For the first time in a quarter of a century, every Heinz Award in 2020 was given to a woman. This year’s seven recipients (one is a husband and wife team) tackle big problems, from the high maternal death rate for Black women in low-income, rural communities to protecting Alaska’s delicate coastal ecosystem and the fishing communities that depend on it.
“I heard from a number of people that they were thrilled to see how many women were among the recipients this year,” says Kim O’Dell, director of the Heinz Awards. “Our hope is that these strong women inspire others.”
The Heinz Family Foundation bestows the Heinz Awards on individuals who are finding creative ways to solve critical problems in the U.S. and abroad. Announced today, this year’s winners all received an unrestricted $250,000 cash award.
The Heinz Awards honor the memory of the late U.S. Senator John Heinz, in five areas that were important to him: Arts and Humanities, Environment, Human Condition, Public Policy and Technology, the Economy and Employment.
“In a year dominated by division and the catastrophic effects of a global pandemic, these recipients exemplify not only excellence in their field of work, but also the powerful contributions that one individual can make in building a better world for us all and for future generations,” says Teresa Heinz, chairman of the Heinz Family Foundation.
The winners this year are:
• Arts and Humanities: Gabriela Lena Frank, D.M.A, Berkeley/Boonville, California
A pianist and composer, Gabriela Lena Frank is breaking cultural, gender and disability barriers in classical music. Drawing on her mixed-race, Latina heritage, Frank’s vibrant compositions weave Latin American influences into classical constructs, breaking gender and cultural barriers in classical music composition. Founder of the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music, she is dedicated to mentoring emerging composers from diverse backgrounds and to guiding their formation as artists committed to serving their communities while leading eco-conscious lives.
• Environment: Linda Behnken, Sitka, Alaska
Linda Behnken is executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, whose work promotes sustainable fishing practices and safeguards Alaska’s rural fishing communities. Her gift for collaboration has ensured that small fleet and rural fishing communities are engaged in policy decision-making, and her work to support coastal fishing communities and the next generation of young small boat fishermen is helping protect a way of life in Alaska and beyond.
• Human Condition: Molly Baldwin, Chelsea, Massachusetts
Founder and CEO of Roca, Molly Baldwin developed a highly effective intervention program for young people impacted by traumatic experiences of urban violence. Her evidence-based, long-term approach applies cognitive behavioral therapy, employment assistance and other support to equip young people with the life skills needed to move out of poverty. Between 2013 and 2018, Roca demonstrated a 34% reduction in incarceration for the young men it serves. In addition, while almost 75% of young men come to Roca with a violent criminal record, four out of five stop engaging in violent crime during and after their engagement with Roca.
• Public Policy: Katy B. Kozhimannil, Ph.D., M.P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota
A professor and researcher, Katy B. Kozhimannil is driving policy change through research that examines healthcare inequities and maternal mortality in rural, low-income communities and among women of color. Kozhimannil’s research directly informed the passage of Minnesota’s “Doula Bill,” now a national model for establishing Medicaid coverage of doula care, which has shown to improve maternal outcomes, including shorter labors, lower cesarean rates and a reduction of racial inequities.
• Technology, the Economy and Employment: Alfa Demmellash and Alexander Forrester, Jersey City, New Jersey
Alfa Demmellash and Alexander Forrester are the married team behind Rising Tide Capital, which they founded to strengthen economic resilience through entrepreneurship and remove the barriers to opportunity that have long impeded entrepreneurs from low-income communities. Rising Tide’s business academy teaches strategy, core management and financial skills, and has graduated more than 3,000 entrepreneurs, 70% of whom are women and 90% of whom are minorities.
• Heinz Awards 25th Anniversary Special Recognition: David Autor, Ph.D., Boston, Massachusetts
A leading voice in economics — whose research has transformed our understanding of the impacts of globalization and technological change on the American worker — Autor’s research on the future of work is providing new insights on issues such as wage gaps, worker retraining and job replacement, and geographic inequality, while also upending assumptions about the long-term impact of trade with China on American workers and their communities. His research is also providing policymakers with data to address increasing economic disparities for middle- and working-class Americans.