About the Women’s Forum of New York

Linda Willett, President of the Women's Forum

Who We Are

The Women’s Forum of New York is an invitation-only organization of more than 500 women representing the highest levels of achievement across all professional sectors and spheres of influence in our city.

Born in 1974 when women were first entering the executive ranks, today’s Forum members form a driving force in our city as New York’s thought leaders, influencers, trailblazers, policymakers, change agents, power brokers, healers, innovators, icons, creators and business builders.

Forum membership provides extraordinary women with the opportunity to network with a diverse array of peers, to help one another succeed and to share unique experiences. We believe the potential for cross-collaboration amongst our diverse membership and generations of members ignites progress and transformation in all of us.

Our Leadership

Officers

Linda Willett

President
Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary
Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey

Linda is Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary for Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, the largest health care insurance company in New Jersey with more than $12B in annual revenue. Linda leads the teams responsible for: communications; compliance; enterprise risk management; government affairs; legal and regulatory affairs; public affairs; and, the Horizon BCBSNJ Foundation. Linda gained extensive business experience in several global industries including the consumer product, health care insurance, medical device and pharmaceutical sectors. Prior to law school, she moved through a series of positions within the American Cyanamid family of companies, transitioning from Lederle Laboratories to the Shulton, Inc. subsidiary where she was Product Development Manager for major consumer brands. Linda joined the firm of McCarter & English after completing her law degree. She became National Coordinating Counsel for a large pharmaceutical company class action, overseeing the work of law firms in all of U.S. as well as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the U.K. She achieved partnership and built a practice defending medical device and pharmaceutical companies. In 1996, Linda joined her largest client, Bristol Myers-Squibb, and was appointed VP and Deputy General Counsel leading significant business activities in Europe, India and the Far East. Her work in Europe led her to co-found the European Justice Forum, formed to focus on the impact of private litigation on EU businesses and economies.

Marcy Syms

Vice President
Former Chairman & CEO
SYMS Corporation

Marcy is founding trustee and President of the Sy Syms Foundation and since 2012 President of TPD Group LLC., a multi generational succession planning company. She is the former Chair and CEO of SYMS, one of the first companies to offer designer and brand-name clothing at “off-price” rather than “regularprice”. In 1983, when taking SYMS public, Marcy became the youngest female presidents of a New York Stock Exchange company. In 2009, SYMS acquired Filene’s Basement and operated 50 stores under both names. Marcy is also author of the book “Mind Your Own Business, And Keep It In the Family” and a past columnist for “Family Business Magazine”.

Susan Davenport Austin

Treasurer
Senior Managing Director
Brock Capital Group LLC

Susan Davenport Austin currently serves as Senior Managing Director at Brock Capital Group. At Brock Capital, a boutique investment bank, Susan provides strategic and corporate advisory services to small and middle market companies. Sheridan Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) is a privately held corporation that was the majority owner and manager of American Urban Radio Networks (AURN), the only African American owned national radio network with over 300 affiliates across the country. Susan joined SBC in 2002 as Vice President of Strategic Planning and Treasurer. Subsequently, she was promoted to SVP and CFO in 2007, then to Vice Chairman in 2013. In 2004, she also became President of SBC’s division, Sheridan Gospel Network, a 24-hour gospel music network which had approximately 45 affiliates. Previously, Susan spent 10 years in investment banking, specializing in telecommunications and media finance at Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns and Salomon Brothers. Susan has been profiled twice as the cover story in Radio Ink (2005 and 2013) and has also been profiled in Womensbiz, Ebony and XII magazines. Susan and her husband, Kenneth W. Austin, have two children and reside in New York City and East Hampton.

Sarah Beatty Buller

Secretary
President and Founder
MontgomeryBUILDS, Green Depot & Greenmaker Industries

Sarah Beatty is an accidental entrepreneur and mission driven builder. She is the co-founder of MontgomeryBUILDS(tm) (2013)– a multi tiered renovation project dedicated to the revitalization of downtown Montgomery AL. Sarah is the founder of Green Depot (2005) and Greenmaker Inudstries (2010). Green Depot is a one-stop shop for sustainable “green” building materials with locations serving New York, Seattle and Portland, Oregon. Greenmaker Industries is a product development manufacturer committed to offering energy efficient, and healthy alternatives to conventional building materials. Current product lines include DecoPlast and GMI coatings & finishes. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Sarah worked for 16 years in media as VP of Marketing & Global branding at MTV: Music Television and SVP of Marketing and Off-Air Creative for USA Network. Senator Kristin Gillibrand nominated Green Depot is a 2010 winner of the EPA Environmental Quality Award. Sarah is a LEED accredited Professional. Tags: Entrepreneur, Mission Driven Builder, Innovation Enthusiast, Sustainability Advocate, Music Lover, Culture Junkie, Curious Traveler, Feminist, wife, mother.

