Distinguished Leader in Feminism Award

Honoring Exceptional Contributions to Social Justice Feminism

The UCLA Center for the Study of Women Distinguished Leader in Feminism Award (formerly the CSW Leaders Award) honors exemplary individuals, leaders in their fields, who have made significant contributions towards equality and gender justice. Established in 2017, the award recognizes remarkable accomplishments that support CSW’s mission of working towards a world in which research and education advance social justice feminism.

Our recipients’ work as leaders, mentors, and advocates stands as a shining example of how a commitment to social justice can make a difference in the lives of people of all genders. Each award recipient has made substantial impacts in promoting equality and diversity across a wide range of fields: from journalism to media, to politics and community service, to sports and entertainment, and beyond. We are proud to honor their work and recognize them as vital members of CSW’s feminist community.


Holly MitchellOn November 3, 2020, Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell was elected to serve the Second District of Los Angeles County. Throughout her career in public service, Supervisor Mitchell has always worked with the understanding – that creating a California where all residents can thrive – means investing in the communities, families, and children of LA County.

Having authored and passed over 90 laws in the California Legislature, Supervisor Mitchell brings an extensive public policy record to the Board of Supervisors. Many of her bills have been at the forefront of expanding healthcare access, addressing systemic racism, and championing criminal justice reform. During her tenure in the California State Legislature, Supervisor Mitchell represented the 54th District for three years as an Assemblymember and later served seven years as State Senator for the 30th District.

As State Senator, she also held the distinction of being the first African American to serve as Chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee. In this capacity, she led the passage of state budgets each totaling over $200 billion for the fifth largest economy in the world.

Prior to serving in elected office, Supervisor Mitchell was CEO of Crystal Stairs, California’s largest nonprofit dedicated to child and family development. In this role, she ensured that families across Los Angeles County gained access to childcare and poverty prevention resources. Before leading Crystal Stairs, she worked as a legislative advocate at the Western Center for Law and Poverty.

Supervisor Mitchell’s leadership has been recognized by over 100 community and business groups. She was recently honored as a 2020 Visionary by Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine for making California the first state in the nation to ban natural hair discrimination with The CROWN Act.

As Supervisor, Mitchell is proud to serve the two million residents of the Second District which includes the neighborhood she grew up in, Leimert Park, and the following cities: Carson, Compton, Culver City, Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lynwood, parts of Los Angeles, and dozens of unincorporated communities.

Supervisor Mitchell is a University of California at Riverside Highlander, a CORO Foundation Fellow and mother to Ryan.

Holly Mitchell on Social Media

Instagram: @HollyJMitchell
Twitter: @HollyJMitchell
Facebook: @SupervisorHollyJ.Mitchell

Alicia Garza founded the Black Futures Lab to make Black communities powerful in politics. In 2018, the Black Futures Lab conducted the largest survey of Black communities in over 150 years.

Alicia believes that Black communities deserve what all communities deserve — to be powerful in every aspect of their lives. An innovator, strategist, organizer, and cheeseburger enthusiast, she is the co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter and the Black Lives Matter Global Network, an international organizing project to end state violence and oppression against Black people. The Black Lives Matter Global Network now has 40 chapters in 4 countries.

Alicia serves as the Strategy & Partnerships Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the nation’s premier voice for millions of domestic workers in the United States. She is also the co-founder of Supermajority, a new home for women’s activism. She shares her thoughts on the women transforming power in Marie Claire magazine every month.

Her forthcoming book, The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart, will be released on October 20, 2020, and she warns you — hashtags don’t start movements. People do.

Alicia Garza delivered the Keynote Address at the 2020 Awards Celebration entitled The Purpose of Power: Building Movements in a Time of Pandemic.


Ai-jen Poo is the Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Co-Director of Caring Across Generations. She is an award-winning organizer, author, and social innovator, and a leading voice in work and family care solutions.

Ai-jen is a 2014 MacArthur “genius” Fellow, TIME 100 alumna, and recently featured speaker at TEDWomen. She has been an influential voice in the #MeToo movement and joined Times Up at the 2018 Golden Globes. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, TIME, and CNN. She is the author of The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America. Follow her at @aijenpoo. Read more about Ai-jen Poo’s transformative feminism in our blog post here.

Ai-Jen Poo delivered the Keynote Address at the 2019 Awards and Benefit Reception entitled Organizing in a Time of Hate: Leading With Love.


Paula Williams Madison is Chairman and CEO of Madison Media Management LLC, a Los Angeles-based media consultancy company with global reach. She is also the former CEO/Owner of the Los Angeles Sparks and former Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of NBCUniversal. CSW selected her as a recipient of the Distinguished Leader in Feminism Award for her trailblazing work in journalism and media, promoting diversity and gender justice in the entertainment industry and beyond.

As a former president of KNBC, Williams Madison was the first Black woman to head a major news network. She is recognized as a pioneer in the field of Black journalism, having been awarded the National Association of Black Journalists’ Ida B. Wells Award, the President’s Award, and the Legacy Award. Her work with various NBC stations earned numerous Emmy, Golden Mike, and Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards and her concurrent career as a write and journalist led to a 1996 Peabody Award for NBC4 New York’s investigation, A License to Kill.

She is the author of the memoir Finding Samuel Lowe: China, Jamaica, Harlem and executive producer of the documentary Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China, which chronicle her journey to her maternal grandfather’s homeland in China and the reconnection of her family with his 300 descendants.

Williams Madison delivered the Keynote Address at the 2018 Awards and Benefits Luncheon entitled 40 Years in Corporate Culture: A Successful Woman’s Strategies for Surviving and Thriving.


Nneka Ogwumike is a basketball player for the Women’s National Basketball Association’s (WNBA) Los Angeles Sparks. She is a Stanford alumna who helped the Stanford Cardinals reach the Final Four four times and was drafted No. 1 overall in the 2012 WNBA Draft. She is a WNBA champion, Most Valuable Player, and four-time All-Star, and has also won four gold medals as a member of the United States national team at the FIBA World Championship for Women and World University Games.

Her stellar WNBA record and exemplary community service and advocacy make her an ideal recipient of our Distinguished Leader in Feminism Award. Some of her service includes her work with the UNICEF Girls’ Education Project, which raises funds to educate and empower young women in Nigeria, and her leadership in the WNBA Player’s Association, the first labor union for professional women athletes. She is a recipient of the WNBA Cares Community Assist Award for her generosity and charitable efforts across the globe. Ogwumike is also a social justice advocate, promoting the #BringBackOurGirls campaign in response to Nigerian kidnappings and taking a public stand against police brutality to uphold the right of all members of society.

Though she could not attend the 2018 Awards and Benefit Luncheon, she generously invited the CSW faculty and staff to a WNBA game in July 2018.


Katherine Spillar is the Executive Director of the Feminist Majority Foundation and the Feminist Majority, national organizations working for women’s equality, empowerment, and non-violence. One of the founders, she has been a driving force in executing the organizations’ diverse programs securing women’s rights both domestically and globally since its inception in 1987. She is also the Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine. CSW honored her with the Inaugural Leaders Award for her inspirational work fighting for women’s rights.

As a trained economist and researcher and a specialist in community organizing, Spillar speaks to diverse audiences nationwide on domestic and international feminist topics. She has played a leading role in national and state level campaigns to win women’s rights legislation and in the Feminist Majority Foundation’s efforts to counter the effects of extremist anti-abortion groups. In 2002, the organization was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan to counter the Taliban’s abuse of women.

Spillar delivered the Keynote Address at the 2017 Awards Luncheon entitled Rise Up! Feminism in the Age of Trump.