judgeFrancine LeFrak
biography

Francine LeFrak is a social entrepreneur and women’s empowerment activist. She is the Chair Emerita of the Women’s Leadership Board at the Harvard Kennedy School, which supports and promotes gender equality. In 2008, Ms. LeFrak founded Same Sky, a jewelry initiative that provides training and employment to HIV+ women survivors of the Rwandan Genocide. Ms. LeFrak offers women a hand-up, not a handout, by providing them with the dignity of work and the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty. Inspired by the work abroad, Same Sky now employs and empowers women who have recently been released from Hudson County Jail in New Jersey. To date, Same Sky has served over 150 Rwandan women and hundreds of women ex-offenders in New Jersey. In a country where national rates of recidivism hover just below 70%, Same Sky’s rate of recidivism is 0%.

Ms. LeFrak has enjoyed a successful career on Broadway and in film and television as a producer. Her work has been marked by an impressive number of awards and recognitions, including a Tony Award for Best Musical, Nine. Other stage credits include: My One and Only, Crimes of the Heart, and Noises Off, to name only a few. In recognition of her work as Executive Producer of the film Shot Through the Heart, Ms. LeFrak won a Peabody Award. She is also the recipient of an Emmy Award for the NBC & Hallmark Hall of Fame film Miss Rose White. Other film credits include: Life of The Party: The Pamela Harriman Story, The Infiltrator, and HBO’s Prison Stories: Women on the Inside. Ms. LeFrak’s productions have helped to turn the tide on a range of crucial social issues such as AIDS, intolerance, women in war-torn countries, female prisoners, substance abuse, and neo-Nazism.

Ms. LeFrak has been honored with a number of awards including the “Chevalier” of the Legion of Honor as presented by the French government; the UN Women For Peace Award; and the Women Together Award presented at the UN for microfinance. She holds Honorary Doctorates from Mount Ida College and Manhattanville College. Ms. LeFrak is a frequent public speaker and has spoken at the Forbes Philanthropy Summit at the UN. In 2013 she was featured on the cover of Forbes Magazine; today she is a contributor to Forbes and The Huffington Post, where she is a leading voice in cutting edge philanthropy. Today, Ms. LeFrak is fully dedicated to eradicating extreme poverty through job creation and promoting educational and employment opportunities for women and girls at home and abroad.