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.


2019: Ai-Jen Poo


Ai-Jen will deliver the Keynote Address and be honored at CSW’s 2019 Awards & Benefit Reception in May/June 2019.

Ai-Jen Poo is the founder and Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), as well as the Co-Director of Caring Across Generations, a national coalition of 200 advocacy organizations working to transform the long-term care system in the US. The NDWA’s predecessor, Domestic Workers United, was instrumental in the passing of the nation’s first Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights in New York, which extends basic labor protections to over 200,000 domestic workers including overtime pay, paid leave, and legal protections from harassment and discrimination.

Instilled with strong “social justice values” by her parents, Poo began organizing domestic workers in 1996 with CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities. She has received the Open Society Institute Community Fellowship, the Union Square Award, and the Leadership for a Changing World Award, amongst many others. In 2012, she was named one of Time magazine’s “Time 100”as well as one of Newsweek’s “150 Women who Shake the World.” In 2014, she received a MacArthur “Genius” Award.

Her work has been featured in Marie Clairethe New York Times, and Time. She is also author of The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing AmericaMost recently, she attended the 2018 Golden Globe Awards with Meryl Streep, as part of the #MeToo and #TimesUp initiatives.

2018: Paula Williams Madison and Nneka Ogwumike


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.

2017: Katherine Spillar (received the Inaugural Leaders Award)


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.