Kathy Bonk

I just think that, there’s only so far women can do individually themselves for leaning in. There’s got to be system change.

— Kathy Bonk

Kathy Bonk

Kathy Bonk is one of the originals from the first JAWS camp in Estes Park, Colorado. Unlike the handful of ladies that convened there, however, Kathy was never a journalist in the traditional sense. She was one of the early pioneers in strategic communications when that nomenclature did not yet exist. But her advocacy of female journalists at the National Organization for Women caught the attention of Tad Bartimus, the founder of JAWS, who invited her to attend the inaugural meeting. More than two decades later, social connections have led her to return to the annual camps. Kathy remains a staunch JAWS member and takes up the role of mentor for those entering strategic communications.

As a high schooler, Kathy found her life’s calling when reading Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. She joined the National Organization for Women and tried to get the Federal Communication Commission policy changed to stop gender discrimination and raise awareness of women’s issues. Kathy said that early in her career, women mentors advised her on how to judiciously advocate for women’s issues at the policy level. From these experiences, she decided that she would be happy to work behind the scenes rather than be in the constant limelight. She founded the Communications Consortium Media Center in 1988, received a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant to begin working on women’s issues at a global level in the early 1990s, and co-authored a book titled Strategic Communications for Nonprofits. She said her recent focus has been on ending child marriages worldwide.

For the oral history interview, I arrived at a huge corporate building on December 20, 2014, and her assistant kindly came to escort me to the office. The spacious center offered a nice refuge from the noisy traffic outside as I waited for Kathy to arrive from another appointment. She raced into the office, said she had half an hour for this project, and sprang into action. She spoke very fast and to the point, so we were able to cover the major points of the oral history agenda. Then just as she had flown into the office, she flew back out to her next appointment while offering to answer follow-up questions.

( This interview was conducted by Youn-Joo Park )