WASHINGTON, D.C. — The board of the Women’s Media Center has unanimously elected Janet Dewart Bell as its new chair. Founding co-chair and WMC co-chair emerita Pat Mitchell nominated Bell to be the organization’s new chair; WMC co-founder Gloria Steinem seconded the nomination.
In nominating Bell, Mitchell stated, “It has been a privilege to work with Janet as vice chair of the WMC board. I respect and admire tremendously her groundbreaking background and experiences in media and the work she is currently leading to address the challenges of racial justice. Media has such a big role to play in the outcomes of this long-overdue reckoning on racial equity and justice. It is my honor to nominate Janet Dewart Bell as the next chair of the board of the Women’s Media Center.”
Bell is founder and president of LEAD Intergenerational Solutions, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to developing inclusive intergenerational leaders as social change agents. Bell has extensive experience as a communications strategist, television and radio producer, and management consultant. She is the author of Lighting the Fires of Freedom: African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement (nominated for a 2019 NAACP Image Award); co-editor of Carving Out a Humanity: Race, Rights, and Redemption (published to coincide with the November 2020 25th anniversary of The Derrick Bell Lectures on Race in American Society at New York University School of Law, a series she founded); and a forthcoming book on historic speeches by African American women in politics.
“Janet has dedicated her career to advocating for gender and racial parity, as an author and through important media and communications positions,” said WMC co-founder Jane Fonda. “The WMC board has been well served from her years as vice chair. We are excited about her leadership as chair of the board.”
“I am honored and humbled to be elected chair of the Women’s Media Center,” Bell said. “To succeed Pat Mitchell is not to try to step into her shoes. Pat’s storied career is without equal. Fortunately, Pat believes in helping others obtain their own shoes — and gain their own voice. Pat’s legendary media career and service at WMC remain an inspiration and a challenge to continue building upon our powerful legacy. Just to say the names of our incredible founders is breathtaking and thought provoking: Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, Gloria Steinem. They do not rest on their laurels, but are active change agents. What they have created, the Women’s Media Center, is needed now more than ever. Our skilled and dedicated staff, led by President and CEO Julie Burton, is a model of how to get the job done efficiently and effectively.”
WMC co-founder Robin Morgan noted the strong, steady continuity of leadership that Bell provides. “Janet has spent decades fighting for racial and gender justice. It is an honor to have someone of her stature and experience serve as our board chair,” she said.
WMC co-founder Gloria Steinem said, “Through her important book, Lighting the Fires of Freedom, Janet Dewart Bell helped complete the history, explain the present, and guide us to the future through the voices and wisdom of many of the Black women who co-created the civil rights movement. At this moment, with racial and gender justice at the center of our movement for change, I know we can trust Janet to support our great staff and work to expand and amplify the wisdom and voices of diverse women in media.”
In addition to her multimedia background, Bell has experience in policy advocacy, strategic planning, fund development, media training, and education. She is a social justice advocate, activist, executive coach, and motivational speaker, with a doctorate in leadership and change from Antioch University. She and her friend Naomi Nightingale are featured in the current issue of the Antioch Alumni Magazine in an article entitled “What It Takes to Be a Leader,” about their extraordinary sisterhood and co-teaching. Bell and Nightingale are adjunct assistant professors at Baruch College of the City University of New York, where they teach in the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs. Bell, who earned her master’s degree at Baruch, also serves on the Baruch President’s Vision Council.
She has been a key strategist and senior executive at a number of national organizations including PolicyLink, The Opportunity Agenda, National Urban League, and National Public Radio (NPR). Her programming at NPR won numerous awards, including a Peabody. The first director of specialized programs at NPR, she helped increase diversity by recruiting and training women and people of color as producers and on-air talent.
As director of communications at PolicyLink, Bell was instrumental in developing the organization’s collaborative approach to advocacy and communications and developed its trademark “Lifting Up What Works.” She was the director of communications at the National Urban League, where she redesigned, edited, and marketed the League’s signature annual publication, The State of Black America.
Pat Mitchell is a journalist, Emmy award–winning and Oscar-nominated producer, and pioneering executive in media. She is chair of the board of the Sundance Institute and editorial director of TEDWomen, and she made history as the first woman CEO of PBS. She is the author of Becoming a Dangerous Woman: Embracing Risk to Change the World. In 2012, she received WMC’s first Lifetime Achievement Award — a yearly award named in her honor.
“I am so proud to join with my WMC co-founders, Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem, to thank Pat Mitchell for her tremendous contributions as chair of the board of the Women’s Media Center. She is a dear friend and has been a leader for women in media for decades. I was deeply honored to present Pat with our first WMC Pat Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Jane Fonda. “Her contributions as chair have been immeasurable and have always been centered around promoting gender equality for future generations.”
Robin Morgan thanked Mitchell for her lifetime of making media and history for women, noting how fortunate the Women’s Media Center has been to have her as chair for many years. Morgan said, “Pat Mitchell’s career spans decades with a singular focus: paving a path for others. She is a media virtuoso who has dedicated her life and career to empowering women and girls worldwide.”
“Fifteen years ago, when the Women’s Media Center was first conceived, Pat was at the table,” said Gloria Steinem. “Because she has worked so effectively inside every kind of media, her expertise, ideas, and judgment are trusted. Though she is stepping down as chair, we are grateful that she will continue to work with us to build an inclusive media.”
Past board chairs and co-chairs of the Women’s Media Center include Maya Harris, Jane Fonda, Lauren Embrey, Jodie Evans, and Helen Zia.
MORE ABOUT JANET DEWART BELL:
Bell is the former director of communications and public relations for District Council 37 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFL-CIO) in New York City, working with over 50 local unions. She was a member of AFL-CIO delegations to Morocco and Tunisia. As the communications director for the National Committee on Household Employment, she helped secure federal minimum wage coverage for domestic workers.
Among her accomplishments are a local Emmy for outstanding individual achievement (Channel 9, the CBS-TV affiliate in Washington, D.C.) and programming for National Public Radio honored with the Peabody award.
She chaired the District of Columbia Commission for Women and represented the District at the United Nations Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya.
An active volunteer, she serves on the boards of the Andrew Goodman Foundation, CancerCare, and the Institute for America’s Future. Previous board service includes Teaching Matters, Demos, and the YWCA of the City of New York. She is an ordained elder and active in her church, First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn, an intentionally diverse and inclusive congregation.
The Women’s Media Center, co-founded by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem, is an inclusive feminist organization that works to raise the visibility, viability, and decision-making power of women and girls in media to ensure that their stories get told and their voices are heard. We do this by researching media through the WMC Media Lab; creating and modeling original online and on-air journalism; training women and girls to be effective in media; and promoting women experts in all fields through WMC SheSource.
WMC online and on-air journalism channels include the podcast and radio show Women’s Media Center Live with Robin Morgan, WMC Features, WMC Women Under Siege, WMC FBomb, WMC IDAR/E, and WMC Speech Project.
For more information, contact Cristal Williams Chancellor, director of communications, at email@example.com or 202-270-8539.