The First Woman Board President

Board Community Firsts Founders Joe Shapiro Women

Running board meetings is hard enough. Being the only woman in the room was an added challenge for Helyn Goldenberg.

Joe Shapiro and Lew Manilow came to me and they said, “We’d like you to do this.” The first thing I said was, “Of course I can’t. I mean, I just, I can’t! I’d have to get up and give speeches, and I can’t do this.” They said, “Well, of course you can.” And so I did.

But there were meetings where I was the only woman. I’ll tell you one fast one. You’ll probably delete this, but it’s really funny. I won’t tell you the law firm.

We were at a law firm. It was a big meeting, long board, in a beautiful, big room in this big law firm, and I walk in, I sit down, and I'm the only woman there. And so the gentleman to my right said—assuming I was the secretary, said, “Excuse me miss, would you get me a cup of coffee?” And I thought, “Hmm. This is an important moment.” So, I said, “Sure, I will.” And I went out and I got him a cup of coffee. And the meeting starts, and of course I’m chairing the meeting. So he was a little uncomfortable about the whole thing, and about twenty minutes later, I said to him, “Sam, would you do me a favor? Would you get me a cup of coffee?" And he was so taken aback, right? But it was really sweet, though. He said, “Well, yeah, okay. I will.” And that was important, because we became equal. We became equal without any fuss, without my being outraged. Nothing. It was one of the beginning episodes in many. Of course, now there’s a woman president every five minutes here, or every three years, anyway.

Valerie Scher, "The Art of Running a Museum," Parade, Jul 19, 1981. Courtesy of the MCA Library and Archives.

Valerie Scher, “The Art of Running a Museum,” Parade, Jul 19, 1981. Courtesy of the MCA Library and Archives.

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