Carol Moon Goldberg on Advocacy, Suffrage, and Determination

What empowers women to focus all their energy on creating a long lasting platform in an environment that is primarily male dominated? Is it the lack of representation? The yearn to create change? Passion, perhaps? 

Let me introduce to you a truly inspiring woman who has created her own platform in politics—Carol Moon Goldberg. Carol Goldberg has been a member of the League of Women Voters of California for 25 years and is currently the President of the organization. She has served the League at both the local and state levels. 

Carol comes from a family that has always been involved in advocating for their own community. She vividly remembers the United States presidential election in 1968, Nixon vs. Humphrey, and counts it as her first political memory. Even though she was only in the third grade at the time, that memory stands out because it helped her realize she had a significant interest in the public sector, just like her family. 

Once Carol went off to college at Tennessee Technology University, she knew she wanted to be a political science major. Becoming a political science major would be a good stepping stone to law school, but she was also genuinely interested in the political process. However, she decided early on that she did not necessarily want to work in politics. Instead, she preferred standing back and watching the process play out. Eventually, she ended up at Washington University law school, in a classroom where women were very much in the minority. 

Carol’s first job was at a litigation practice, which was primarily a male dominated environment. During this time, she was often the youngest woman in the room, and sometimes even the only woman. The only other time she encountered another woman in this job was when she would give a deposition to the female court reporter. 

Carol describes herself as a “project person,” or an individual who is driven by their goals for whatever they are currently working on. This translates into fierce determination that allowed Carol to ultimately succeed in her male-dominated field. Going back to the initial question: what empowers women to focus all their energy on creating a long lasting platform in an environment that is primarily male dominated? The answer is simple: women can empower themselves through the passion and determination they have for their work, and no one can take that away from them. 

Laney Casella on Finding her Individuality through Success and Failure in STEM

Laney Casella lives by one phrase: “You don’t know what you don’t know until you know it.” In other words, stupid questions are always worth asking, and mistakes are always forgivable. What kind of person lives by these words? Only a true scientist, student, teacher, mentor, engineer, and inspiration is so compassionate and patient. 

Laney comes from a family of engineers. Her parents and both of her older sisters are mechanical engineers. However, she had no clue what she wanted to study when she was in high school. The career tests she took did not provide her much guidance either. Her first suggested career was to be a doctor, and her second was to be an artist. To her, they seemed utterly unrelated and provided no clarity. When the time came to pick a major, she remembered her parents had taught her that an engineering degree is versatile and can open doors to a myriad of careers, and she chose to follow in her family’s footsteps. Looking back on those seemingly useless career tests, Laney now understands they were telling her that a profession centered around helping others and being creative was the perfect fit for her. 

She went on to study biomedical engineering at the University of Akron, and she became interested in addressing the pressing need for organ transplants. Now, under the guidance of Dr. Kent Leach and Dr. Alyssa Panitch at UC Davis, Laney is developing a technique to heal wounds that would otherwise not heal themselves. The focus of her research is tissue engineering, which attempts to recreate the tissues and organs of the body using materials, cells, and signals. Specifically, her project aims to use electrically conductive materials to allow cells to communicate with electric signals. She believes electric signaling will encourage nerves to heal better since nerves are electrically active tissues. If Laney discovers a material that can promote nerve growth, it will have countless applications for other types of tissues. 

Creating something out of nothing to help our bodies heal sounds like magic. How did Laney reach a place where she can do things like tissue engineering? Well, many of her achievements come from her courage in the pursuit of her goals and her willingness to try new things. She also owes much of her success to her support system. Laney has received fantastic support from her family, friends, role models, and mentors at every stage of her career. They have always encouraged her to pursue her goals and reminded her that she is her own worst critic. Without loving support in her life, she would have given up on her dreams. That is why Laney strongly recommends seeking advice from someone you trust and respect when you feel lost or unmotivated in your own path to success. 

