Silicon Valley is a hot spot for talented individuals and start-ups, and it can take quite a bit to succeed and make your company stand out. We spoke with five notable women who achieved their goals and are thriving in their careers. Their industries are wide-ranging, including politics, manufacturing biodegradable materials, founding a school for autism, money management, and helping companies tell their innovation stories. Each woman speaks about the challenges she had to overcome, as well as many particular issues she faced as a woman in her field. Their stories are compelling and will inspire and motivate you to flourish in your career!

We’ll be highlighting one of these five inspirational women each day. This is part three.


How long have you held the position of CEO at the CDEF?
I actually just left the CDEF after five and a half years at the end of June to focus on my state senate campaign.

Why did you decide to run for CA State Senate 2020?
Well, it’s really about education and public education. Before I was on city council, I was a school board member for ten years, and I did a lot of advocacy around supporting our schools and increasing funding for education. Before that I did a lot of work doing advocacy with women’s health and access to reproductive health. I have spent a good part of my life doing advocacy at the state level. I thought that given my experience, serving as a local elected official for 14 years and my commitment to the state, it would be good to take my experience to Sacramento and try and help make the policies in addition to advocating for them.

What have your biggest challenges been?
It was hard to be working full time, have a family and also be a council member. Time is the thing that you’re not going to get back. Allocating your time appropriately and trying to maintain all of your commitments is challenging. Just figuring out how to put all the pieces together is hard.

What interested you in non-profit work?
I started getting involved politically by doing activism around reproductive rights and women’s access to healthcare. There used to be fairly regular attacks on women’s health clinics. People would try to physically shut down a clinic by putting their bodies in front of the door, so I would put my body between those people and the door to make it possible to keep the clinics open so women could access the healthcare they needed. When I became a school board member, I started doing more work around public education.

Have you faced any issues as a woman in the work that you do?
Well, it’s interesting because the areas that I have worked in, education and public health, there are a lot of women in those two industries, so I got used to being in rooms that were all women. I wouldn’t say in non-profit work I faced any gender issues, but I would say the people who work in non-profit tend to make less and there’s a variety of reasons for that. One of the things I really focus on is helping get other women elected. I founded democratic women’s club to help elect women at a local level. I have made a strong commitment to that.

By Ali Lee and Sarah Wilson