The legendary Pat Mitchell will be featured in an upcoming issue of the F-GIRL (Feminist Giving in Real Life) series here at Philanthropy Women. Leading up to that, I want to share Jacki Zehner’s recent post about Pat’s book, Becoming a Dangerous Woman, and talk about why Pat’s book, and her life story, are so important to feminist leadership.
Jacki does a great job of summarizing the astonishing path and background that sets the scene for Pat Mitchell’s book:
I just finished reading Becoming a Dangerous Woman, and let me tell you, it left me a little fired up. With a title like that, how could it not? The book is the autobiography of Pat Mitchell, a woman who has become a cherished friend, mentor, colleague, and confidante to me over the years. She is not only one of the great trailblazers in media over the past several decades, but she is also one of the most authentic, steadfast champions for women and underrepresented people that I have ever had the honor of knowing. Simply put, Pat is the real deal.
Despite all this, I know that this book was not easy for her to write, and it took many, many years for it to come to fruition. Ironically, Pat is known for helping so many other people tell their stories, and yet it was not until the age of 76 that HER incredible life story is finally out in the world. As she tells it, “my life began in an unlikely place; on my grandparents’ small cotton farm with no electricity or indoor toilets.” In the book she talks about growing up in the south, and goes on to chart her incredible personal and professional journey that has covered many decades. It is an extraordinary story, so let me give you some highlights.
This setup by Jacki is especially important since it points out one of the biggest problems in feminism: We feminist have a hard time telling our own story. The lack of self-promotion and the general aversion to it in feminist circles is the bane of our existence. This is a longstanding problem which may finally start to get addressed as gender equality ideas become more mainstream. But the phenomenon of feminists NOT funding media to promote women is real. Anyone who has worked in media to promote gender equality can tell you that the sector has been starving for both dollars and airtime all its life.
Back to Jacki for some more of Pat’s amazing life journey:
Pat began her career in media as a news reporter and news anchor, and went on to shatter one glass ceiling after another over the course of several decades. She became the first woman to host and produce a nationally syndicated day time talk show in the 1980s called Woman to Woman. In 1993, she became the first female president of Turner Original Productions and CNN Productions after having been recruited by Ted Turner himself. The story of their first encounter is well documented in her book in the chapter entitled “Taking My Shot”, and it was the chapter she read aloud to a group in Park City at one of her launch parties. She went on to become the first female president and CEO of both PBS and the Paley Center for Media, and in 2010, she helped co-found TedWomen and remains a curator to this day. In just two weeks, Pat will be giving her first TED Talk after years and years of coaching countless people to do theirs. Along the way, Pat has been recognized with 37 Emmy Awards, 5 Peabody Awards, and two Academy Award nominations. She has been named one of the most powerful women in Hollywood by the Hollywood Reporter, and in 2009, she was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame.
And then there is the non-profit work that she has done and continues to do. She currently serves as the Chair of the Women’s Media Center, an organization dedicated to advancing women’s representation in the media, and in 2012, she was awarded their Lifetime Achievement Award. However, her commitment to positive social change extends beyond media, as she is actively involved in numerous nonprofit organizations and foundations throughout the world, including the VDay movement to end violence against women and the Acumen organization, which is dedicated to ending poverty. Close to my heart is her work with the Sundance Institute, where I am honored to also serve as a Trustee. Not only is Pat Chair of the Board, but she is also out in the world, championing for the support of independent artists, with a particular focus on marginalized groups who are so often underrepresented.
Wow. All of the levels of experience which Pat Mitchell brings to both the business and nonprofit sectors. It’s incredibly inspiring.
I’ll send you off to read the rest of Jacki’s Post on LinkedIn, but first, I want to recognize one of the most amazing aspects of Pat Mitchell’s new book: Pat is brave enough in her autobiography to tell her story of child sexual abuse. This is one of the hardest stories to tell and yet as feminists we recognize that telling it is the only way forward. Thank you, Pat, for having the strength to tell it.
Full Disclosure: Jacki Zehner is a founding sponsor of Philanthropy Women.