While her family has given her a lot of concrete career advice, the lesson that has helped Laney most is the importance of independence. Learning that most of your adult life is shaped by you is both daunting and freeing. For Laney, being independent means trying things that no one else in her family has tried: taking courses outside of her curriculum, moving to different parts of the country to further her career, and getting involved in worthy pursuits outside of her job description or purview. Although accompanied by fear and doubt, these experiences were exciting and taught her valuable lessons. She tells others that independence is an individual pursuit. Independence may not look the same from person to person, but she hopes her experiences inspire others to acknowledge their fears about trying something new and decide to try it anyway. 

Choosing a STEM field for her career has taught Laney about resilience and bouncing back from failure. She has learned to think critically, which has not only made her a better scientist but also helped her navigate through current events discussions. Her greatest piece of advice to aspiring scientists is that you cannot place your self-worth on your academic performance. STEM is a competitive field, and while the hard work it requires is certainly rewarding, it is essential to develop fulfilling interests and hobbies outside of work. You will fail, but that does not mean you are a failure. When times are tough, do not let yourself give up on the things that are important to you. 

Laney Casella is not afraid of failure or standing up for herself. Science is mainly problem-solving, and it is just a matter of being resilient, trying new things, and not being afraid of failure. So what can you learn from her? Really, the question should be what can’t you learn from Laney Casella. 

Nikki Chun on Trusting Your Instincts and Finding Your Unique Path

So many people view life as one-dimensional. Tradition dictates that each person must rank their passions, ultimately letting those deemed as “less important” fade away in choosing a career. This all-or-nothing view isn’t how Nikki Chun sees life. 

Originally from Honolulu, Nikki Chun is a first-generation college student now in her 17th year of working in college admissions. She began her journey at the University of Miami, continued at Rice University and is currently the Director of Undergraduate Admissions at the California Institute of Technology. In recent years, Caltech has committed itself  to increasing the enrollment of students from historically underrepresented backgrounds in STEM. This is evidenced by the fact that the majority of leadership roles on campus are currently held by women. Nikki Chun is a part of this change.

As the Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Nikki is at the forefront of the crusade to amplify the voices of women in STEM. Because STEM is a historically male-dominated field, people often overlook the vital contributions of women that are necessary for the overall advancement of STEM. She recognizes that for the demographic domination in STEM fields to change, people in leadership roles must expect a change. But Nikki doesn’t just expect a change — she fights for change. She views each application not merely as a name or an anonymous list of achievements, but as a student with a voice and a passion who could find success at Caltech. She refuses to get sucked into stereotypes, as she realizes that increasing enrollment of students from all backgrounds makes Caltech a place where each student is represented and valued, not simply as a percentage, but as a leader, an achiever and a change-maker.

But what about STEM-minded women who don’t attend Caltech? Nikki Chun fights for them too. While she passionately pursues positive development at Caltech, she is a visionary for women in STEM everywhere. Nikki says, “I very much embraced that I do this work for the entirety of the landscape and not just the school that I work for. To me, it’s not necessarily that a student needs to connect with where I am … What matters to me is that wherever a student lands is a place that is going to bring out the best in them.” She doesn’t view her position as simply a way to advertise and promote Caltech, but as an opportunity to support students everywhere, no matter what school they choose to attend. Nikki’s passion for seeing growth and development in the students she meets has largely contributed to her success.

She attributes much of this success to a simple mantra: trust your instincts. Nikki describes that in Hawaiian culture, there’s a belief that one’s ancestors serve as a guide through those instinctive feelings, and she was raised to listen to and trust that voice. She says, “Even in the moments when that’s the only voice that is saying that thing, I listen to it.” It’s evident from Nikki’s professional success that those instinctive feelings are truly worth listening to, even when that voice is surrounded by opposing opinions and naysayers. She advises young women interested in STEM to courageously follow their passions and not let challenges stand in the way. 

