Women’s Leadership Council

features award-winning producer Elizabeth Williams

Story by Lindsey Wells, photography by Richard Rasmussen and courtesy of Elizabeth Williams

Story by Lindsey Wells, photography by Richard Rasmussen and courtesy of Elizabeth Williams

Founded in 2015, the Women’s Leadership Council of Hot Spring strives to empower young girls and women through education. The group’s speaker series features a woman of accomplishment at a luncheon or event, the first of which is scheduled from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 4 in the Christian Life Center at First United Methodist Church.

In addition to the series, this group of community leaders helps to fund organizations in Hot Springs that improve the lives of girls and women.

The council chose Elizabeth Williams for its first featured speaker. An Arkadelphia native, Williams has produced on Broadway and around the world and received a Tony Award for Best Musical for her production of the new Gershwin musical, “Crazy For You,” and Best Revival for “The Real Thing” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Most recently, she coproduced the multi-award winning “Hairspray” at The Shaftesbury Theatre in London. Other productions include “It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues,” “Moon Over Buffalo,” “The Secret Garden,” “Into the Woods,” “The Gospel at Colonus,” “Ruthless” and “Love Letters.”

As a co-owner of Waxman Williams Entertainment with Anita Waxman until 2006, Williams’ shows garnered 71 Tony nominations and 16 Tony Awards, more than any female producing team in history.

Before her career in the entertainment industry, Williams, who holds an MPhil in art history and archaeology from Columbia University, taught at Columbia and at the University of California at Berkeley and Los Angeles. She now teaches theater, finance and creative producing in the graduate theater program at Columbia University and has lectured at the entrepreneurship program at Brown University and the New School for Social Research.

“By featuring a woman of accomplishment once a year we hope to inspire and encourage our own group as well as other women in the community to get involved in being sure that young girls complete high school and get as much education as they can, and have it available it to them,” said Ann Carrithers, council member. “We are interested in supporting programs that deal with job training so that perhaps they can do better than just low-entry jobs in the market place.”

Carrithers added that studies have shown “over and over” that families who are supported by single women are more apt to live in poverty, and the council hopes to provide those and other women with the information, education and job training to help them get better positions and reach their highest potential.

As the featured speaker for the upcoming luncheon, Williams said she plans to speak about how critical education is for women who hope to make their “way in the world,” and how the idea of actually determining how to best serve their own future and be more directive in fulfilling their own potential is through education and finding mentors in their local area.

Hot Springs Women's Leadership Council members Cynthia Keheley, sitting left, Joyce Craft, Carla Mouton, Ann Carrithers, Melinda Gassaway, standing left, Sally Carder, Dorothy Morris, Sunny Evans and Elizabeth Farris.

Hot Springs Women’s Leadership Council members Cynthia Keheley, sitting left, Joyce Craft, Carla Mouton, Ann Carrithers, Melinda Gassaway, standing left, Sally Carder, Dorothy Morris, Sunny Evans and Elizabeth Farris.

“At least my from experience, women have been critical in every step of the way, from my teachers at Arkadelphia High School to my professors at the University of Texas at Columbia where I finished my doctoral work, and even subsequently in my life,” Williams said. “Both recognizing when you need help and accepting mentorship is what this amazing organization offers. They offer opportunities for young women who have potential, and all young women do.

“They ask us to use our insight and experience to help these young women and young girls to achieve their highest potential, so I’m sharing with them those things in my own life that I feel have been instrumental in allowing me to find a profession that I’m passionate about and have a very rewarding career, both in the academic world and subsequently in theater.”

Williams noted that the digital and “always connected” world can be both a blessing and a curse for women, adding that women today see the world in a different way because it’s immediately accessible to them. Having the world at their fingertips provides insight into the plethora of possibilities available, but being able to see every career available can be overwhelming and can “provide the possibility to be almost like a deer in headlights,” she said. “To have women that you have access to who have accomplishments in different fields that perhaps are similar to what your dream might be, the council, through both awarding grants and providing access to accomplished women, can allow them to test their goals realistically in conversations with the individuals that the council matches them up with, and I think that’s quite extraordinary.

“In a way this is creating an extended family, extended colleagues, that can help you either determine if this really is what you want to do or try to direct you as you move along into that particular arena and how to accomplish that the best way.”

Admission to the luncheon is $30 at the door on the day of the event. A boxed lunch is included in the admission price. All proceeds from the luncheon will go toward a program developed by Erica Martin, a staff member at Hot Springs Middle School, that encourages girls to graduate high school.

“That is our initial project, supporting her efforts and that program,” said Carrithers.

Visit http://www.womensleadership.co for more information about the Women’s Leadership Council.

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