Alice Coachman, Olympic Gold Medalist

Alice CoachmALICE COACHMAN OLDERan, the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal, died this week in her hometown of Albany, Georgia. She was 90 years old.

In 1948 Alice Coachman (a Woman of Note on this site, November 9, 2013) competed in the Olympics and won the high jump at the London Games. Alice believed she reached her peak in 1944 and might have won a gold medal that year, as well as in 1940, had the games not been cancelled because of the Second World War.

 

ALICE COACHMAN ATHLETEBecause of her race, and the fact that she lived in the South, Alice was barred from sports facilities because of her color. She improvised practice facilities, running along dirt roads and across fields. She also participated in other sports. At Tuskegee University, she was on a basketball team that won three straight conference titles.

When she returned from the London Olympics she met President Harry Truman at the White House followed by a 175-mile motorcade through Georgia to celebrate her victory. At the official ceremony in Albany, Georgia, however, the audience in the auditorium was segregated by race, the mayor did not shake her hand, and she was required to leave by a side door. Even her 25 national athletics championships, including 10 consecutive high jump titles could not overcome the color of her skin.

She was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975 and the US Olympic Hall of Fame in 2004. When her athletic career ended, she remembered her own hardships and created the Alice Coachman Track and Field Foundation, which provides financial assistance to needy young and retired athletes.

Kathleen O’Toole, Seattle Police Chief

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 12.03.26 PM        Seattle recently hired its First Woman police chief, Kathleen O’Toole. She steps into a quagmire as the police department has been investigated by the Justice Department and placed under a federal consent decree for use of excessive force and biased policing. A group of officers filed suit to stop the agreements reached between the city and Justice Department, but they did not hire a lawyer, so one can only surmise that this bluster is simply an attempt to intimidate the new chief.

BOSTON POLICE WOMEN        Previously Kathleen O’Toole was the First Woman police commissioner of Boston, serving that city from 2004 to 2006. Given her groundbreaking work, it is probably not surprising that there are other First Women in the Boston Police Department. The commander of the Police Academy there is Officer Allison Gunther, the First Woman to hold that post. The academy recently graduated a class that experienced another first. The class president and vice president, for the first time, were both women.

Perhaps Kathleen O’Toole’s influence here might lead to a stronger female presence in law enforcement. There is an adage from the 1970’s that proclaims a woman must be “twice as good as a man to go half as far.” I suspect Kathleen O’Toole is twice as good as a man and she has already gone more than half as far.

Salaries for Women CEO’s

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

THE GOOD NEWS: Women CEO’s appear to earn similar salaries to their male counterparts, although it might be noted that the top earner started out life as a man

THE BAD NEWS: The number of women CEO’s has stalled. They hold only 14.6% of executive posts overall and 4.9% of CEO positions in the 1,000 largest companies. Consequently, they are only 5.5% of the top 200 earners.

Want to read more? Check out the New York Times article.

Megan Ellison – Movie Producer

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 6.35.21 PM          Megan Ellison was the first woman producer to receive two Best Picture nominations in one year, but that was not enough to earn her a place on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2014. Only twenty-eight years old, Megan Ellison is the founder of Annapurna Pictures, a production company whose stated goal is to “produce sophisticated high-quality films that might otherwise be deemed risky by contemporary Hollywood studios.”

In an industry where, among the top 250 grossing domestic films, only 16% of directors and other executives, writers, editors and cinematographers are women, Megan Ellison is a standout. She provides what has been called a “Silicon Valley” approach to filmmaking. Her films draw in prominent directors and screenwriters but are original, even daring projects. While the major studios prefer to finance and promote blockbusters, she supports riskier ideas with sophisticated plots. Among her earlier projects were the Coen Brothers’ True Grit and Kathryn Bieglow’s Zero Dark Thirty.

Both of the films she produced in 2013 were nominated for multiple academy awards. Her, which is described as a science fiction romantic comedy drama film, was nominated for three Golden Globe nominations and five Academy Award nominations. Spike Jonze, the director won for best original screenplay in both contests. At the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, Her shared the best picture award with Gravity.

In the same year American Hustle won three Golden Globe Awards, three BAFTA Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. Nominated for ten Academy Awards, the picture did not win in any category but received widespread critical acclaim.

The plots of these two movies demonstrate the unusual topics that intrigue Megan Ellison. In Her Joaquin Phoenix had a relationship with Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johnsson), an intelligent computer operating system. In American Hustle, two con artists set up a sting operation on corrupt politicians, similar to the FBI’s ABSCAM operation several decades earlier.

Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures is deserving of its name. Annapurna is the name of a section of the Himalayas in Nepal and Ellison has taken her work to the heights of the movie world, in spite of her willingness to take risks and produce projects other spurn. Annapurna is also the name of a Hindu goddess who provides food and nourishment. Ellison is certainly a goddess and protector, nourishing projects that might have withered away without her patronage.

LEARN MORE:

Her filmography: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2691892/

About her style and background: http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2013/03/megan-ellison-27-producer-zero-dark-thirty

 

Mary Jo White – S.E.C. CHAIR

MARY JO WHITE          Another of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2014 was Mary Jo White, head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. She is on the First Woman To.  . . list because she was the first woman to serve as a U.S. Attorney in Manhattan. In fact, she is the only woman in 200 years who has ever served in that position.

She has decades of experience as a federal prosecutor and securities lawyer, specializing in complex securities and financial institution fraud as well as cases of international terrorism. Prior to her confirmation at SEC the Huffington Post called her “a well-respected attorney who won high-profile cases against mobsters, terrorists, and financial fraudsters over the course of nearly a decade as the U. S. Attorney for Manhattan.” Under her auspices, convictions against the 1993 bombers of the World Trade Center and the bombers of the American embassies in Africa were prosecuted successfully, as was John Gotti.

Because she wants to change disclosure requirements and perhaps streamline them for corporations, some say she is too ready to support corporations. They point to her private practice where she supported corporations in litigation. Others, however, cite this experience as a balance that makes her able to see both sides of the issues.

One of the things she would like to change is the “no admit, no deny” statements from offenders. She believes that those who violate the law, even corporations, should have to apologize as part of their plea deals.

In his book Above the Law, Elie Mystal says that she is “the kind of partner that makes other partners stammer, shuffle papers, and try to look really busy and intelligent when she’s in the room. She’s not a screamer, she’s not mean or dismissive. She’s just deadly serious and committed to getting things done.”

LEARN MORE:

Her official SEC bio: https://www.sec.gov/about/commissioner/white.htm#.U5i5exb82lI

Her efforts to implement changes at SEC: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-06-06/mary-jo-white-gets-high-frequency-embrace-with-sec-plan.html

For more on the Time 100: http://time.com/time100-2014/