Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, has a distinguished track record working across a broad set of issues central to women’s lives, including income security, health and reproductive rights, education access, and workplace fairness. During the Upswell Summit, October 14-16, Independent Sector will honor Goss Graves with the 2020 John W. Gardner Leadership Award in recognition of her groundbreaking work to advance the rights of women and girls.
Goss Graves has served in numerous roles at NWLC for more than a decade. She is also among the co-founders of the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, an initiative that aims to help workers connect with lawyers and bring cases of workplace sexual harassment and related retaliation — regardless of industry, rank, or role.
Since 1985, Independent Sector has presented the John W. Gardner Leadership Award annually to a visionary who exemplifies the leadership and ideals of John W. Gardner (1912-2002), American statesman, educator, author, and IS founder. The award honors an extraordinary social sector champion whose collective work has transformed the nonprofit community and mobilized and unified people, institutions, or causes to positively impact the ability of all Americans to thrive.
“Fatima Goss Graves’ life’s work has focused on calling out and eliminating barriers to gender equity for women and girls,” said Daniel J. Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector. “As our country and our sector confronts the devastating impact of gender inequity and systemic racism, I can think of no better person to honor at this time for her unflagging commitment to advancing justice and the issues that are vital to the lives of women and girls, particularly Black, Native, and women and girls of color.”
Prior to becoming president, Goss Graves served as the Center’s senior vice president for program, where she led the organization’s broad program agenda to advance progress and eliminate barriers in employment, education, health and reproductive rights and lift women and families out of poverty. Prior to that, she led the Center’s anti-discrimination initiatives, including work to promote equal pay, combat harassment and sexual assault at work and at school, and advance equal access to education programs, with a particular focus on outcomes for women and girls of color.
Goss Graves has authored many articles, including A Victory for Women’s Health Advocates, National Law Journal (2016) and We Must Deal with K-12 Sexual Assault, National Law Journal (2015), and reports, including Unlocking Opportunity for African American Girls: A Call to Action for Educational Equity (2014), Reality Check: Seventeen Million Reasons Low-Wage Workers Need Strong Protections from Harassment (2014), and 50 Years and Counting: The Unfinished Business of Achieving Fair Pay (2013).
She began her career as a litigator at the law firm of Mayer Brown LLP after clerking for the Honorable Diane P. Wood of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She currently serves as an advisor on the American Law Institute Project on Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct on Campus and was on the EEOC Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace and a Ford Foundation Public Voices Fellow.
She is widely recognized for her effectiveness in the complex public policy arena at both the state and federal levels, regularly testifies before Congress and federal agencies, and is a frequent speaker at conferences and other public education forums. Goss Graves appears often in print and on air as a legal expert on issues core to women’s lives, including in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, AP, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, CNN, MSNBC, and NPR.
Goss Graves will accept the Gardner Award this October at Upswell, an annual gathering of changemakers pursuing an extraordinary opportunity to propose — and collectively engineer — a future that doesn’t just help our communities survive, but instead reimagines society so that every person can thrive. Learn more at upswell.org.