As APA president in 1996, Dorothy W. Cantor, PsyD, saw firsthand the scarcity of women in leadership positions when she convened a summit of all the presidents of the national associations of mental health professionals.
"Even in historically female-dominated professions, the few men who are there rise to the top," says Cantor, who has also served as president of the American Psychological Foundation since 1998. "They assert themselves, but the other part, I believe, is what women aren't doing on their own behalf."
Today, Cantor helps women psychologists develop their leadership skills through APA's Leadership Institute for Women in Psychology (LIWP), which offers two annual training programs and additional webinars throughout the year.
Cantor doesn't just give her own time, energy and expertise to help LIWP trainees succeed. In 2011, her $100,000 gift to the American Psychological Foundation prompted the institute's steering committee to establish the Dorothy W. Cantor Leadership Institute for Women in Psychology Fund in her honor. In October, Cantor made a bequest of an additional $25,000, bringing her total gift to the LIWP Fund to $125,000.
"Psychology has been extremely good to me," Cantor says. "What's better than to give back?"
It's gratifying to see women who've attended the training programs move into new leadership positions, she adds. "It's so exciting to see the women are using what they learn at the institute."
Cantor is known as a major philanthropist in psychology, says APF Executive Vice President and Director Elisabeth R. Straus. "She has a vision, and she strives to achieve that vision, whether it's with her service or with her financial contributions," Straus says.
LIWP is a large part of that vision. The program is designed to help midcareer women psychologists develop leadership skills to advance in academics, clinical positions and other professional settings. One training program takes place just before APA's Annual Convention, and the other is in March. Training covers a variety of topics, from dealing with difficult colleagues to managing finances. "So many leadership positions involve handling money," says Cantor.
Philanthropy also involves handling money, but fewer women have been as involved in philanthropy as men, probably because in many households, women haven't had the decision-making power to donate large sums of money, Cantor says. "I think we'll see this changing."
She hopes her own philanthropy will inspire young women psychologists to realize "that if Dorothy can do it, they can do it, too, and be part of making sure that LIWP moves forward into the future."
Rebecca Voelker is a writer in Chicago.