YWCA Minneapolis names new president, CEO

Profit Idowu/Urbane Aperture Shelley Carthen Watson

YWCA Minneapolis recently announced that Shelley Carthen Watson has been elected as the nonprofit’s new president and CEO. She will begin to take the reins on August 9.

Carthen Watson is a nationally renowned labor and employment law expert and comes to YWCA Minneapolis from the U of M, where she has served as senior associate general counsel in the Office of the General Counsel, providing legal advice and counsel for a public research institution with over 30,000 employees.

Prior to her role at the University of Minnesota, Carthen Watson was a partner with the law firm of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi. She was the first African American woman to become a partner in a large law firm in the state of Minnesota.

“YWCA Minneapolis is thrilled to welcome Shelley as its president and CEO,” said Jeninne McGee, board chair of YWCA Minneapolis. “The ongoing crises of the pandemic and systemic racism magnified this year have brought the organization to a sea-change moment. We have a great opportunity to energize our work for racial justice, equity, and creating brighter futures. Shelley is a talented and trusted leader, someone who will drive this work with passion, humility, and integrity.”

A former deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, Carthen Watson also served as executive director of the Hennepin County Bar Association and Hennepin County Bar Foundation. She was an honors graduate of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, receiving her law degree from Northwestern University School of Law in 1985.

Throughout her life and work, Carthen Watson has been a dedicated mentor, a champion for uplifting others, especially youth of color, and a passionate advocate for eliminating inequitable barriers to success in our society.

As an advocate of youth development, Carthen Watson also served as president of the Minneapolis Chapter of Jack and Jill America, the sponsoring organization of the Rites of Passage program.

“I grew up going to YWCA in my hometown of San Bernardino, CA; my grandmother was a community health aide and volunteered there and my mother was on the board,” said Carthen Watson. “YWCA shaped the values I hold today. It is an incredible honor to join YWCA Minneapolis in this leadership role and work in pursuit of its powerful mission alongside the extraordinary YWCA team.”

Carthen Watson is a longtime supporter of YWCA Minneapolis and a two-term board member. She was a member of the successful Power to Soar campaign committee helping raise $22.5 million dollars to support and sustain YWCA Minneapolis’ future.

Carthen Watson received YWCA Minneapolis’ Woman of Power award in 2020 for her distinguished civic, professional and academic roles and extraordinary commitment to YWCA values of peace, justice, freedom and dignity.

Additionally, Carthen Watson’s community leadership includes serving as vice-chair of the board of YWCA St. Paul, vice president of Programming at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter of the Links, Inc., board member of the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law Black Alumni Association and Twin Cities co-chair of the Northwestern University Black Alumni Association.

—Information provided by the YWCA Minneapolis.