” Lisa Jackson started off with a bang. The first African American to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Jackson has made it a priority to focus on vulnerable groups, including children, the elderly, and low-income communities. “Trust in the passion you feel. Trust in the tough choices that you make,” Jackson told the students. She is someone to be listened to as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world!

Long known for her award-winning journalism, Chung used humor to describe her first steps up the ladder, the “you can only have one Chinese cheerleader on the squad syndrome.” Chung holds four honorary doctorates and received the Amnesty International Human Rights Award for her report on young women in Bangladesh who were burned with acid in revenge for turning down men’s advances. One of five daughters, Chung told the students, “let people know who you are just by the way you walk into a room.”

An inspirational evening, my last tear of the day and my favorite quote came from a participating student: “I’ve doubted myself for too long, but that changes today.”

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Despite the fact that we are still fighting for equal pay for women in 2011, both the Toronto Star and the New York Times have reported that there are more women controlling more wealth in the United States and Canada than ever before. What does this mean for the way that wealth is being used? In some cases, it means a shift in philanthropic trends.

Because women have been increasing their control over the country’s wealth, either by earning it themselves or by having more of a say in what happens to family funds, donations are being made in very different ways. According to the Times, “[U]nlike the women who preceded them — old-school patrons who gave to the museum and the symphony and their dead husbands’ alma maters — these givers are more likely to use their wealth deliberately and systematically to aid women in need.”

Many of these women have also teamed up to maximize their efforts. Officials at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, a Women’s Funding Network member, told the Star that female philanthropists “have adopted new models, such as giving circles, to bring like-minded donors together to pool their resources in support of a common cause.” They also tend to give to organizations that they are already involved in or that they see are contributing to a greater movement.

AAUW members also follow this model by teaming up to support projects they feel passionate about while honoring dear friends. Some notable examples are the Ruth Z. Sweetser Honorary Fund, the Barbara Fetterhoff Honorary Fund, the Mooneen Lecce Giving Circle, AAUW of Iowa’s gifts in honor of Mary Ann Ahrens, members’ gifts in honor of Lilly Ledbetter, or contributions from philanthropists such as Lilo Leeds. Collectively, these sponsorships have provided hundreds of thousands of dollars for crucial programs.

Not only are women giving differently than men, they are also giving more. The Wall Street Journal reports, “Recent research by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University shows a striking pattern: Female-headed households top male-headed households in philanthropic giving in almost every income group.”

Swanee Hunt

In some cases, women are giving a whole lot. The organization Women Moving Millions has taken the giving circle model to a new level. Begun by sisters Helen LaKelly Hunt and Ambassador Swanee Hunt, the Women Moving Millions campaign aims to inspire gifts of a million dollars and above in support of women’s funds across the globe. (You can meet Hunt when she is honored on June 3 at the Women of Distinction awards ceremony during the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders.)

These new giving models coupled with the continuing increase in women’s control of wealth can mean big changes not only to the world of philanthropy but to the women whose lives are changed through this support.

This post was written by Leadership Programs Fellow Jessica Kelly.

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