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Cathy Russell

Cathy Russell is a member of Women for Women International’s Global Board of Directors. She currently serves as Co-Chair of the Global Programs Committee.

Cathy Russell

Ambassador Cathy Russell is, in the words of President Obama, “a longtime advocate for women, for justice, for fairness.” For eight years in the Obama Administration, Russell shaped U.S. foreign policy on gender equality. In the first term, she guided the creation of the first-ever U.S. global strategy on gender-based violence at the White House, where she served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden. In the second term, she led the U.S. Department of State in integrating women’s issues into U.S. foreign policy, as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues.

During her time as Ambassador, Russell was responsible for U.S. efforts to advance gender equality and the status of women and girls around the world. She traveled to nearly 50 countries, developed groundbreaking U.S. government policies, tested new approaches, coordinated interagency efforts, and built partnerships with Fortune 50 and Fortune 500 companies. She worked with foreign governments, multilateral organizations, and civil society on issues from women’s economic empowerment to adolescent girls’ education to women’s roles in peace and security. Russell previously served as the senior advisor on international women’s issues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where she drafted the International Violence Against Women Act, the first piece of U.S. legislation that proposed streamlining and expanding U.S. efforts on gender-based violence.

Previously, Russell served as Associate Deputy Attorney General, as the Staff Director of the Senate Judiciary Committee during confirmations of Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and as Senior Counsel to Senator Patrick J. Leahy.

Ambassador Russell currently serves as the board co-chair of the Women’s Foreign Policy Group, as a board member of Women for Women International, as a member of the KIVA advisory council, and as a member of the Thompson Reuters Trust Women Foundation. 

Russell graduated magna cum laude from Boston College and received a J.D. from George Washington University.

She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, Tom Donilon, and their two children.