Women of Distinction Awards

Profiles in Excellence

“I wanted to create clothing for women to feel good and look good at the same time.”
— Ashley Nell Tipton, 2019 AAUW Woman of Distinction and the first plus-size designer to win Project Runway.

The AAUW Women of Distinction program pays tribute to women leaders who have made extraordinary accomplishments in their professions or their communities.

The honor is given at a special event held in conjunction with our National Conference for College Women Student Leaders. The recipients are leaders, innovators and role models from diverse backgrounds and fields. Typically, 4–10 women become Women of Distinction each year.

Below are awardees from the program’s inception in 1985.

2019
Joan Marie Chen, Co-founder Embrace Innovations
Sandra Kim, Founder, Everyday Feminism blog
Lauren Simmons, equity trader at the New York Stock Exchange
Ashley Nell Tipton, fashion designer and Project Runway winner

2018
Simone Askew, First Captain, West Point
Carrie Goldberg, Esq., Founder, C.A. Goldberg PLLC
Aisha Bowe, Co-founder and CEO, STEMBoard
Carmen Perez, Executive Director, The Gathering for Justice; co-founder, Justice League NYC and founder of Justice League CA; National Co-Chair of the 2017 Women’s March on Washington

2017
Rosie Rios, 43rd Treasurer of the United States
Danielle Feinberg, Director of Photography for Lighting at Pixar
Amanda Nguyen, President and Founder of Rise
Crystal Valentine, author and poet

2016
Anu Duggal, Founding Partner, Female Founders Fund (F Cubed)
Sarah McBride, LGBT Research and Communications Project, Center for American Progress
Kimberly Bryant, Founder, Black Girls Code
Marisa J. Demeo, Associate Judge, Superior Court of the District of Columbia
Kelly Tsai, writer, performer, director and Producer

2015
Elizabeth Acevedo, Poet
Marcia Ann Gillespie, Magazine Editor and Writer
Lynn Rosenthal, Vice President for Strategic Partnerships, National Domestic Violence Hotline
Debbie Sterling, CEO and Founder, GoldieBlox
Amanda Simpson, Executive Director, U.S. Army Office of Energy Initiatives
Miriam W. Yeung, MPA, Executive Director, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum

2014
Hattie Kauffman, Veteran Network News correspondent and author
Lily Liu, Co-founder, PublicStuff
Pamela Ann Melroy, NASA astronaut
DeRionne P. Pollard, President, Montgomery College in Maryland
Judy Smith, Founder and President, Smith & Company

2013
Katie Miller, Policy and Government Affairs Chair, OutServe-SLDN Board of Directors
Deborah Owens, CEO, Owens Media Group
Reshma Saujani, Former Deputy Public Advocate of NYC and Founder, Girls Who Code
Donna E. Shalala, President, University of Miami
Ritu Sharma, Co-founder and President, Women Thrive Worldwide
Lydia Villa-Komaroff, Chief Scientific Officer at Cytonome ST

2012
Noorjahan Akbar, Co-founder and Assistant Director, Young Women for Change
Alison Cohen, President, Alta Bicycle Share
Liza Donnelly, Cartoonist and Writer
Sandra Fluke, Women’s Advocate and Georgetown Law Student, @SandraFluke
Michel Martin, Host, Tell Me More
Maggie Williams, Founding Partner, Griffin Williams Consulting

2011
Swanee Hunt, Founder, Women and Public Policy Program, Harvard Kennedy School of Government
Natalie Randolph, Head Coach, Calvin Coolidge Senior High School Football Team
Marsha A. Guenzler-Stevens, Director, Adele H. Stamp Student Union, University of Maryland, College Park
Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Connie Chung, Emmy-winning broadcast journalist

2010
Patti Solis Doyle, political organizer and campaign strategist
Dorothy Height, president, National Council of Negro Women
Christina Lagdameo, social, economic, and political activist
Marie Tillman, founder and chair, Pat Tillman Foundation
Nomfundo Walaza, CEO, Desmond Tutu Peace Centre

2009
Anucha Browne Sanders, Senior Associate Athletic Director of Marketing, University of Buffalo
Tammy Duckworth, Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Melissa Poe Hood, Founder, Kids F.A.C.E.
Diane Rehm, Host, The Diane Rehm Show
Martine Rothblatt, Founder and CEO, United Therapeutics

2008
Maya Ajmera, Founder and President, Global Fund for Children
Jovita Carranza, Deputy Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration
Majora Carter, Founder and Executive Director, Sustainable South Bronx
Kimberly Dozier, Award-winning Journalist
Evelyn ‘Pat’ Foote, Brigadier General (ret.), U.S. Army

