Women's Power and Vote at 100

To honor the legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., YWCA Greenwich and more than 30 community partners, will celebrate his life by hosting an outstanding panel of experts on the topic of “Women’s Power and Vote at 100 . . . A Conversation About Empowering Women.”

The centennial of the vote for women is a special opportunity to explore the barriers and opportunities for the advancement of women and girls. We will cover a range of issues, from the right to vote, women running for office, the intersection of race and gender, to workplace harassment.

The panelists include Sheryl Battles, Vice President, Global Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement, Pitney Bowes; Gretchen Carlson, American Television Commentator, Journalist, and Author; Denise W. Merrill, Connecticut Secretary of the State; and Patti Russo, Executive Director, Women’s Campaign School at Yale University.

Event is FREE and open to the public

Sheryl Battles

Sheryl Battles is currently Vice President, Global Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement for Pitney Bowes Inc. In this role, she combines her extensive communications expertise, her deep understanding of the company’s strategy, and her passion for leveraging the intersection of diversity, inclusion and engagement to help drive business results and individual growth. She leads the company’s strategies; communications and storytelling related to these areas and provides strategic counsel to the CHRO and the senior team.

Sheryl is a seasoned professional that has held a range of increasing responsibilities within corporate communications at the Company including speech writing for 3 previous CEOs, investor communications, media relations, internal publishing and community relations/strategic investments. In her immediate past position as VP, Communications and Diversity Strategy Sheryl provided strategic communications counsel to the COO, the CFO and other senior executives and led financial communications, corporate thought leadership, and crisis communications as well as the company’s global diversity and inclusion strategy. Pitney Bowes has recognized her exceptional contributions with several awards, including the company’s highest employee honor – the Walter H. Wheeler, Jr. Award. She is a three-time winner of the Pitney Bowes One Standard Excellence Award for outstanding team accomplishments.

Sheryl graduated from Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA with a degree in Human Biology.

In 2018, Sheryl received the Public Relations Society of America’s national D. Parke Gibson award, which is its highest individual honor in diversity to recognize her work within the public relations industry and in her organization. She is also one of the professionals featured in the book “Diverse Voices: Profiles in Leadership” designed to help communications leaders and professionals better understand the challenges faced by minorities in the field.

Media coverage about Sheryl throughout her career includes: PR Week Podcast October 2019; PR Week (The AI Message: Facing the Fear); i4cp report (Automating Work: The Human/AI Intersection ); MyPRSA (“Sheryl Battles of Pitney Bowes on Diversity and Leadership”); PR Week (“Mothers of Invention”); The Harvard Business Review (“Leadership in Your Midst: Tapping the Hidden Strengths of Minority Executives”); Time Magazine (“Pathways to Power” – photo caption on mentoring); and Ebony Magazine “100 Most Promising Black Women in Corporate America.”

She has received numerous professional and community honors in addition to the ones above, including: 2019 Mother of the Year, Stamford Norwalk Chapter of Jack & Jill of America; 100 Most Influential Blacks in Connecticut 2018; 2018 Business Person of the Year, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity; 2017 Most Powerful & Influential Woman Award Tri-State Diversity Council; Diversity Global Magazine’s 2017 Influential Woman in Global Diversity; 2017 Commitment to Community Service Award from the Urban League of Southern CT; Savoy Magazine’s 2016 Top Influential Women in Corporate America (& 2012); 2016 Brava Award from the Greenwich YWCA; Women of Power Award from the Urban League of Southern Connecticut; “Donald H. McGannon Award” from the National Urban League; the “Community Service Award” from the Yerwood Center; the “African American Cultural Series Community Service Award” from the Stamford Center for the Arts; and, an ACE award for speech writing from the new York chapter of the IABC.

