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FAQs for Evolution of Professional Dimensions Award for Women's Leadership

What is happening?

For 40 years, PD’s annual award for inspirational women’s leadership has been the Sacagawea Award. As 2020 came to a close, PD embarked on a process to reimagine its annual women’s recognition program to develop a fresh approach to the event, award criteria and any award expansion, plus a new name.
 We viewed this as an exciting opportunity to renew and refresh how PD recognizes women leaders in light of PD’s recently adopted Mission: Uniting Women in the Relentless Pursuit of Better. 

2021 will still be the 40th year of a PD Award for inspiring women, and the long-standing tradition of celebrating and uplifting women while raising funds for a charitable cause to benefit women and girls will continue far into the future.

Why is PD reimagining its recognition program?

Over the past several years, Professional Dimensions has been intentional about articulating its Mission, Vision, Values and Strategy, using brand research as well as member and other stakeholder input. This has led PD to create new programs like the annual Ideation Summit, devoted to inclusive leadership; a revamping of its groundbreaking Race Relations committee, Conversation Circles; doubling our commitment to the Charitable Fund and other expanded programming for members. 

Additionally, much has changed since the original PD award was offered: there are far more awards locally and nationally to recognize community leaders. It’s important that PD periodically examine its events to make sure they are relevant and distinctive for today. 2020 and 2021, where so many events are changing to accommodate virtual programming, provides an even more compelling opportunity to undertake this work.

Finally, both PD members and local tribal members have raised concerns about the use of the name Sacagawea for the annual award event.  The PD/PDCF boards appointed a Leadership Task Force (LTF) to look into these concerns last year.  The LTF found that there was not a single point of view among PD members or indigenous leaders about the name: reactions ranged from seeing it as positive recognition for a remarkable historical figure, while others found the award damaging to true understanding and respect for indigenous history and identity.

The LTF then looked at the name through the lens of PD’s long-term strategy and founding values. PD is committed to being a trailblazing organization, relentlessly pursuing better for our members and our community. Through that lens, the decision was made to look for a new name but more importantly to evolve and reimagine PD’s annual award to reflect PD’s distinctive brand into the future.

What were the concerns with using Sacagawea’s name for the PD award?

Conversations with indigenous leaders and with our own members raised two questions that reflect how understanding of how to create truly inclusive communities is evolving:  

  • Sacagawea is an extraordinary historical figure, illustrating bravery and tremendous skill. However, her story and the story of her tribe is both more remarkable and more tragic than is often portrayed. Focusing on her positive contributions without equally calling out the effects of colonization on Native people perpetuates an inaccurate telling of American history.
  • PD is an organization with a diverse membership and inclusive values. However, it is not an indigenous organization dedicated to indigenous causes. As such, some considered using the name of a Native woman as cultural appropriation, even though the award was intended and viewed by others as appreciation.

It’s important to note that the award ceremony was always praised and recognized for its respectful honoring of Native spirituality, art and culture, and that all parties recognize the excellence of the Sacagawea Award. With the changing understanding reflected in contemporary conversations, PD made the decision to reimagine the award program through the lens of its refreshed brand and strategy.

What will the new recognition and award program be?

The PD and PDCF Boards appointed a Reimagining Committee to collect input from members about what was most meaningful to them in recognizing women’s leadership. From this work came the next iteration of PD’s annual women’s leadership event.

How can I nominate someone for the annual PD award?

Look for an announcement next week, as we kick off Women’s History Month. Start now collecting your names of inspiring women leaders, and stay tuned for information on how to have them considered for recognition.

When will the 2021 events take place?

July 29, 2021 - Save the date!

What happens to the Sacagawea Art Collection at Alverno College?

The Sacagawea art collection at Alverno College is a treasured part of our award and history. We will continue to grow this collection while engaging diverse artists. It is important that the inspiration that the PD award has represented live on, both through the art collection as well as through the 78 women leaders who have received an award from PD. 

Artists interested in being commissioned for this project should look forward to an RFP in coming weeks.


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