2007
Deborah Bial, President and Founder, The Posse Foundation
Caryn G. Mathes, General Manager, WAMU 88.5 FM
Alison Malmon, President and Executive Director, Active Minds, Inc.
Asra Q. Nomani, Writer-Activist
María Otero, President and CEO, ACCION International

2006
Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army
Beverly Tatum, Ph.D., President, Spelman College
Eve Ensler, Playwright and performer
Rebecca Walker, author and cofounder, Third Wave Foundation
Bernice Sandler, scholar and author

2005
Jehmu Greene, President, Rock the Vote
Rachel Muir, Founder and Executive Director, Girlstart
Eleanor Smeal, President, Feminist Majority Foundation
Gail Wyatt, psychologist and sex educator

2004
Dominique Dawes, Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics
Amy Richards, Co-Founder, Third Wave Foundation
The Honorable Linda Sánchez, U.S. Representative
Stacey Davis Stewart, President and CEO, Fannie Mae Foundation
Deborah Tannen, University Professor of Linguistics, Georgetown University
Marie C. Wilson, President, The White House Project

2002
Sarita E. Brown, President and CEO Hispanic Scholarship Fund Institute
Kendra Fox-Davis, Training Director, Center for Third World Organizing
Ruth B. Mandel, Director, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University, and Board of Governors Professor of Politics, Rutgers University
Jane E. Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Business and Professional Women/USA
Melanne Verveer, Chair, Vital Voices Global Partnership
Belle S. Wheelan, Secretary of Education, Commonwealth of Virginia

2000
Sheila Trice Bell, Executive Director and CEO, National Association of College and University Attorneys
Danise Jones-Dorsey, Director, Catholic Charities USA
Elizabeth Lisboa-Farrow, Chair, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; President and CEO, LISBOA, Inc.
Joan Rector McGlockton, Sodexho Marriott Services
Sharon Murphy, Co-Founder, Mary House

1999
Joyce Hale, Paralympic medalist
Marie C. Johns, President and CEO, Bell Atlantic, Washington, D.C.
Ruth Watson Lubic, Founder and President Emeritus, D.C. Developing Families Center
Indira Nair Ph.D.,  Vice Provost of Education, Carnegie Mellon University
Angela E. Oh, attorney and teacher

1998
Sharon Barbano, President, Women’s Sports Marketing Group
Dr. Susan Blumenthal, Senior Global and e-Health Advisor, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Amy Cohen, Plaintiff, Landmark Title IX Case
Laura Groppe, President, Girl Games Inc.
Sylvia Peters, Founder and President, Whole Village/Whole Nation, Inc.
Eva M. Plaza, Assistant Secretary of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Jennifer Sheehy, Vice President and Director, CEO Council, National Organization on Disability
Luci Tapahonso, Navajo poet and English professor
Wilma L. Vaught, Brigadier General (ret.), U.S. Air Force

1997
Bettie Baca, Director, Executive Secretariat, U.S. Department of Commerce
Mary Chapin Carpenter, Grammy-winning singer and songwriter
Rita Dove, Poet Laureate of the United States
Nancy Gruver, Founder, New Moon Publishing
M. Charito Kruvant, President and CEO, Creative Associates International, Inc.
The Honorable Blanche Lambert Lincoln, U.S. Representative
Aimee Mullins, Paralympic and Olympic Medalist

1996
Kavelle R. Bajaj, Founder and CEO, I-Net, Inc.
Norma V. Cantu, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education
The Honorable Deborah J. Doxtator, Tribal Chairwoman, Oneida Nation of Wisconsin
A. Danielle England-Dansiker, Fire Battalion Chief, Maryland
Margaret B. Rawson, Author and Dyslexia Educator
Carolyn S. Shoemaker, American Astronomer; Scientist, U.S. Geological Survey
Isabel Carter Stewart, National Executive Director, Girls Inc.

1995
Ada E. Deer, head of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs
Shannon Richey Faulkner, Cadet, The Citadel
Beatrice Gaddy, City Councilwoman; Advocate, Patterson Park Emergency Food Center
Juliet V. Garcia, President, University of Texas at Brownsville
Beverly J. Harvard, Chief of Police, Atlanta, Georgia
Susan Stroud, Founder and Executive Director, Innovations in Civic Participation
Dolores D. Wharton, Chairman and CEO, Fund for Corporate Initiatives, Inc.
Elvira Felton Williams, Co-Founder, Adventures in Higher Education and Agricultural Development, Inc. (AHEAD)
V. Cheryl Womack, Founder, VCW, Inc.

