A recognized international non-profit leader and passionate advocate for children in need, Carolyn Miles worked in a variety of fields before a trip to the Philippines changed the direction of her life. She began her career at American Express, after earning her M.B.A. from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business in 1988, then helped to grow a successful coffee shop business in China, Singapore and Hong Kong, before moving back to the US and switching gears to the non-profit world, where she is now the President and CEO of Save the Children.
Carolyn Speer Miles was born in Canton, CT in 1962 and grew up in Bethel Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her parents, Edison and Nancy, and brothers, David and John. She attended Bucknell University, where she received her B.S. in Animal Behavior in 1983. After graduating, she decided not to pursue a job related to her degree, and instead went to work for a large company in their sales department. Carolyn loved working for a big company, so she decided to pursue an M.B.A. from Darden where she majored in marketing. Shortly after completing her degree in 1988 she married Brandon Miles, whom she had met at the University of Virginia. After graduation, Carolyn took a job at American Express in New York. When an opportunity to work for their travel-related services became available she decided to take the job. Shortly after relocating to Hong Kong, Carolyn found out she was expecting her first child, Keegan.
After the birth of her second child in Hong Kong, Carolyn decided to help fellow Darden alumni Tom Neir with his coffee shop business. The company became very successful and grew to 40 stores throughout Asia. Carolyn and Tom ended up selling the business to a Chinese investor. Currently the coffee shops are located all over over China, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
It was during her time in Asia that Carolyn went on a trip to Philippines where she saw a woman with a baby the same age as hers begging for money in the street. It was a profound moment for her, in which she was confronted by the massive deprivation of the region’s children, and realized how many children were living in poverty and would not have the same opportunities that her’s would have. The experience prompted her to begin doing volunteer work in Asia, and she decided when they moved back to U.S. that she would transition to the non-profit sector.
Back in the U.S., Carolyn joined the Westport, CT-based Save the Children as Associate Vice President in 1998. She quickly climbed the organization’s ranks, becoming Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer in 2004. During her time as COO, she grew the budget and Save the Children was able to double the number of children it reaches. In 2011 Carolyn became the organization’s first female President and CEO, making hunger, learning outcomes and ending preventable child deaths her signature issues. She has traveled to field operations in more than 70 countries and has spearheaded efforts to engage more people with the organization’s mission through social media.
In addition to her work with Save the Children, Carolyn is the recipient of Bucknell University’s 2011 Distinguished Citizenship Award and has served on numerous boards including those of Blackbaud, InterAction, USGLC, MFAN and the Darden School of business. She currently lives in Southport, Connecticut with her husband Brendan and their three children.
During This Time
1966 - Today: Struggle for Justice
Feminism in the late 1960s was aided by President Kennedy, who formed the President’s Commission on the Status of Women in 1961, and his successor, President Johnson, who backed passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, or religion. Difficulties in implementing the law through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) led a group of women in 1966 to create the National Organization for Women (NOW), demanding “action to bring American women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now.”
A younger group called for a more radical approach to social change than simply considering what was possible to achieve politically. “Women’s liberation” demanded freedom without limitation. Some took part in consciousness-raising groups, others demonstrated against the Miss America pageant, and many discussed their expectations of mutual enjoyment of sex. They established rape crisis centers, domestic shelters, and women’s studies programs. Title IX of the federal Education Amendments Act also increased pressure on universities to hire more women faculty and expand the number of female college athletes. Activist protest among gays and lesbians, such as the Stonewall Riot, symbolized this group’s potential to resist oppression.
Under pressure, many states repealed legislation prohibiting abortion. In 1973, the Supreme Court legalized its availability to women in Roe v. Wade. Also in 1973, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the ERA, and states began its ratification.
Yet, dissension arose in the ranks of the movement, as it had earlier after passage of the 19th amendment. Feminists disagreed as to whether pornography should be banned or protected as a form of free speech, and whether lesbian identities should be kept secret or disclosed. Black women were more concerned with poverty and welfare in their communities than with personal career advancement; for them, sterilization abuse was more important than abortion, and they were deeply insulted by attacks on the African American family as matriarchal and dysfunctional.
A backlash was growing in the 1970s, along with a New Right in politics. The ERA was defeated and opposition to abortion increased. Conflicts between pro-life and pro-choice candidates have impacted every presidential campaign since then.
Still, gains have been made in many areas. From 1960 to 2000, increasing numbers of women sought entry to higher education, and bachelor’s degrees awarded to them increased from forty to sixty percent. Definitions of marriage have changed, as when courts gave full rights and responsibilities and the name of marriage to same-sex civil unions in Connecticut in 2008. The Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991 highlighted concern about sexual harassment on the job, and the number of sexual harassment cases filed with the EEOC have increased, as have judgments in favor of the women. Finally, in 2009, women crossed the fifty percent threshold and became the majority of the American workforce. Once largely confined to repetitive manual jobs, now they are running organizations that once treated them as second-class citizens.
The Women’s Movement has changed women’s lives, influenced the economy, and made debate about their roles, family life, and sexual conventions central to national politics and American history.
Special thanks to Barbara E. Lacey, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of History, St. Joseph's College (Hartford, CT) for preparing these historical summaries.