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Sue Smalley

Author, Activist, Chair, Bedari Kindness Institute Executive Committee, Professor Emeritus, UCLA Department of Psychiatry, Equality Now Board Emeritus

Paula Ravets, Global Board Member, celebrates Sue Smalley as part of Equality Now’s 30 for 30, featuring 30 women and changemakers who have played a key role in making equality reality as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations.

When I met Sue Smalley almost twenty years ago, I knew I was meeting a friend for life. We quickly bonded, as new friends do, over shared interests. For us, that meant neuropsychology, meditation, and, of course, feminism.

If you’ve met Sue, you know that she is not only a beauty inside and out and a great intellect. She’s a spirit to hold close to your own and emulate. Sue is the rare academic who is as comfortable diving into brain research as she is swimming in the deepest sea of your emotional life. 

With all her collected accomplishments as a UCLA professor and founder of their Mindful Awareness Research Center, a published author, entrepreneur, political activist, wife, and mother of three, she is most remarkably matter-of-fact about it all. There is no need for glory with Sue, only the desire to have fun and bring to life whatever’s in front of her. Maybe it’s her Midwestern upbringing, or maybe it’s just true feminism in action.

Shortly after our meeting, Sue became involved with Equality Now as a board member, where she would serve for three terms championing the rights of women and girls around the world. As I listened to Sue’s stories of the women Equality Now was helping, I felt pulled in by the promise and potential of this organization to enact real global change. When Sue speaks and unfolds her ideas, it’s impossible to doubt that new realities can come to fruition, a reality where all women and girls can live safe, fearless, and free. 

During her tenure on the board, Sue created the annual Make Equality Reality Gala, a cherished event for all of us who hold Equality Now and its mission dear in our hearts. Over the years, Sue has been instrumental in raising millions of dollars to help Equality Now continue its vital work. I’ve learned by watching Sue that nothing is unachievable. Sue is fearless in her drive to change the big picture but is undaunted when things may evolve differently than planned.

Over these decades, working side by side, Sue has become much more than a friend to me. She is a role model, a mentor, and, quite simply, one of the best people I know. 

A headshot of Sue Smalley

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