Sometimes those instinctive voices may seem to contradict each other, but Nikki encourages young females to embrace those competing voices. She contends that the best way to encourage females to pursue STEM fields is to widen the assumptions surrounding STEM and embrace the interdisciplinary nature of STEM fields early on. The dominant narrative dictates that you must stay in one space or another and that exploring multiple fields is a weakness. Nikki Chun, however, sees interdisciplinary exploration as a strength. She believes that creative writers, artists, and dancers can be involved in STEM. She encourages leaders in STEM fields to help young females understand how their passions can be interconnected, as opposed to being forced to choose one over the other. If you’re interested in political science, there’s a place for you in STEM. If you’re interested in the arts, there’s a place for you in STEM. She maintains that students living in multiple “worlds” should not only be given a place in STEM but should be seen as important and vital to the advancement of STEM. Nikki poses a question: “How interdisciplinary do you want your experience to be?” 

Nikki Chun reflects on her early life experiences as foundations for where she is today. She describes, “There are words around things today that were not as readily available to someone like me growing up. When I heard the word feminist, I pictured someone that was radical and unpopular… and admittedly it wasn’t something that I even thought to explore for myself, so I am now.” She contends that there’s danger in the kind of negative narratives and connotations being shared. In relation to STEM, females often get locked into those narratives because those around them are constantly trying to influence their decisions according to flawed social dictates. Nikki asks, “Where would I be if feminism had been explained to me in the way that I’m embracing it now?” As she’s progressed in her career, Nikki has begun to embrace feminism as a way to help students through their unique journeys and experiences. 

There’s no doubt that Nikki Chun is a gamechanger. She’s not afraid to transform the narrative, demolish the stereotypes, and fight for change. In Nikki Chun’s world, your path can be whatever you want it to be. In Nikki Chun’s world, there is no limit to what a woman in STEM can achieve when she pursues all her passions and listens to the voice inside. Nikki says, “I hope that those out there who want to pursue it [STEM] … know that there are people out there that are ready to support you and ready to nurture that because your voice is one that needs to be at the forefront.”

Sophie Gray on founding DiveThru, and her Transition away from being a Fitness Influencer

In this ever changing world we live in, we often quickly prioritize our physical well-being over our mental health which often gets shifted to the back burner. This common situation perfectly encapsulated Sophie Gray’s life, until she made an active effort to change it. With the launch of DiveThru, her journaling app focused on creating a better mental headspace, Sophie shifted her focus from the physical atmosphere to the mental. But doing so came with its fair share of challenges as well. 

Sophie Gray amassed a huge following in the hundred thousands by talking about “workouts and nutrition.” In the social media world, fitness is an ever growing regime. Accounts such as Gymshark and Nike have followers in the millions, and the fitness hashtag alone on Instagram has 395 million posts. However, it’s important to also consider that the endless bikini bodies and six pack abs can contribute to body dysmorphia and eating disorders in its followers. While prioritizing health is important, sometimes it becomes too important and slowly one’s mental health deteriorates. Sophie recognized this and decided to finally make a change

When she made the change from physical to mental, Sophie turned to journaling as a means of releasing her emotions. Soon she realized that journaling was “more than notetaking and venting”. So she decided to take it a step further and hosted a guided journaling workshop. This caused her to realize that this idea had some traction and she created the DiveThru app. This app clears the mind, offers room for introspection, and self-reflection. The core of this method is to help users “seek out their own wisdom” and “develop a deeper connection to yourself”. Mindful journaling has many benefits and contributes positively to self-esteem and mental clarity. 

Over the course of eight years in the fitness industry, Sophie accumulated 440,000 followers. Once she shifted her focus, she noticed the number dropped to almost half. This had a significant effect on her mental health, causing her to contemplate the significant effect social media has on people today. Sophie “wanted to feel better about [her]self”, but it was harder than usual seeing her decline in follower count. But more important than that was Sophie’s realization that she was on the outside looking in – “I was learning about myself from the image social media created”. More important to her than people’s perceptions was her need to improve her mental state. So for a period of time, Sophie knew it was in her best interest to “log off social media for a while”. When she came back she knew that her guided journaling was something she wanted to share with others. 

