Pat Mitchell –CEO of PBS

          Pat Mitchell has worked in front of the camera and behind it to improve the lives of women, both in the media industry and outside it. 

Screen Shot 2014-01-19 at 4.53.08 PM         The first woman hired as President and CEO of the Public Broadcasting System, Pat Mitchell was also the first producer and journalist to hold that position. Never afraid to wander into new territory she had previously been the first woman to syndicate her own show.

Pat Mitchell received her Bachelor’s (magna cum laude) and her Master’s degrees from the University of Georgia, in the state where she was born. She initially pursued an academic career but, as the women’s movement began, she moved away from academe, heading to Look magazine. Her excitement at being hired by the magazine was short-lived as the magazine soon closed its doors. She moved to Boston to work at WBZ-TV and from there to Washington, D.C. In 1977 she won an Emmy Award as Outstanding Talk Show Host. She worked for three broadcast networks and for cable channels, as a reporter, talk show host, White house and special correspondent, and producer.

In the early 1980’s Pat Mitchell created, hosted and produced a radio show, the first to be syndicated by a woman. The program, “Woman to Woman” treated issues that are still relevant today but, at the time, had received less attention in the media. She considered menopause (before and after), surrogate motherhood, parenting gays, contraception, infertility, marital rape, and more. The program was awarded an Emmy for Best Daytime Talk Show in 1983-84.

In the 1992 she was hired as Senior Vice President, in charge of original productions, for Ted Turner’s cable channels. As executive producer, she created documentaries and specials that garnered thirty-seven Emmys, five Peabody Awards and two Academy Award nominations.

She was hired as the first woman President and CEO of the Public Broadcasting System at the turn of the century and is currently CEO of the Paley Center for Media. At the Paley Center she has created special events and programs to honor women who “made it,” and used the media in influential ways.

Her awards are numerous. Newsweek included her in its the list of 150 Women Who Shake the World in 2011. The Huffington Post named her one of the Most Powerful Women over 50 and Fast Company included her in The League of Extraordinary Women.  The Women’s Media Center honored her in 2012 with its first Lifetime Achievement Award. In the future the award will carry her name.

After a career filled with a focus on women’s issues, such as infant mortality, child-labor abuses, inequality in the workplace and women in war, Pat Mitchell continues to work for issues pertinent to women. “What ignites me,” she says, “is the word No.”


For more about her work at the Paley Center for Media:

To hear her passion for ending violence against women:

To hear her views on women’s roles:

List of “Woman to Woman” shows preserved in the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Harvard University:


          Pat Mitchell’s grandmother told her “Falling on your face is a forward movement.” This led her to be willing to take risks. Did anyone ever support your risk-taking?


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