Loreen Arbus is a woman of many worlds and has certainly lived a life less ordinary.
She is already known by many as a change leader, a thinker and a doer, a career woman, a supporter of the arts, a member of numerous boards, an ally for people with disabilities and a major philanthropist in the US. When I recently spoke with her, I was delighted to experience firsthand her relentless bravery to tackle the hard topics with grace, which makes her completely deserving of the “Intrepid Woman’ mantle bestowed upon her.
How does she manage to be in so many worlds at once?
“I grew up as an outsider. It can be the best and worst thing to be not included since it can make you a better person, or do great damage to the individual,” Loreen said. She continued, “I feel lucky that it has made me a better person as I can identify with other people’s experiences as outsiders and help them to navigate their way to success.”
Perhaps her background of growing up as a once marginalized child has allowed her to defy labels or categories. It may have also given her the impetus to continue learning via new experiences, which span cultural aspects as well as humanistic endeavors, such as Co-Chairing the upcoming 13th Annual Women Who Care Luncheon to benefit United Cerebral Palsy of New York City Women who Care Luncheon at Cipriani’s in NYC on Wednesday May, 7th.
Loreen founded The Women Who Care Luncheon as an ode to unsung heroines like her sister’s caretaker Miss Karen Hansen. Loreen recounted to me that her interactions with Miss Hansen were life enhancing, and she accredits Miss Hansen with teaching her unconditional love due to the way that she cared for her older sister who had severe disabilities. The Karen Hansen Caregiver Award is a major part of the luncheon. It was Loreen’s parents Leonard H. and Isabelle Goldenson who co-founded the nation-wide organization of United Cerebral Palsy in 1949. UCP has a number of programs to help children with disabilities, including a favorite program of Loreen’s –an advocacy program that empowers adults and young people with skills to go to Albany and advocate directly for themselves with state representatives.
“I most often support causes in a specific way. I like to meet the people that I am helping, it replenishes my soul to experience the change that is taking place,” explained Loreen.
She encourages others to tour UCP and see how eager the children are to learn, play sports and word games. Loreen believes that connection to the mission of any charity can come alive; the closer one can get to connecting with the people driving it. Loreen also currently is the Executive Producer of the award winning documentary, “A Whole Lott More”, a film that aims to bring more awareness to employment issues for people with disabilities
On Being a Change Leader
Loreen’s trailblazing career in television meant that she pioneered where no woman had gone before as she was the first woman in to head up programming at a major U.S. television network, a feat she accomplished twice. Another noteworthy achievement to mention is that she spearheaded the inclusion of cable to be recognized within the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences EMMYs award system whilst she was at the Showtime television network. She understands the power of asking and ‘darn hard work,’ and mentions that she wishes women would be less apologetic around owning their hard work.
Loreen commented, “The greatest gift that I was given is that I can look at all sides of an issue. It is very exciting to be part of my mission that can lead to changes being made.”
Certainly, her unwavering dedication to helping others, and her ability to create space for other perspectives to come alive and become working ideas, is a striking feature about her.
We discussed what it means to be a change leader regardless of where you are sitting in society, and how much money you may or may not have.
Loreen believes that we all have the ability to connect around universal needs and aspirations and we can all offer something to others.
She stated about her own experience, “If I can come up with ideas that others can relate to and adapt these ideas to improve their situation, then it is an incredible feeling to be part of something like that.”
Building Networks, Finding Similarities
Loreen reiterates how important it is to build networks – no matter how small – to do the important work that you wish to do. I can attest that she lives her values around this piece of advice, as I met her originally at her apartment in Manhattan when she was kindly hosting a pre-party for the Women’s Media Center (WMC) as the Co-Chair of The Women’s Media Center’s 2013 Women’s Media Awards. The co-founders of the WMC are Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan and along with several other amazing women such as Loreen, they are creating space for expert women to feature in the media in more equal numbers.
Loreen has much wisdom to share around how to mobilize good ideas. She recounted to me the importance of networks for women,
“Creating different kinds of networks in your life is critical, and within those networks find similarities around interests so that you can get the right feedback to shape your ideas and take them forward.”
When I asked her to reflect on what she has learned from what she has accomplished so far, she truly shows her stripes as a collaborator and the leader we know her to be.
“When I look back it is hard to imagine doing any of these things alone. It is all about making it personal, helping people to connect, and,” she added, “remembering to thank people.”
Loreen also serves on the boards of: The Paley Center For Media; International Documentary Association; The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation; John F. Kennedy School of Government Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard; Harvard School of Public Health; Harvard Medical School Advisory Committee for Neurobiology; MoMa’s Modern Women’s Fund Committee; Lincoln Center Corporate Fund Committee; Women Moving Millions Executive Committee; Salome (all-string classical nonprofit orchestra); Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Advisory Board; and Town Hall Los Angeles. Loreen has also formerly served on the boards of: W.O.M.E.N., Inc.; United Cerebral Palsy Association; United Cerebral Palsy Research & Educational Foundation; Israel Cancer Research Fund; The Weizmann Institute of Science; New York Women in Film & TV; and The Women’s Media Center. In addition to her great work on Boards, Ms. Arbus has also received The Heart of Giving Award presented by President Bill Clinton in 2001.
To purchase tickets to The 13th Annual Women Who Care Luncheon benefiting United Cerebral Palsy of New York City go to: www.ucpnyc.org