Mrs. Battles is a popular speaker for a variety of professional and community events, a sampling of which include: 2019 Human Capital Investment Reporting panel; 2019 Public Relations Society of America’s International Conference; 2019 The Conference Board’s 15th Annual Women’s Leadership Conference; 2019 The Conference Board’s Annual Diversity and Inclusion Conference; 2019 PRWeek Roundtable on AI and the impact on Business and Communications; Truth on Trial panel, CommPro; Graduation Speaker, ConnectUS Academy, afterschool program; Chair and Speaker Urban League of Southern CT Women’s Empowerment Summit; moderator “The Hidden Power of Inclusion” Arthur W. Page Society Annual Conference; featured speaker CT Diversity Council Best Practices; Keynote “When Women Lead Conference” for the Connecticut Business & Industry Association; panelist Connecticut Women in Leadership Symposium; Keynote for Celebrating Diversity in Business Awards Program; Panelist on Gender Diverse Boardrooms for the Thirty Percent Coalition; Colloquium on Global Diversity Discussion Leader; Keynote on Diversity for Greenwich Hospital; Keynote Speaker for the Women’s Leadership Council for the Bridgeport Regional Business Council; Luncheon Keynote for Women’s Empowerment Seminar for the Urban League of Southern Connecticut; Women’s Day keynote speaker for the historic Dixwell Avenue Church in New Haven; and the keynote speaker for the Bridgeport Rescue Mission’s “Hearts of Hope” event for an audience of approximately 800 over two evenings.

Within the public relations industry Mrs. Battles is on the Advisory Board for the School of Communications at Elon University; the Board of Trustees of the PRSA Foundation, which is focused on increasing diversity within the public relations industry; a member and Co-Chair of the Arthur W. Page Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Steering Committee for the PR Industry’s newly formed Diversity Action Alliance; and a member of ColorComm. Within the diversity industry, Sheryl is a member of: The Chief Diversity Officers Board of i4cp and the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women in Connecticut.

Within the community, Sheryl serves on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the Stamford Center for the Arts. She is also on the Boards of Trustees of the Greenwich Hospital and Person-to-Person. She is President of the Fairfield County (CT) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated; and a member of the Stamford-Norwalk Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., the Fairfield County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, the Stanford University Alumni Association; and, the Stanford University National Black Alumni Association.

She is married to Curt Battles, Chief Advisor of Craft Brewing Insights, who has a BA from Cornell University and an MBA from Northwestern University, and their daughter Kendall is at Elon University. The family attends the First Presbyterian Church of Stamford where both parents have served as Elders.

Gretchen Carlson

Journalist, author, TED talk alum, and advocate Gretchen Carlson helped pave the way for #MeToo with her historic 2016 sexual harassment complaint against the chairman of Fox News Roger Ailes. Named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World,” and author of New York Times bestsellers “Be Fierce” and “Getting Real,” Carlson is one of America’s most successful news anchors and a globally recognized advocate for women’s empowerment.

Carlson previously hosted “The Real Story” on Fox News, and co-hosted the number-one rated cable morning news show, “Fox and Friends," for more than seven years. Carlson’s announced her return to television in 2018, as host and producer of A+E and Lifetime Network documentaries, breaking the barriers and blacklisting she faced after saying “enough” to harassment. Her comeback is a beacon of hope for other brave women demoted, fired, or blacklisted from their chosen careers after reporting sexual harassment.

Carlson started her television career as a political reporter in Richmond, Virginia, and then served as an anchor and reporter in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Dallas. In 2000 Carlson moved to national news as co-host and correspondent on CBS’ “The Saturday Early Show,” where she covered some of the world’s biggest stories, including the 9-11 terrorist attack from the World Trade Center, the Bush-Gore election, and Oklahoma City Bomber Tim McVeigh’s execution. She also reported and produced a 30-part series on domestic violence that won several national awards.

In 2016 Carlson became the face of workplace harassment survivors, gracing the covers of Time and Good Housekeeping magazines. Carlson’s book “Be Fierce” debuted in October 2017 and immediately joined “Getting Real” as a New York Times bestseller.

Since her harassment complaint became public, Carlson has worked fearlessly to change laws that protect predators. In December 2017, she joined a bi-partisan coalition of legislators to introduce the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act,” which voids forced arbitration agreements that prevent sexual harassment survivors from getting their day in court. The bill was reintroduced in the House in February 2019 and Carlson testified before the House Judiciary Committee in May 2019.

