When Jillian Manus was a teenager, she and two friends formed a group called the “broad squad.” Their mandate: to help women reach their potential so they may create change in the world. “We always had our radar up for girls who could use some encouragement,” says Manus. Now, as she nears 50, she’s still executing pro-woman missions—only on a bigger scale and with a lot more clout.
A sampling: Manus chaired the annual California Women’s Conference with Maria Shriver from 2003 to 2010, and with husband Alan Salzman, a venture capitalist, she’s raised millions of dollars for the Stanford Hospital Cancer Center. When she heard that Meg Whitman was considering a run for governor of California, Manus offered to help rally the women’s vote. “In terms of sign-up numbers, it was the most successful women’s coalition in American politics,” Whitman says of the MEGa Women campaign, which enlisted more than 100,000 voters in 2009-2010.
Even her day job is on message: As president of the Manus Media & Literary Agency, founded by her mother, Manus is proudest of her books relating to the female journey: Lalita Tademy’s Cane River, a novel about four generations of Creole women whose lives began in slavery; Smart on Crime, by California attorney general Kamala Harris; and The Power of Many, by Whitman. As head of a marketing company, Broad Strategies, Inc., Manus is helping a client build women’s health conferences. (“I think she sleeps four hours a night,”Whitman says.) And her broad squad, now a powerful community, has grown to 57 core members—judges, first ladies, attorneys general and philanthropists among them. Using their contacts and expertise, the broads support one another in bringing attention to women’s issues.
Manus is well aware of the privileges life has afforded her. Despite having high-octane colleagues and clients, she says she’s spent some of her most uplifting moments with women whose lives have become unglued through domestic violence. She visits women’s shelters as often as she can, at home or while traveling, to give the residents financial and emotional support. “The blessings can never stop with you,” she says. “You have to pass them forward.”
Want MORE? Read our interview with Octavia Spencer of 'The Help.'
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