An alumna and an administrator from The University of Tulsa were honored at the 2017 Women of the Year-Pinnacle Awards Feb. 24. The event was sponsored by YWCA Tulsa in partnership with the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women.
Attorney and mental health advocate Caroline Zink-Hott Abbott (BA ’97, JD ’00) was honored as one of the 10 Women of the Year-Pinnacle Award winners. She has provided free legal services for the past 15 years to local clients experiencing homelessness, mental health conditions or other issues. At public libraries, by referral and through classes at Goodwill Industries, she offers preventative legal work, advanced directives and documents for powers of attorney as well as assistance with the many obstacles faced by poverty-stricken Tulsans.
Abbott is a longtime advocate for Tulsa’s human services initiatives and helped establish the Child Abuse Network and Family Safety Center. She also collaborates with elected officials and other critical offices to create systematic chance, including developing the Special Services Docket. Abbott received an undergraduate degree in political science from TU and a juris doctorate from TU Law.
“We congratulate Caroline on her award and the civility and humanity she brings to the legal profession,” said Kalpana Misra, dean of the Kendall College of Arts and Sciences. “Her effort to serve Tulsans and improve their quality of life is a mission we all should strive to follow.”
TU Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Professor of Law Janet Levit received the Anna C. Roth Legacy Award, reserved for outstanding leaders committed to furthering civil rights, equality and social justice. Levit has made exceptional contributions to the community as an attorney, dean, author in the area of human rights and administrator at TU. During her tenure as the first female dean of the TU College of Law (2007-15), Levit propelled the program to one of the top 100 law schools in the country. Levit was involved in other major initiatives such as the Access to Legal Education Scholarship Program and the Lobeck Taylor Family Advocacy Clinic. She was named a TU vice president in January 2017.
On a local level, Levit is co-chair of the Greater Tulsa Teach for America Board and a board member for the Tulsa Campaign Against Teen Pregnancy and the Booker T. Washington High School Foundation for Excellence. She also is a member of Teach for America’s National Council. Levit holds degrees from Yale Law School, Yale University and Princeton University and writes about international law and human rights issues.
As the Roth award recipient, Levit delivered the event’s keynote address and discussed the topic of implicit gender bias. She explained how while explicit bias is alive and well, the implicit form is the less understood and operates subtly, beyond the purview of law and consciousness.
“The real facts suggest that our brains implicitly associate men with power and women with a softness or weakness incompatible with leadership,” Levit said. “Across the country, women attend college at a much higher rate than men, and they have been doing so since the late 1970s. Nonetheless, the number of women in leadership positions in corporate America hovers around 20 percent, and only 24 percent of our lawmakers – that includes the state and federal level – are women.”
Levit suggested three simple ways to practice “bias busting” each day.
- Own it. We are all biased, and that does not mean that we are bad but simply that our brains are processing information overload through shortcuts.
- Be vigilant and vocal. When you see bias, call it out.
- Sponsor a woman. Be a relentless advocate – not simply a mentor – but an advocate for a women in your workplace.
Watch Levit’s complete keynote address here.