The Queen Bee Project is eager to share Sophie’s story because it reflects a struggle many of us share: the lack of focus on mental health. We want to bring more focus to this, and are excited to announce our partnership with DiveThru, Sophie’s guided journaling app!

Macy Lee on Mental Health, Moving Across the World, and Tackling Discouragement

There’s no better example of a positive and driven young woman than Macy Lee. Moving from the Philippines to attend college in the United States right after finishing high school and managing two international non-profits, she has been able to do it all. Despite facing mental health challenges of her own and having her true commitment to mental health awareness doubted, Macy has remained invested in what she is most passionate about–helping other people through their experiences with mental health.   

Macy Lee is a freshman at UC Davis, studying international relations and economics. She is the founder of Talang Dalisay, a nonprofit she started in the Philippines to spread awareness about mental health issues. Her inspiration was her autistic brother and her experience with anxiety – something she considers “a really dark time” in her life.  Talang Dalisay not only helped her further her mission, but also gave her multiple opportunities to develop her public speaking skills. Just like her move to the states, Macy made the most of this opportunity as well: “What I like about public speaking is that people are there to listen to you and learn from you. I feel reassured because people are listening to me and it’s really fun when you get to engage with them.” 

What drives activists like Macy, despite burnout and discouragement, to stay committed to their mission? What makes activists like Macy unique? According to Macy herself, we all have to “think about what makes you you, and consider: ‘Why am I so special?’” What is my energy that no one else has?” And for Macy, that was her passion and drive to do something, and come across as her “authentic self” in her applications & outreach activities. 

Another endeavor Macy puts her energy into is a chapter of a global organization, My State of Mind (which also works to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health), with chapters in Australia, India, and Hong Kong. She “chose to bring it here in America because she felt that mental health issues are more prevalent,” and that there’s more stigma in the United States surrounding mental health.

Coming from a small Catholic all-girls school in the Philippines, moving to UC Davis and getting an opportunity to study in the States was a privilege, according to Macy. She explains: “standardized testing is not cheap especially for my family: it was one of the biggest decisions I’ve had to make just going here because everything would change.” Being a “glass half full” person, Macy knew coming to UC Davis would give her the space to grow, so she made the sacrifices to attend. 

With success and achievement comes hate, criticism, and people who want to push you down – and Macy’s story is no different. As her non-profits grew, and she was accepted into UC Davis, she experienced backlash and mocking comments from people who did not want to see her succeed. Many even suggested that Macy had started her nonprofits simply to be a more competitive college applicant – something that frustrated Macy greatly. But she reminds herself how much she enjoys being a part of her nonprofits, furthering her mission for mental health awareness, and appreciates the opportunity to work with a team who all are supporting a greater cause. 

Women are constantly overlooked by others and many times are told that they cannot achieve, with their voices constantly drowned out in a sea of negativity coming from their opposers. Macy Lee was often told that she was “too young,” or “working towards a short term goal.” Although these comments posed challenges for how she viewed herself, Macy views these situations with her optimistic mentality. She explains “The key is to just not listen to them because they have no idea who you are and they have no idea why you’re doing it.” 

In a world where addressing mental health issues is becoming more common and normalized, selfless, resilient people like Macy have made this possible. Through using her own story and tough experience with anxiety, she has paved the way to bring more people into understanding mental health and the importance of reaching out and seeking help. 

Mayor Pro Tem Angelique Ashby on Reclamation, Revitalization, and Renaissance: Notes on Female Insurgence in the Modern Age

If the New Oxford American Dictionary ever decided to start publishing images in addition to the required linguistic definition for which they are known, Mayor Pro Tem Angelique Ashby’s image would appear right next to word badass: chiefly US, informal a formidably impressive person. While this textbook description of a word which Ashby not only exudes wholeheartedly, but engulfs, would be putting the caliber of the Vice Mayor’s accomplishments lightly– laymen terms fail in the face of a woman generating her own wave in the face of obstacles which threaten to deter her path. Unfortunately for them, they too fail.

