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Zakiya Thomas, President and CEO of the ERA Coalition and the Fund for Women’s Equality

Zakiya is an agent for change, working to make equality a reality for all people. Using her experiences as a political strategist and nonprofit manager, Zakiya leads a diverse coalition of over 280 organizations representing 80 million people. This community of activists jointly advocates for gender, racial, and reproductive justice, LGBTQ+ rights, and much more under the unifying goal of sex equality. The Coalition’s work is to shift how people talk about their respective issues in order to reflect how all of our issues are connected and to facilitate closer collaboration. Zakiya is also an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown Law teaching a nonpartisan course on how to run for political office and volunteers on several nonprofit boards ranging from advancing reproductive rights to individual financial empowerment.

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Carolyn B. Maloney

First elected to Congress in 1992 during the ‘Year of the Woman,’ Carolyn B. Maloney is a nationally recognized progressive leader with extensive accomplishments in financial services, national security, the economy, and women’s issues. She was ranked as the second-most effective legislator in the 117th Congress (2021-2023) and third-most effective in the 116th Congress by the nonpartisan Center for Effective Law Making. Representative Maloney was the first woman to serve as Chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Joint Economic Committee, and the first woman to represent her district in Congress, which she served for 30 years. During this time, she authored and passed over 90 bills, 12 of which had Presidential bill signings, reserved for the most important pieces of legislation.

Representative Maloney began her career as a teacher and administrator for the New York City Board of Education. When her program was cut, she succeeded in restoring funding against long odds with tenacity and persistence, which became hallmarks of her career. She served 10 years on the New York City Council where she created and chaired the Contracts Committee, where she took on the Mafia, and became the first woman to give birth while serving on the Council. Representative Maloney is currently serving as the “Eleanor Roosevelt Distinguished Leader in Residence” at Hunter College’s Roosevelt House, a public policy institute housed at Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s former home. She was recently elected Chair of the Board for the ERA Coalition, which she helped create, and also serves as President of the New York Chapter of the National Organization for Women. Overcoming years-long resistance from the Senate, Representative Maloney authored and passed the legislation creating the forthcoming Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum on the National Mall and now and serves on the museum’s Board of Advisors. 

Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn

Eileen Filler-Corn served as the 56th Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates from 2020-2022. She was the first woman and the first person of Jewish faith in the 400-year history of Virginia’s legislature to serve as Speaker. 

During her tenure, the House of Delegates took historic actions to improve the lives of everyday Virginians, actions which remain popular today.  The House expanded access to quality health care; passed gun violence prevention legislation, including universal background checks and a “Red Flag” law; removed Republican barriers to abortion access; made record investments in public education; ratified the Equal Rights Amendment; advanced anti-discrimination measures through the Virginia Values Act; combatted climate change and protected our natural resources through the Virginia Clean Economy Act; increased access to the ballot box; and so much more.

The House’s bold actions to move the Commonwealth forward led to Virginia earning the title of as CNBC’s Top State for Business for a record third year in a row, while simultaneously jumping up 28 spots from dead last in the nation for workers to #23 – the largest increase among state rankings.

Eileen Filler-Corn created the “Energized For Change” leadership committee in 2019 to support progressive candidates running for office across the Commonwealth. Since then, she has invested millions of dollars into the campaigns of candidates running for state and local office, including over 60 candidates in the past year, in order to build a deep bench of leaders who will protect and expand our progress in Virginia for years to come.

Eileen and her husband, Bob, live in Springfield and remain active members of the same community in which they raised their two children, Jeremy and Alana.

Celinda Lake, President of Lake Research Partners

Celinda Lake was one of two main pollsters for the Biden campaign, is the only Democratic pollster to play a major role in defeating two incumbent presidents, and is a prominent pollster and political strategist for progressives. Celinda currently serves as President of Lake Research Partners. Lake’s polling and strategic advice have helped candidates such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Senator Jon Tester, Senator Debbie Stabenow, and former Governor Bob Wise to groundbreaking wins, and her expertise guided former Senator Mark Begich to victory, making him the first Senate candidate in Alaska to oust an incumbent in 50 years. Celinda has focused especially on women’s concerns and women candidates, including Speaker Pelosi, former Governor Janet Napolitano, Senator Debbie Stabenow, former Senator Barbara Mikulski, Mayor Carolyn Goodman, former Mayor Annise Parker, and over a dozen women in the House and Senate. Celinda worked on behalf of the largest independent expenditure to take back the House in 2006 and has been a key player in campaigns launched by progressive groups such as the AFL-CIO, SEIU, NRDC, ecoAmerica, Planned Parenthood, Vote Vets, HRC, and EMILY’s List. Lake co-authored the book What Women Really Want with Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway. Celinda works with innovative messaging projects that help redefine language on the economy, inequality, big money in politics, climate change, public schools, teachers, criminal justice reform and has worked in-depth on the Race Class Narrative work with Anat Shenker-Osorio.  She also co-authored a book “A Question of Respect” with Ed Goeas, which was released in November of ‘22.

