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March 2017 Update from Bobbi Liebenberg, DirectWomen Chair

In March 2017, Bobbi Liebenberg distributed an update to members of the DirectWomen community. The public text of that update is posted here.


Message from the Chair

2017 is off to an exciting start here at DirectWomen. In this update, you will find important information about a program this month at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, information on the 2017 Board Institute Class, dates for our October 2017 activities, and news about the remarkable accomplishments of the members of our network. 

This February, DirectWomen underwent several staffing changes. It is with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to Sarah Gevlin, who oversaw a period of incredible growth and expansion for DirectWomen. We wish Sarah all the best in her move abroad with the State Department. Joining Interim Executive Director Lisa Passante are Beth Barefoot, our new Director of Finance and Operations, and Laura Beth Hooper, our new Operations and Information Coordinator. We are excited to welcome Beth and Laura Beth to DirectWomen and look forward to working with them to achieve greater gender diversity on boards.  

A. Announcing the 2017 DirectWomen Board Institute Class

We are pleased to announce the members of the 2017 DirectWomen Board Institute Class. This year’s participants include partners at top law firms, General Counsel of Fortune 500 companies, and other senior executives and advisors. The press release announcing the class is attached to this Update. 

The 2017 Board Institute will start on October 18, and will conclude with the Sandra Day O’Connor Board Excellence Award Luncheon on October 20. For the first time, we will be hosting these events at the New York Hilton Midtown.  

B. Save the Date for March Event in Seattle

On Tuesday, March 21, DirectWomen will host its first event of the year in Seattle, Washington. Thanks to 2009 Alumna Connie Collingsworth, the event will be hosted at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Event attendees will hear from a panel of distinguished directors currently siting on the boards of major corporations, including Connie Collingsworth, Phyllis J. Campbell, Richard P. Fox, and Liane Pelletier. For additional information on the program, including a link to register and sponsorship opportunities, please refer to the attached invitation. 

C. Announcing Our October 2017 Honorees

We are pleased that VISA, Inc. will accept the DirectWomen Board Diversity Award. Our Sandra Day O’Connor Board Excellence Award Honorees will be Patricia Diaz Dennis, Esq., former General Counsel Senior Vice President and Assistant General Counsel at AT&T and Director of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company and U. S. Steel Corporation; and Gail Lione, Esq., Senior Counsel at Dentons, former Executive Vice-President and General Counsel at Harley-Davidson, Inc. and Director of Badger Meter, Inc., Sargento Foods, and the F. Dohmen Co..

We will honor Alice Young, the founder of the Alice Young Advisory LLC, Retired Partner and Chair of the Asia Pacific Practice of Kaye Scholer LLP (now Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP), Director of AXIS Capital Holdings, Ltd. and Mizuho Trust & Banking Co. (USA), with our Distinguished Alumna Award. 

Finally, this year we are pleased to introduce the Mary Ann Jorgenson Board Empowerment Award—an honor that recognizes a woman lawyer who has advanced the goals of DirectWomen via extraordinary support of the organization. This year’s recipient is Mary B. Cranston, Esq., Retired Partner and Past Chair of Pillsbury and Director at VISA, Inc., Chemours, MyoKardia, and CSAA Insurance Group. 

D. DirectWomen in the News

  • DirectWomen Advisory Board Member Alan Bryan was honored with Ms. JD’s The Incredible Men Initiative Award. The award is designed to celebrate men who enthusiastically support women and women’s initiatives in the law profession.
  • Stephanie Scharf, DirectWomen Advisory Board Member, was presented with the National Association of Women Lawyer’s 2017 Public Service Award, which is presented annually to a lawyer who has demonstrated a commitment to exemplary public service and social responsibility throughout her career. 
  • Direct Women was cited in a Financial Times article entitled “Study: Higher Earnings with Women Directors.” The article is attached to the Update. 
  • Bobbi Liebenberg, DirectWomen Chair, received the Martha Fay Africa Golden Hammer Award from the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Division, in recognition of professional excellence in her career and her commitment to diversity.  She was also interviewed by Jan Anne Dubin, CEO and Principal of Jan Anne Dubin Consulting, for Forum Magazine. The interview, which focuses on what needs to be done to promote a supportive culture for women leaders at companies and law firms, is attached.  In addition, Bobbi had an article published in “Best Lawyers,” See “Wanted: More Women on Corporate Boards. Legal Experience Desired” 
  • Kim Rivera, DirectWomen Board Institute Alumna and HP’s Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel, announced in February that HP will withhold invoiced fees from firms that do not meet diversity requirements. The story was featured in
  • This month, DirectWomen alumna Suzanne Rich Folsom gave a speech entitled “Life Lessons—Momentum Regained” and participated in a panel discussion focused on how women can determine their own career path to success at Thomson Reuter’s 3rd Annual Women’s Transformative Leadership Forum.

E. Articles and Research of Interest

Links to current board articles can also be found on our website.


We will continue to build on the enthusiasm and energy of our expanding DirectWomen network.  Thanks to all of you for your help in supporting our mission. If you have suggestions for additional ways to strengthen DirectWomen’s outreach and work, please do not hesitate to contact me. 

All the best,

Bobbi Liebenberg

Chair, DirectWomen


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