Angelique Ashby of Sacramento, CA has been serving as Mayor Pro Tem of the city for just under ten years as of this year. Having never imagined herself in the political sphere, Ashby’s interest was stimulated upon moving into a new community where new parks, roads, and businesses among other novelties were being established. She describes, “I started fighting for things like stop signs, playgrounds, and fire stations. And I really liked representing the community, fighting for what my neighbors wanted, and that just grew into being someone who could fight for things for the city. That’s how I ended up running for city council.” Though her resolve was unintentional, she continues being the only woman on the city council as it currently stands, and views her position as both an honor and surprise as far as her tenure is concerned.

“When I first ran in 2010, in fact, Sacramento, in the 90s, way back before I was around here [Ashby was in high school], Sacramento actually had a majority of women on the council; the mayor was a woman. But over time that number has just dwindled down.” When Ashby was elected ten years ago, she was again, the only woman on the city council– a reluctant catalyst if you will. Now 2020, a decade which has seen the Paycheck Fairness Act, the eradication of the ban against women in military combat positions, Hillary Rodham Clinton secure the the Democratic presidential nomination, the first woman to lead the ticket, and a record number of women in Congress, with 104 female House members and 21 female Senators, has past. Ten years of a movement which can only be regarded as that of female insurgence, of revolution, of history, of glass ceilings broken– the remaining shards still refuse to cease their grasp on the eager wings of women in America.

In the ten years which Ashby has represented the city, nine new men have been elected to the council. Nine. Primarily attributing this disparity to the stature of the position which women vie for & the subsequent ‘competitiveness’ of said position, the Vice Mayor upholds that these are not unique circumstances. She explains, “Just a few years ago, there were no women on the LA city council. Now there are. But there weren’t for a while there. The reason is that the more powerful the seat becomes, the harder it is for women to attain that seat. Power can be described in many ways, it can be how much someone is compensated for that position. For example, if this was a volunteer board, and we weren’t paid, there would be more women.”

While the defiance of patriarchy doesn’t go without its respective challenges, Ashby, being a badass that is, has bigger fish to fry. Giving birth soon after high school, at the age of 20, the young mother relied on subsidized child care in addition to working full-time and raising her son entirely on her own. Relentless in every sense of the word, Ashby began taking college classes at the insistence of a diffident close friend— another example of a reluctant choice which resulted in the some form of personal evolution for the Vice Mayor.

She now possesses two degrees from UC Davis and a Juris Doctorate from from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law; all obtained while raising her son as a single mother. Willpower & tenacity being the defining mood of all Ashby pursues, she illustrates that the idea of conformity is perhaps the most detrimental to women looking to spark change in various capacities; regardless of what that role may be. “I don’t think women should have to conform. I don’t want young women to think: you can’t have a family to do this. I was a pregnant vice mayor of the city of Sacramento. I had a baby, I ran a council meeting on Tuesday, and had a baby on Thursday, right, you could do it.”

In spite of her reputation as being an incessant champion for the people of Sacramento, a stimulus in her own right, and again, a badass, Ashby is not exempt from subversive comments & opinions so many women face in male-dominated work environments. Because the formality of the political dynamic often warrants titles to the effect of “council member,” “mayor,” and “senator” among others, Ashby finds it interesting that her male counterparts prefer referring to her by her first name, Angelique, as oppose to “Vice Mayor,” her professional title. Recounting her first experience running for public office, she details that her opponent constantly referred to her in terms of her domestic role: a mom. Despite being relatively unbothered by such assertions, Ashby explaining that “mom” is her favorite title, she nonetheless felt belittled by the chauvinistic nature of such remarks.

