Where are you from, and why there?
A seemingly innocuous question posed daily in myriad ways – at a cocktail party, during a conference, on the subway. But in those few short moments before answering, dozens of potential responses cross my mind: Do I include time? Politics? Bonds?
I am not from a defined place with distinct boundaries, but from a long lineage of people who’ve sought a more elemental human ideal – a place where they could have a voice, opportunity, and the freedom to invent a better reality. My great-grandparents survived Russian and Polish pogroms; my grandmother was hidden as a child during the Holocaust in Belgium and fled to Argentina. My parents continued their search when they left a cruel dictatorship and migrated towards Israel’s promises of milk and honey.
I was born with the reminder that such milk, too, sours from war. Ultimately we landed in New York City, where so many people were just like us: Where overlapping places, identities, and truths – torn and reshaped, translated and misinterpreted, over-explained yet oversimplified, walk the streets. My mother tongue is Spanish; my native tongue is Hebrew; I solve math problems in English. My grandmother is European, my parents are South American, I am Middle Eastern, my son is American, and my work has focused on West Africa. I am from everywhere and nowhere. Why? because I am the product of the inextricable connectivity of the world throughout time and space.
Which issue(s) do you work on/care about, and why?
I live in Jackson Heights, Queens, literally the world’s most diverse neighborhood, and am surrounded by incredibly talented, brilliant, diligent women from very different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds who have the potential to change America as they are intimately connected to the communities that make up the very fabric of our nation. Yet they rarely have the opportunity to meet and connect (we are in a salad bowl, not a melting pot), although they often share lived experiences and challenges such as work-life balance, childcare, and sexism in the workplace and household. I believe neighboring women coming from different walks of life should unite towards a better shared future – not only a shared past – in order to support one another, achieve common dreams, and become an unprecedented force of societal change.
How did you get involved?
I started my career in the human rights and international development fields. Upon launching an accelerator for entrepreneurs solving developing-world challenges, I began to see business and technology as undeniable forces for change in today’s world.
What’s the biggest challenge for the issue(s) today?
As a woman in business and tech, I’ve come to realize that, while the #MeToo movement has ignited a critical debate about explicit sexual violence that women face in daily life, there remain immense, underlying, implicit barriers that, although difficult to name, ’you know them when you see them’ and they have yet to be sufficiently confronted. There is no infrastructure to combat these forces, which add up to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts in holding women back. Systems and individuals often are not perceived as sexist; incidents are often ‘subtle’ enough to slip through formal enforcement measures; women are told that they are ‘overly-sensitive’ and begin to question whether they merely imagined such issues; and women are ‘siloed’ politically. We all know about the gender gap across top leadership positions, salaries, company funding, and political power. Yet I believe ameliorating these gaps begins with greater awareness and addressing the spoken, written, and physical language that shapes policies, politics, and women’s confidence and security in seemingly banal daily life.
Who are your most frequent allies? Any surprises?
People who question me. They challenge me to put into words when a line is crossed, which pushes me to define implicit bias more clearly. And my circle of powerhouse women who consult with one another on daily challenges and how to tackle them strategically.
What drives you?
The dozens of times I encounter such structures and challenges on a daily basis.
What do you want your career/advocacy to stand for?
A more organized, united, and diverse movement of women that lobbies for a better shared future.