Column: 700 of the world’s top women leaders are headed to Atlanta

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on October 10, 2014

As continued evidence of Atlanta’s role as a center for human rights, the 2014 International Women’s Forum will bring more than 700 of the world’s top women leaders to Atlanta from Oct. 29 to 31.

The theme of this year’s conference will be “Human Rights/Human Responsibility: Toward a Better Future,” and there will be multi-day discussions focused on the critical issues around global human rights.

The conference will culminate on the evening of Oct. 31 with a gala where Rosalynn Carter will be honored with the Leading Light Award. The former first lady of the United States was a founding member of the Georgia chapter of the International Women’s Forum. The gala is open to the public.

“This forum has never been held in Atlanta before,” said Pat Upshaw-Monteith, president of Leadership Atlanta, who is chair of the gala and co-chairing the $250,000 fundraising effort to host the group in the city. “The whole goal is to empower women around the world.”

Upshaw-Monteith said there are about 60 IWF chapters around the world, and Georgia has one of the largest chapters. It holds two conferences a year – one in the United States and one international conference. Women from more than 30 countries are expected to be at the Atlanta conference.

Events will be held throughout the city, including programs at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CNN and The Carter Center.

“The conference will emphasize Atlanta’s preeminence as a city for national and international business, health care and medical research, higher education, and the home of thought leadership for civil and human rights work around the world,” said Annette Cone-Skelton, president of IWF Georgia, in a statement.

Among the speakers at the conference will be:

  • Ruby Bridges: an American civil rights activist and recipient of the Presidential Citizens Medal and founder of a foundation that promotes tolerance and respect;
  • Andrew Young: former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, former mayor of Atlanta and a civil rights leader who was a close friend and associate of Martin Luther King;
  • Yoani Sáanchez: a young Cuban dissident and blogger named by Foreign Policy magazine as one of its Top 100 Global Thinkers;
  • Mohammad Al Abadaliah: a Syrian human rights activist and pro-democracy researcher who is executive director of the Syria Justice & Accountability Centre;
  • Sheryl Wudunn: an American business executive who was the first Asian-American to win a Pulitzer Prize. The former New York Times reporter is co-author of the best-selling book “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide”;
  • Leymah Gbowee: a Liberian peace activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who led a women’s peace movement that helped bring an end to the Second Liberian Civil War, along with her collaborator – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; and
  • Rosalind Brewer: president and CEO of Sam’s Club, a $56 billion wholesale division of Wal-Mart Stores

Upshaw-Monteith said Atlanta submitted a proposal to host the annual IWF conference in the spring of 2013.

Because of its global humanitarian mission, she said it made sense for the organization to hold its conference in Atlanta. The organization has more than 6,000 women members in Africa, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America and North America.

Georgia Historical Society

Although Civil War markers have been part of the state’s landscape for decades, the Georgia Historical Society is broadening the scope of what will be memorialized.

The Georgia Historical Society, the Center for Civil and Human Rights and the Georgia Department of Economic Development are officially launching the Georgia Civil Rights Trail, a statewide public education initiative commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement in Georgia.

The three entities will dedicate a historical marker in recognition of the Atlanta Student Movement on the campus of Clark Atlanta University on Oct. 16.

“The Civil Rights Movement was one of the most significant social, legal, political and cultural movements in American history,” said W. Todd Groce, president and CEO of the Georgia Historical Society. “The Georgia Civil Rights Trail recognizes the central role that Georgia played and the leadership that Georgians provided in the movement to end Jim Crow in America.”

The dedication will take place on Oct. 16 at 1 p.m. at the corner of 223 James P. Brawley Drive on the campus of Clark Atlanta University. Lonnie King, a leader of the Atlanta Student Movement, and Mary Ann Smith-Wilson with the Committee on the Appeal for Human Rights, will speak at the event.

Beth Schapiro sabbatical

After 30 years in business, public affairs consultant Beth Schapiro is taking down her shingle so she can “sit back and reflect on what an amazing ride this has been.”

Schapiro began her career as a public affairs and political consultant in June 1984 after spending three years as executive director of the now-defunct Research Atlanta.

As president of The Schapiro Group Inc., she provided solid research and analysis to people running for public office and to organizations seeking to develop data-driven and sound public policy strategies.

“All good things must come to an end, though, as it’s time for me to step off the treadmill, and take some time to reflect, recharge and refresh,” Schapiro wrote in an email to clients, colleagues and friends on Oct. 8.

Answering the inevitable “what happens next?,” Schapiro said she would be finishing up a couple of projects and would be closing the doors of the Schapiro Group by the end of the year.

After an indefinite sabbatical, Schapiro hinted that she likely will be heard from again – one way or another.

She ended her email by saying, “Atlanta is our home now, so I’ll still be around and expect to be reengaging at some point, as making this world a better place is part of my DNA.”

Steve Selig honored

A record crowd turned out to honor businessman Steve Selig as he received the Council for Quality Growth’s 2014 Four Pillar Tribute on Oct. 2 at the Georgia World Congress Center. (See more photos on Page 6A, The Insider.)

Michael Paris, president and CEO of the council, said more than 1,300 people attended the dinner, a record for the Four Pillar event.

Several friends, colleagues and family members spoke of Selig – either in person or on video, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

But one of the unexpected highlights was Doug Hertz, president of United Distributors, who said they have known each other almost all of their lives.

Hertz, who was supposed to talk about “quality” and Selig, complained about what a subjective word that was.

Hertz then borrowed a quote from one of Selig’s family members: “OK is not OK. Just being good is never going to be good enough if your standard is excellence.”

Hertz also teased Selig by saying that anyone who has had a 10-minute conversation with Selig finds out how great a football player he was. (“The older he gets, the better he was.”)

Other speakers included Larry Gellerstedt, Vince Dooley, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, attorney Steve Labovitz and Mike Levin, president and CEO of Las Vegas Sands.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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