1994
Mae Jemison, Astronaut, NASA
Betty Jean Murphy, CEO, Savannah Development Corporation
Nancy H. Richardson, mariner, Girl Scouts of America Leader
Patricia Rueckel, National Association for Women in Education
Haley Scott, University of Notre Dame
Leslie C. Shields, author, Work Sister Work
Catherine Filene Shouse, philanthropist

1993
Jill Alper, Head of Campaign Practice, Dewey Square Group
Margaret Bridwell, Director, University of Maryland Health Center
Diane Carlson Evans, Nurse, Vietnam Women’s Memorial Project
Elaine Chao, President and Chief Executive Officer, United Way of America
Kimi Gray, Chairperson, Kenilworth-Parkside Resident Management Corporation
Barbara Hedges, Director, University of Washington Department of Athletics
Ellen Malcolm, Founder, EMILY’s List
Karen Thompson, Author and Activist
Sarah Weddington, Attorney and Author

1992
Donna Brazile, Chief of Staff, U.S. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton
Judy Canales, President, Mexican American Women’s National Association
Rayna Green, Curator and Director of the American Indian Program, National Museum of American History
Susan Hester, Founder, Mautner Project for Lesbians With Cancer
Doris Leader Charge, Teacher, Sinte Gleska College
Lorraine Mintzmyer, Regional Director, National Park Service
Sima Wal, National Women’s Studies Association

1991
Eleanor Baum, Dean, Cooper Union Department of Engineering
Brigadier General Hazel Johnson-Brown, Chief, Army Nurse Corps
Setsuko Matsunaga Nishi Ph.D., principal investigator, The Japanese American Life Course Study on Long-Term Effects of Japanese American’s Wartime Incarceration
Ruth Otte, President and COO, Discovery Communications
Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Curator Emeritus, National Museum of American History
Marilyn Russo, psychotherapist and advocate for Young Women With Disabilities
Dr. Bernice R. Sandler, Director, Project on the Status and Education of Women

1990
Lois J. Barber, Founder and President Emerita, 20/20 Vision
Sarah K. Brady, activist, Handgun Control, Inc.
Eugenie Clark, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist and Professor Emerita, University of Maryland
Barbara Hart Esq., Founder, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Chief National Correspondent for PBS, MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour
Ann Lewin, Director, Capital Children’s Museum
Wilma P. Mankiller, Principal Chief, Cherokee Nation
Bonnie Newman, Former Director, White House Office of Management and Operations
Dr. Nancy K. Schlossberg, Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland
Molly Yard, President, National Organization for Women (NOW)

1989
Margaret Burroughs, Founder, Museum of African American Art
Dr. Elaine Copeland, Associate Dean, Graduate College, University of Illinois
Dorothy Gilliam, columnist, Washington Post
Ruth Knee, consultant
Carmen Neuberger, Dean of Educational Services, Dickinson College
Anne-Imelda Radice, Director, National Museum of Women in the Arts
Estelle Ramey, Professor of Medicine, Georgetown University
Donna Shavlik, Director, Office of Women in Higher Education at the American Council on Education

1988
The Honorable Lindy Boggs, U.S. Representative
Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and President, Children’s Defense Fund
Dana Harris, President, Homelessness Information Exchange
Florence Howe, Founder, Feminist Press
Karen Keesling, Acting Administrator, U.S. Department of Labor
Jewel LaFontant, Attorney, Vedder, Price, Kaufman & Kammholtz
Cokie Roberts, Senior News Analyst, National Public Radio
Emily Taylor, Director, Office of Women in Higher Education (OWHE) at the American Council on Education (ACE)

1987
Cathleen Black, President, USA Today
Julia Chang Bloch, Founder and President, U.S.-China Education Trust
Anna Fisher, Astronaut, NASA
Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, Co-Founder, National Museum of Women in the Arts
Elizabeth Duncan Koontz, Director, Women’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor
Candy Lightner, Organizer and Founding President, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
Wilma Rudolph, Olympic gold medalist in track and field

1985
Jessie Bernard, author, The Female World
Donna de Varona, sportscaster, ABC Sports; Olympic gold medalist
Catherine East, Executive Secretary, Inter-Departmental Commission on the Status of Women and the Citizen’s Advisory Council on the Status of Women
The Honorable Nancy Landon Kassebaum, U.S. Senator
Shirley M. Malcom Ph.D., Head, Education and Human Resources, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Justine Merritt, poet and missionary
Loret Ruppe, Director, Peace Corps
Helen Thomas, White House Bureau Chief, United Press International

Video

Life Lessons from AAUW's Women of Distinction

Inspiring advice from the best and the brightest women in their fields