“If you refer to me only as a mom, you sort of strip me of my law degree, my role in the community, being a business owner, a lot of things to sort of minimize me. Not an image that you picture upon hearing Mayor Pro Tem of one of the largest cities in California.”

If we can take anything away from Vice Mayor Ashby’s compelling history, it’s that she is a revolutionary above all else. While phrases like “only woman on Sacramento City Council,” “catalyst,” and “insurrectionist” will encircle the legacy of this wave maker, simply badass will suffice for the time being. Just as the word itself does, Angelique Ashby speaks for herself, she forever will. Her wings are unbound, vehement, and powerful. She marches at the forefront of this battle.

Sevrine Banks on Dedication, Perseverance, and Navigating Military Life as a Female Soldier

Freedom. Equality. Opportunity. Despite the state of the political climate at any given moment, American culture and identity are built on these ideals that inspire Americans, some of whom are brave enough to defend these values with their lives. Sevrine Banks is no exception to these values, evident from her service in the military for several years and her dignified position at the point of her retirement from service. Even after her time serving in the military, Sevrine is an active participant in the veteran community of Sacramento, making efforts to connect with and support other female veterans, especially with her work at the Women Veteran Alliance. Sevrine’s experiences as a female soldier and veteran represent many American women, who face the additional challenges of serving in a male-dominated institution as well as the universal experiences of serving in the military. Her story is one of dedication and service that acts as an example to young women hoping to serve their country.

Coming from a unique military background, Sevrine’s father was drafted during the Vietnam War and ended up serving for several years afterward. As her mother was from Belgium, Sevrine was raised there after moving to Germany at 3 years old. After graduating from high school and feeling that continuing her education wasn’t right for her at the time, Sevrine decided to join the army. Starting at an entry-level, or “E1”, position, Sevrine went through several weeks of training before going on to become a combat medic, where she completed four additional months of training to care for people on the battlefield and was positioned in Germany. Sevrine explained to our Queen Bee representative that the system “is built for [one] to promote if [they are] motivated”. As Sevrine herself is one of these motivated individuals, she quickly went up in ranks, advancing her knowledge of the inner-workings of the army and taking on additional responsibilities as she progressed. Although she officially retired as a level E7 soldier, Sevrine acted as a working E8 level soldier due to her dedication and motivation, serving to the best of her ability at all times.

Continue reading “Sevrine Banks on Dedication, Perseverance, and Navigating Military Life as a Female Soldier”

Lilia Luciano on Becoming a 4-Time Emmy Recipient and Redefining her Relationship with Failure

Lilia Luciano has had her fair share of ups and downs; she’s won four Emmys, been publicly fired, created Guerras Ajenas, developed an eating disorder in high school. But despite Lilia Luciano being criticized and praised in the public eye, she’s managed to remain herself. She lets Lilia Luciano deal with the criticisms, but holds on to Lilia Rodriguez’s creativity and passion.  

Attending high school in Puerto Rico, Lilia Luciano, née Lilia Rodriguez, initially had her sights set on becoming a doctor. Looking up to family members who she describes as “artists, politicians, [and] attorneys”, and seeing the positive impact her father made on the community as a doctor, inspired Lilia to practice medicine and continue her father’s legacy, an ambition underscored by an intense curiosity in the sciences. While attending Tufts University in Boston, though, Lilia came to realize that pursuing a career in medicine wasn’t right for her. Instead, after reflection brought about by meeting people from around the world at Tufts and discussion with her father, she decided to follow her love of writing and desire to learn about different topics rather than specializing in medicine — two things that lead her to the endlessly changing and intriguing world of investigative journalism.