Congresswoman Jennifer Leigh McClellan

Jennifer Leigh McClellan entered the U.S. Congress in 2023 after winning a special election to replace the late Congressman A. Donald McEachin. A lifelong Virginia native, McClellan was born in Petersburg to parents who served the community: her father worked as a professor at Virginia State University and her mother worked as a counselor at VSU. McClellan attended Matoaca High School in Chesterfield County, where she was valedictorian. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Richmond, where she served as a Charter member of the Rho Rho Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

She then obtained her Juris Doctorate from the University of Virginia School of Law. McClellan has served the greater Richmond area in elected office for nearly twenty years. She was first elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2005 and served in that post until being elected to the Virginia State Senate in 2017, where she succeeded A. Donald McEachin after his election to the U.S. House of Representatives. A principled and progressive legislator, McClellan has always worked to ensure Virginians’ voices are heard in government.

Throughout her eighteen sessions in the Virginia General Assembly, McClellan passed over 370 pieces of legislation, including landmark bills to protect and expand voting rights, combat climate change, preserve reproductive health care, and enhance workers’ protections and labor rights. McClellan lives in Richmond with her husband, David Mills, and their two children, Jackson and Samantha.

Eleanor Smeal

As Co-Founder and President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, Publisher of Ms. Magazine, and former President of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Eleanor Smeal has led efforts for the economic, political, and social equality and empowerment of women worldwide for over four decades. She has been an activist leader in the passage of landmark legislation, such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Equal Credit Act, Civil Rights Restoration Act, Violence Against Women Act, and Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. Smeal also led the fight for the U.S. ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (from 1977-1982). Never giving up the fight for the ERA, Smeal and the Feminist Majority, a lead organization in the ERA Coalition, have worked tirelessly first for ratification of the ERA and currently for recognition of the ratification by the 38th state (Virginia), and the enshrining the ERA into the U.S. Constitution as the 28th Amendment.

Known as a political analyst, strategist, and grassroots organizer, Smeal has played a pivotal role in defining the debate, developing the strategies, and charting the direction of the feminist movement. She was the first to identify the “gender gap” – the difference in the way women and men vote – and popularized its usage in election and polling analyses to enhance women’s voting clout. In October 2015, Smeal and her achievements were honored as she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Smeal is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Duke University and holds an M.A. degree from the University of Florida. She received an honorary Doctor of Law from Duke University in 1991 and an honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Florida in 2003, and an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey in 2010. Smeal was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2015.

Kimberly S. Adams

Dr. Kimberly S. Adams is an accomplished political scientist and activist with more than 17 years of experience in academia and the private sector. She has a track record of success in publication and public speaking and served as a political analyst on national and local news programs. She has presented research and given over 100 talks domestically and internationally on women, race, and politics. Dr. Adams is a professional mediator and conflict manager, having received certificates of completion from Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation (PON) and CORA Good Shepard Mediation, in Philadelphia in 2021. She serves on the board of Directors for the National Organization for Women (NOW), the American Association of University Women, (AAUW), and the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF). She also serves on the Political Action Committees (PAC’s) for NOW and FMF. Dr. Adams holds active memberships in the National Congress of Black Women, the NAACP, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the American News Women’s Club. She’s a charter member of the African American Museum of History and Culture.  She is currently Professor of Political Science at East Stroudsberg University, Pennsylvania. Her passion is teaching and creating opportunities for her students to gain first-hand experiences in politics. She also enjoys playing tennis, reading biographies, and traveling. Her favorite country to visit is Croatia, where she has journeyed nearly a dozen times. 

Ting Ting Cheng, Executive Director of the ERA Project at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, Columbia Law School

Ting Ting Cheng is Executive Director of the ERA Project at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, Columbia Law School. She is currently involved in preparations for the ERA Centennial Convention to be held later in July in Seneca Falls, NY and is helping to build an intergenerational movement in support of the Equal Rights Amendment. Previous to the ERA Project position Ting Ting litigated gender discrimination cases at Legal Momentum, the Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund. Earlier, she was an attorney at the New York City Commission for Human Rights  and public defender and immigrant defense attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services.  Ting Ting was legal director of the 2017 Women’s March on Washington and served on the march’s National Organizing Committee. She was a foreign law clerk to Justices Albie Sachs and Edwin Cameron of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. In addition, Ting Ting was a Fulbright Scholar to South African where she received the Amy Biehl Award. As a youth she was a concert oboist and performed with various orchestras in the United States, including the American Symphony Orchestra.