IWMF Names Sisi Wei Recipient of 2021 Gwen Ifill Award
OpenNews’ co-executive director honored for her work expanding DEI in media
[WASHINGTON, DC – October 7, 2021] – The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) today announced Sisi Wei as the recipient of the 2021 Gwen Ifill Award. Wei, the co-executive director of OpenNews and founder of the DEI Coalition, is being recognized for her innovative approach to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in journalism through strengthening communities and data journalism.
“Sisi has spent her career making the journalism community safer for people of all identities,” said Elisa Lees Muñoz, executive director of the IWMF. “While many journalists and newsrooms talk about advancing DEI, Sisi is bringing people together and holding them accountable to critical industry values. This often-overlooked work is what makes it possible for others to tell their communities’ stories.”
Now in its fifth year, the IWMF’s Gwen Ifill Award honors a remarkable woman journalist of color whose work embodies Ifill’s legacy of supporting and elevating women of color in news media. Ifill, who passed away in November 2016, was a friend of the IWMF and trailblazer in the news media industry.
“To me, leadership means mentoring and uplifting others,” Wei said. “There aren’t many awards in this industry that recognize people for helping others. I am honored to receive this recognition from the IWMF, who understands that there is so much value in DEI and that our industry is at its best when we create together.”
Beginning her career at ProPublica, Wei, alongside colleague Lena Groeger, used her skills as a data journalist to spearhead the newsroom’s internal diversity census, leading to a formalized policy and diversity committee. Seeing a need for increased conversation and safe spaces for DEI in news media, Wei was also a founding member of the Journalists of Color Slack community.
As part of her current work at OpenNews – which helps people strengthen relationships across organizations and build a more equitable future for journalism through interactive events and programs – Wei launched the DEI Coalition in March 2021. Since then, the group has grown to include nearly 1,000 people from all levels of the journalism industry.
“Sisi is an extraordinary journalist, mentor, and an incredible role model,” said Indrani Basu, a journalist with BBC North America and member of the IWMF’s Gwen Ifill Mentorship Program. “When Sisi envisions something, she executes it – be that teaching young journalists, starting a microloans program during COVID-19, or taking on mentees of color. While the DEI Coalition is Sisi’s most recent success, it is far from her first contribution to making the journalism industry better.”
In addition to this annual award, the IWMF continues Ifill’s legacy of mentorship through its Gwen Ifill Mentorship Program. The program pairs young women journalists from underrepresented backgrounds with senior media professionals to address the lack of diverse women in leadership positions in U.S. newsrooms. Together, these efforts reflect Ifill’s impact, recognizing and uplifting the next generation of women journalists of color.
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About the International Women’s Media Foundation
Founded in 1989, the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) is the only global non-profit organization that offers emergency support, safety training, reporting opportunities and funding avenues offered specifically for women-identifying journalists. We are making more women’s bylines possible and work tirelessly to ensure a greater diversity of voices represented in the news industry worldwide. Follow the IWMF on Twitter at @IWMF, on Facebook at @IWMFPage, and Instagram on @TheIWMF.
Director of Communications