Thus, Lilia was thrown into an environment that demands honesty, dedication, and passion. Encouraged by her boss at Telemundo Internacional where she first interned, Lilia went to a casting call at Telefuturo where her nerves gripped her so much that she felt “the prompter was reading another language”. While Lilia didn’t get the part, she received an opportunity to work as an executive assistant, where she moved up at the network until she was eventually working as an entertainment reporter. Interviewing celebrities and reporting on their lives, though, became unfulfilling, as Lilia remembered why she wanted to be an investigative reporter — to tell stories and learn about unfamiliar people and places, rather than worry about the lives of people in the spotlight. From that point on, Lilia worked on telling a story in its entirety, from reporting on the Casey Anthony trial to creating Guerras Ajenas, a documentary about the war on drugs in Columbia, focusing on the use of aerial spraying. Lilia’s most impactful piece, she says, is a documentary titled Puerto Rico Rises that highlights the impact of Hurricane Maria on her hometown; describing it as “a chance to tell the story that [her] family had taught [her] growing up, and to give voice to a lot of people..that [she doesn’t] think have been told in the past”.

This sharing of underrepresented stories is one of the main themes Lilia expressed to our Queen Bee Project representatives, especially as it relates to her own voice as a woman in the newsroom. On the topic of being heard, her work required Lilia to speak up and, as she puts it, “be obnoxious” and say “This is how it’s going to be done!”. Being vocal, in Lilia’s experience, is about ensuring that one’s voice is heard, something many young girls and women have to learn in their professional lives, as well as unlearning the sentiments that are directed towards women, both intentional and unintentional — being quiet and polite, practicing humility, letting others go first. And while these qualities are valuable, Lilia says, women in the professional world should vocalize their opinions and concerns, and not feel as if they have to mute their own intelligence, capabilities, and beauty so that others will receive them well. The importance of taking pride in one’s intelligence and skills as a woman is highlighted by how women in the public eye are expected to present themselves, which Lilia identifies as one of the hardest parts of working in the news as a woman. Lilia understands firsthand some of the most extreme effects of the ways women are expected to look and dress while their male counterparts are judged solely on their abilities — she developed an eating disorder as a teenager, and believes that the way young girls today are exposed to beauty standards makes it even harder for them to resist the pressures of social media influencers with perfect looks and bodies. Lilia hopes that girls today can learn to value their intelligence and talents over their physical appearance, and that the pressures placed on women to be “perfect” will be lessened in the future. 

Lilia discusses the importance of empowering women outside of a professional setting as well, mentioning short documentaries she’s produced about micro-financing women in impoverished countries such as Nicaragua, India, and Haiti. The impact that a small amount of financial support had on women in these countries, Lilia explains, positioned women who were victims of domestic abuse, to better the lives of their family members, community, and regions around them. Another story Lilia identified as particularly inspiring featured a South African woman who built a Pre-K in order to educate the children in her area, something she did without any formal education or knowledge of research done about the importance of Pre-K. This impacted her entire community, directly resulting in a more motivated and self-aware generation of young adults.

Lilia’s story serves as an inspiration to women and girls looking to positively impact the world around them, conveying that through many failures and setbacks, they can develop their unique voice and experiences in order to better their surroundings. Working as a journalist, Lilia faces several issues that affect the work she produces, explaining that it’s nearly impossible to make (and keep) promises to the people she interviews: “You’re asking them to open their lives and their stories, in order for society to understand their struggle, but you could be putting them in danger”. To overcome these challenges, Lilia suggests redefining our relationship with failure. Lilia was fired due to an honest mistake from NBC, and developed many insecurities because she was told she was fired not because of her mistake, but because she wasn’t good enough. She spent many years afterwards not having a stable job, freelancing for VICE, and emptying out her 401K. But never was she tempted to go into another career; she learned that she needed to face her fear of failure, take chances and say, “If I screw it up, whatever”. Those chances created opportunities in her professional and personal life, and will do the same to any young woman who follows her advice. 

Such is the risk taken in the field of journalism, and any other male-dominated field; Lilia could not emphasize further the importance of communicating the voices and experiences of those who need their stories heard — whether it be one’s own or helping others facing their own struggles.