Emily Hasimoto wrote:
In 2006, armed with my Bachelorís in Womenís and Gender Studies and the wealth of my IWL experience, I set out to make a difference by working for female politicians. Right away, I was exhausted by politics, especially the way it sucked up all personal time; there was no work-life balance and that wasnít what I learned sitting around the table in the library at the IWL. And yet, I was also taught to work hard, to make a difference, and to strive for women and others.
I then found a new home in nonprofits. I was beyond thrilled to begin working for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), by supporting their media awards work that raised millions for the organization. As a queer person, I was personally invested in the work of visibility, but more than that, it was my first and only experience of working in a queer-normative space; to not worry about who to come out to, and how and when, was a relief.
(Writing this reminds me of the moment I came out to my IWL cohort. Mary Hartman was curious about the ages we imagined ourselves getting married ó perhaps to contrast it with women she had grown up with ó and I replied, in 2004, that I didnít know when I would marry because it was not legal. By the way, it ended up being 29 years old.)
Anyway, despite the wonderful people I met and how much I learned at GLAAD, it was more draining than a political campaign. I remember one night so clearly, at the peak of busyness: working in bed at 11PM, while my then-girlfriend/now-wife slumbered at my side. It wasnít what I wanted. Was this what leadership was?
I left GLAAD for a lateral move at Planned Parenthoodís national office, which was the progressive and nonprofit version of The Devil Wears Prada, the golden entry level job that can launch you even further in your career ó but first you will sweat it out. At both GLAAD and Planned Parenthood I was a coordinator, which was humbling after the leadership curriculum and opportunities I had in college. Those experiences were meaningful to my employers, but didnít translate to promotions or advanced responsibilities. My disappointment was a little on me and a little on them: my expectations for meteoric success were not realistic, and we all know too well how young womenís contributions are not necessarily valued.
So, I decided to go to grad school part-time, studying library science (a giant, convoluted jump thatís a whole other story). While at Pratt Institute, I saw an opening for a Senior Alumni Outreach Officer at the school. Though I had no experience with any of the words in that title, I took a leap, because women too often talk themselves out of a stretch; another womenís leadership lesson I had in my ear.
After a few years at Pratt, I ended up at Idealist.org, where Iíve been for the past five years and where I plan on staying. Itís here that Iíve learned the most about leadership, putting into practice the lessons I received during my time as a scholar, as Iíve progressed from a manager to one of the senior leaders at our organization. My contentment largely lies in having an incredible female/feminist manager and mentor, who makes sure our organizational culture affords a work-life balance, prizes ethical and moral leadership, and strives for a diverse and inclusive team.
Despite being a Big Cheese at Idealist, I make sure to carve out time for other passions. For five years I served on the IWL LSP Alumnae Board, first as we reshaped the way we worked, then as a co-chair. Being on the board strengthened the connection to my own scholar experience years earlier while also affording me the chance to sharpen my leadership skills ó this time, of peer volunteers. It was such a pleasure to get to know so many amazing, different women, linked by an experience we all shared.
I stepped down from the Board at the end of 2017 to focus on my other passion: writing. A few years ago I began writing about the intersections between pop culture and feminism, mostly for Bitch Magazine. These days I have shifted focus and am finishing up my first novel, about two queer women of color who first meet in college. With any luck, in a couple of years youíll see it at a bookstore near you (books take a really long time, I am learning)!
Institute for Womenís Leadership (IWL) Scholar Alumna Lillian Forero graduated in 2007 from Douglass College and went on to earn her law degree from Rutgers Law School Ė Newark in 2013. In between college and law school, Lillian worked in finance and financial analytics. During the three years she worked in finance, Lillian was exposed to the energy and commodities industry, as she focused on leveraging financial analytic tools for this industry sector. Her interest in energy led her to practice energy law at a major law firm in Washington, D.C., focusing on regulatory energy work. Lillianís legal practice includes advising domestic and multi-national clients on regulatory, transactional and government enforcement issues.
In her time practicing law, Lillian has also been recognized by the District of Columbia Courts for her pro-bono work; twice being named to the DC Pro-Bono Honor Roll for attorneys who contributed more than 100 hours of pro-bono work to the DC community. Her pro-bono work has been focused on providing legal advice to unaccompanied minors who are detained by immigration officials. Lillian has also been active in the local bar associations, with a leadership position on the regional chapter of the Hispanic National Bar Association.
Reflecting on her IWL experience, Lillian writes:
I can think of several specific instances in my professional career where I have felt well equipped to handle a situation because of my participation in the IWL Leadership Scholars Program. Being a part of the IWL community taught me to be resourceful, think outside the box and build coalitions. Those lessons, particularly knowing the importance of building coalitions, have helped me navigate the ďBigLawĒ world, which is still very heavily male dominated and not very diverse. I have also been tremendously fortunate to keep in touch with several of my fellow IWL alumnae, all who inspire me to continue setting and meeting my short-term and long-term goals. Having their support and example has been important during challenging times of my career, when I feel a need for information or perspective to figure things out on my career path.
On a personal note, my IWL experience also reinforced my desire to seek out spaces where women can share their experiences and empower each other throughout different stages of their professional and personal lives. In December, I will be entering a very exciting phase of my life: motherhood. During my pregnancy, I have been thinking a lot about how to raise a son who will view and appreciate women as leaders and agents of social change. Balancing my career and role as a mother is something that is also on my mind, but again, I am fortunate to have the example of many wonderful IWL women who are successful in their careers and roles as mothers.