In the 1960s and 1970s, the women’s liberation movement was charging ahead to break the infamous glass ceiling with marches and protests led by such gals as Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm and Myrtlie Evers-Williams. The conversation at a dinner table or on the floor of Congress could get rather heated for both men and women as the role of the female in the workforce as well as at home became the tipping point of gender equality. Whether in the boardroom or the clubhouse, women wanted a place at the proverbial table.
It was at this time that a young Baylor University grad was entering the adult world in which she would become a wife, a mother, a business woman, a volunteer. Through all those roles she would fine-tune her skills at negotiating and consolidating to set her aside from others at “the table,” and result in her 25-year partnership in the Dawson+Murray+Teague marketing firm. But it was her volunteer role at a North Texas non-profit that would be a dramatic changing point for both her and the organization known as the Dallas Women’s Foundation.
Ironically, it was on May 12, 2011, that it was announced that volunteer/business woman Roslyn Dawson Thompson would succeed retiring Foundation President/CEO Becky Sykes. Ten years later to the day, it was revealed that Ros would be retiring at the end of 2021.
It was not entirely a surprise, since her husband/former SMU professor of finance Rex Thompson had retired a couple of years ago. Originally Ros had planned to announce her retirement in 2020. But she postponed it due to the pandemic. She wasn’t about to leave her team and the Foundation at this time of global disarray. No, she spent the year rallying not just her troops but other nonprofits to come together to weather the daunting times facing North Texans. But now times were settling down, and the Foundation was secure in its programs and financial well-being.
Over the decade Ros guided the Foundation with a focused mission and vision to empower strong women to build a better world. But as the roles and needs of women grew in the changing world of the 21st century, so did the Foundation. Why, the very diversity of the Board increased from 22% to 50% women of color and LGBTQ, and the staff from 25% to 53%.
Thanks to expanding research capabilities, the Foundation “became a widely valued resource creating a shared understanding and common language for the importance of women’s economic security to all Texans, and established a statewide community that embraced the organization’s 2018 transformation into Texas Women’s Foundation.”
According to Foundation Board of Directors Chair Shonn Brown, “Ros is a force of nature whose visionary leadership marshaled Texas Women’s Foundation through the most transformative decade in our history, and whose influence has made an indelible impact on the lives of generations of Texas women.”
While its efforts impacted leadership roles in business as well as government during her tenure, the Foundation also “focused its grantmaking on innovative initiatives in child care, health care and housing stability, impacting thousands of women and families, while continuing to funds gaps in community-based services for women and girls.”
In reflecting upon her time at the Foundation, Ros said, “Ten years ago, I was granted an extraordinary privilege to lead and work full-time for, and with, the finest and most dedicated Board, staff, volunteers, donors, programs partners and grantees, all committed to the same values and goals to advance gender and racial equity, and to ensure equal opportunities for all Texas women and girls. These are the strengths that sustain Texas Women’s Foundation — and they will carry the Foundation forward into the future, where our mission, our work and our impact are needed more than ever, to build equitable communities where all women and girls can reach their full potential and all Texans will benefit.”
In addition to her TWF position, Ros also held board memberships on the global nonprofit Tides, the Dallas Regional Chamber, the Dallas Chapter of International Women’s Forum, Dallas Medical Resource, the SMU Tate Lecture Series, the Advisory Board of the Junior League of Dallas, the Dallas Mavericks and the Jane Nelson Institute for Women’s Leadership at Texas Woman’s University.
Along the way, Ros’ leadership has been recognized with numerous accolades including the 2020 Liberty Bell Award from the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers, the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas’ 2019 Women of Distinction Award, the 2018 Texas Governor’s Commission for Women Texas Women Economic Empowerment Award, the Dallas Regional Chambers’ 2018 Athena Award, the United Nations Association — USA 2018 Global Goals Local Leader Award and the Texas Diversity Council’s 2018 Dallas Power 50 Award, to name a few.
As the Foundation Board undertakes it search for her successor and Ros takes her victory lap in the months ahead, she maintains that signature positive spirit, saying, “I have never been more excited about the future of Texas Women’s Foundation. The organization is strong and well-positioned to maintain the momentum we have built during the past decade, making this the right time for me to retire and the perfect time for Texas Women’s Foundation to welcome a new CEO.”
While Ros and Rex may be officially retired, they’re definitely not going to settle back in his-and hers La-Z-Boys. That’s just not their style and they would be bored stiff. And besides, they’re a font of information, experience and networking that’s too valuable for North Texans not to tap.