Profits from “Be Fierce” go to Carlson’s Gift of Courage Fund, which supports organizations empowering women and young girls. This year the fund is providing free workshops to low-income women facing gender-based discrimination and violence through the Gretchen Carlson Leadership Initiaitve and supporting the March of Dimes’ Gretchen Carlson Advocacy Fellows. In December 2019, Carlson announced a new non-profit initiative “Lift Our Voices” to eradicate confidentiality agreements that handcuff women facing harassment in the workplace. The initiative is a call for all women and men to sign a pledge to require all companies to take harassment out of secrecy and into public discussion in an effort to fix it.

Carlson’s advocacy has been honored by numerous organizations, including the New York Women in Communications’ Matrix Award; the Radio Television Digital News Association’s First Amendment Leadership Award; the National Organization for Women’s 2018 Women of Power and Influence Award; and the YWCA Greater Los Angeles’ 2018 Phenomenal Champion of Change.

An honors graduate of Stanford University, Carlson was valedictorian of her high school class and studied at Oxford University in England. A violin prodigy, she performed as a soloist with the Minnesota Orchestra at age 13, and in 1989 became the first classical violinist to win the Miss America crown.

Carlson also serves as a national Trustee for the March of Dimes and as a Trustee of the Greenwich Academy, an all-girls preparatory day school.

Carlson is married to sports agent Casey Close. The couple lives in Greenwich with their two teenage children.

Denise W. Merrill

Denise W. Merrill was elected to her third term as Connecticut's 73rd Secretary of the State on November 6, 2018. As Connecticut's chief elections official and business registrar, Merrill has focused on modernizing Connecticut's elections, business services and improving access to public records. Secretary Merrill is focused on both civic engagement and fostering business enterprise. Since taking office, she has supported and expanded democratic participation, ensuring that every citizen's rights and privileges are protected and that every vote is counted accurately. Secretary Merrill has worked to expand voter participation through Election Day and online voter registration. She has also improved Connecticut's democratic accountability and integrity with a series of rapid response processes to Election Day problems. She was elected president of the National Association of Secretaries of State for the 2016-17 term and serves on the Board of Advisors to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

As Connecticut's business registrar, Secretary Merrill has made it easier for businesses to interact with the office by increasing online functionality, improving response times and connecting businesses with government resources. Merrill has partnered with the U.S. Department of Commerce Export Assistance Center, the General Services Administration, and Small Business Development Administration to distribute information about business assistance and educational events being offered by these agencies. Secretary Merrill also launched an award-winning online business startup tool to help entrepreneurs navigate through various state and federal agencies. She also led the development of Connecticut's e-Regulations System, an online platform that provides access to all agency regulation-making records with real-times updates.

Prior to her election as Secretary of the State, Denise Merrill served as State Representative from the 54th General Assembly District for 17 years, representing the towns of Mansfield and Chaplin. First elected to the General Assembly in 1994, Merrill rose to the rank of House Majority Leader from 2009-2011. She also served as the House Chair of the budget writing Appropriations Committee from 2005-2009, as vice-chair of the Education Committee from 1994-1999 and as a member of the Government Administration and Elections Committee from 1995-1997. In a 2009 poll done by Connecticut magazine, Majority Leader Merrill was named by her colleagues in the legislature as "Most Respected by the Other Side of the Aisle" and "Most Effective Legislator."

Secretary Merrill is a graduate of the University of Connecticut, is licensed to practice law in the state of California, and is a classically trained pianist. She lives in Hartford. Her family includes husband Dr. Stephen Leach and his two sons, her three grown children and five grandchildren.

Patti Russo

Patricia Russo, Executive Director, Women's Campaign School at Yale University, is a nationally respected leader focused on improving the quality of life for women in the United States and the world. For over thirty years, she has held numerous leadership positions in public, private, and not for profit organizations centered on women’s rights. She has held leadership positions on federal, state, and local political campaigns.

Presently, Patricia serves as Executive Director of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University, a non-partisan, issue-neutral political campaign training program for women interested in running for office, as well as for women interested in campaign management. Based at Yale Law School, it is the leading program attracting women from the United States and internationally. It recently celebrated its twenty-fifth year at Yale Law School.

Patricia holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the George Washington University and a certificate in held care and nonprofit management from the Yale University School of Management.

While an undergraduate student, Patricia served as an intern to U.S. Congresswoman Bella S. Abzug (19-NY) who inspires her to this day.