Directors

What We Believe

Our organization is apolitical and non-partisan. Our membership of diverse leaders is unified by shared values and beliefs as reflected in our Credo:

  • We believe the potential for women is unlimited and opportunities should be as well.
  • We believe leadership has no gender.
  • We believe in equal pay for equal work.
  • We believe women inspiring women never gets old.
  • We believe women helping women never gets tired.
  • We revere the women who blazed trails before us and revel in those who come after.
  • We believe our diversity is our strength.
  • We celebrate each other’s success.
  • We believe successful women can be successful friends.

What We Believe Drives What We Do


Forum Programs

Our programs are as diverse as our members, because our members create them – by sharing unique interests, access and accomplishments. Every Forum program must provide special insight or access you can only experience because you are a member of our Forum.  We create 30 programs a year, from Small Dinners in members’ homes, to an exclusive conversation with a Supreme Court Justice, to going behind the scenes at the Tony Awards, or discussing America’s place in the world with our UN Ambassador the day after the Presidential election. 

Click here to learn more about Forum Programs

The Education Fund of the Women’s Forum

We believe that “women helping women never gets tired.” Our Education Fund embodies that belief, providing funds for educational awards and mentoring programs to high-potential women 35 and over who have faced extreme adversity which disrupted their education and their lives. Our unrestricted awards enable these deserving women to complete college degrees and fulfill dreams for themselves and their families. Our Forum has raised over $1. 6 million and helped 240 women since 1987. Since 2011, our primary fundraiser has been the Annual Elly Awards held each spring.

Click here to learn more about the Education Fund of the Women’s Forum.

The Corporate Board Initiative

Opportunities for women should be unlimited, and corporate board participation is a significant leadership frontier. To help accelerate gender balance on corporate boards, our Forum launched the Corporate Board Initiative in 2011 with two key platforms: a biennial salute to progressive CEOs and companies moving toward gender parity in the boardroom, known as the “Breakfast of Corporate Champions”  and a database of board-ready women who are uniquely vetted by a CEO sponsor.

Click here to learn more about the Women’s Forum Corporate Board Initiative.

International Women’s Forum Conferences

The Women’s Forum of New York is the founding forum of what has now become a global network of Forums – the International Women’s Forum – representing over 6,500 dynamic women leaders in 74 Forums in 33 countries. Our Forum members have a unique opportunity to connect with these accomplished women at two IWF conferences each year – the World Leadership Conference held each fall in North America and the Cornerstone Conference held internationally each spring. This represents a unique gathering of women leaders, delivering cutting edge programs that explore topics impacting international progress, business, economic and social change.

Click here to connect to the IWF website.

Members Tell Our Story

Meet some of our members and learn about their diverse accomplishments, their thoughts on leadership and how their membership in the Women’s Forum of New York has enriched their lives.

Click here for a full list of current members.

 

How to become a Member of the Women’s Forum of New York

Membership in the Women’s Forum of New York is by invitation only.  We take each invitation seriously because each member is expected to enrich the Forum experience for everyone.

Candidates are sponsored by a current member based on accomplishments, recognition, impact in their field, compatibility with the Women’s Forum Credo and commitment to make an active contribution to Forum activities. Candidates are invited to learn about the Forum through a Breakfast with the Membership Committee and are formally reviewed by the Board of Directors before being invited to join.

History

Betty Friedan, Forum Co-Founders Elinor Guggenheimer and Eleanor Holmes Norton, with Gloria Steinem

The Women’s Forum of New York was created by civic leader and philanthropist Elinor Guggenheimer in 1974, at a time when women were first entering the executive ranks across most professional sectors. The Forum was originally conceived as a “new girls network” to provide inspiration and support for women who were “firsts” and to bring together women of diverse accomplishment for an exchange of ideas and experiences.

Nothing travels faster than an idea whose time had come. By 1979, the Women’s Forum of New York had inspired Forums in San Francisco then Washington, D.C., Chicago, Southern California and Colorado. In 1982 the Forum expanded into the United Kingdom. Other countries quickly followed, and in 1987 the International Women’s Forum (IWF) was established as an umbrella organization to bring Forums together, headquartered in Washington, DC. Today there are 74 Forums around the world in 33 countries representing over 6,800 outstanding women leaders.

The professional landscape for women has changed dramatically since 1974, but the challenges for women still remain – the challenge of access to the boardroom and the C Suite, to the highest levels in academia, law firms, technology, science and medicine; the challenge of access to venture capital and the global challenge for equal pay for equal work across almost all professions. There is an enduring need for women to support, celebrate, and inspire one another. Therefore, our Forum remains as relevant and strong today as the day we started.

Click here to read the History of the Women’s Forum

The Women’s Forum of New York thanks our Website Angels for their support of the website redesign launched in 2018:

  • Dede Thomson Bartlett

  • Georgette F. Bennett

  • Carolyn Carter

  • Jonelle Procope

  • Charlotte St. Martin

  • Lulu Wang

  • Linda A. Willett