Why she inspires me . . .
This is my women’s march.
In 3 days we will have a new President. A President who was elected into office despite being caught on tape admitting that he sexually assaulted a woman.
In 4 days women (and men) from all over the country will march in solidarity. This march is incredibly important because we must show each other our strength, we must stand up for each other and we must make sure all of us, especially younger women, know that we will have each other’s backs in the years ahead.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the strong women in my life. They inspire me and lift me up daily. They demonstrate courage and brilliance. They are badass world changers (some famous, some unknown) who make me believe that I can do so much and I hope I also help them sometimes see what they can do.
So here it is - my march. I am going to march through stories about some of the women I love, who make me feel stronger and more powerful just by knowing them and seeing their example.
[Please note that once I started on this march I realized it will be a long time before I stop. I am blessed to have so many badass women in my life. I hope you enjoy meeting them. This is Part I of many.]
1. Aryenish Birdie
Why she inspires me: Aryenish just quit her very secure job to launch her own non-profit. She is right in that moment where everything is possible, exciting and terrifying. Last year, Aryenish was instrumental in getting Congress to pass the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act which requires alternatives to animal tests be considered and used, and places restrictions on animal testing. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
2. Anita Leffkowitz
Why she inspires me: Anita is my grandmother. And while she is no longer with us, I feel her presence all the time. She grew up as a Jewish girl in Berlin and had to escape after being arrested by Nazis. She was the very essence of a strong woman. She was opinionated, direct and fiercly loving.
2. Leah Garces
Why she inspires me: Oy. I don’t even know where to start with this woman. Leah is the USA Executive Director at Compassion in World Farming. She’s is a vegan animal advocate who partners with some of the largest food companies in the world to improve their animal welfare policies. She has worked with whistle blowers to expose the horrors on factory farms (check out this mind blowing NYTimes piece) and she is the mama of three incredible kiddos.
4. Michelle Millben
Why she inspires me: Michelle is one of the most principled, passionate, determined women I know. We shared a hotel room for the Bar Exam and on our car ride home from the biggest test of our lives we had an epic conversation about what we wanted to happen next. Fast forward 7 years and Michelle just left the White House where she worked as Special Assistant to the President and House Liaison for the Office of Legislative Affairs. Before that she was with the DOJ and before that she was on the House Judiciary Committee. I’ve been blown away by her tenacious committment to civil rights and her deep capacity to open her heart to everyone who crosses her path.
5. Cheri Shankar
Why she inspires me: Ringling Brothers just announced that they are going out of business and that is in no small part because of the relentless work of this compassionate woman. Cheri could spend her days in the lap of luxury — enjoying all that Beverly Hills has to offer. Instead she uses her place in the world to give a voice to animals. I have never met a more humble, kind-hearted person. She treats all individual beings with the care they deserve and she leads us all to be better people through her own example.
6. Kristin Lamy
Why she inspires me: If pure talent can inspire then that is what Kristin has done for me. She usually prefers to be on the other side of the camera where she is somehow always capable of finding a person’s inner light and making sure that it powerfully shines through (see the pictures of Aryenish and Leah above). Kristin and I were both new to web design when she took on her role as Art Director at Lighter. Working with her taught me almost everything I now know and I’ll always be grateful for her teachings.
7. Katie Meyler
Why she inspires me: Katie is the founder of More Than Me, an incredible non-profit that is opening schools for girls all over Liberia. When Ebola hit Liberia, Katie stayed. She became instrumental in the fight against the disease. For her Ebola work she was named TIME Person of the Year and that is just a tiny piece of her story. Katie wears her heart on her sleeve and her raw passion for education has gathered an incredible amount of energy for the girls of Liberia. I am forever grateful our paths have crossed, through Katie I’ve seen real bravery inaction.
8. Amandine Roche
Why she inspires me: Speaking of bravery . . . After the kidnapping, and assassination of her colleagues, Amandine, a writer and UN Peace Keeper, was evacuated from Afghanistan. She recovered and found her inner peace in India where she took up yoga and meditation, living in close quarters with spiritual masters who teach the essence of non-violence. She soon returned to Kabul to create the Amanuddin Foundation in order to promote the culture of peace and non-violence, and to develop in Afghanistan yoga and meditation, which are the tools of non-violence.
One time I had dinner with Katie and Amandine. I just listened in awe as the two of them recounted incredible stories of real world horror and heroism.
9. Kathy Freston
Why she inspires me: When I think of Kathy, the first word that comes to mind is ‘generous’. Kathy is generous in every sense of the word — particularly when it comes to love, compassion and success. She radiates loving kindness and geniunely wants to see others fulfill their dreams. She spends most of her waking hours sharing precious bits of wisdom with urgent sincerity through her books, blog and one-on-ones. My favorite lesson that she shares is based on the importance of being generous with oneself. Kathy urges us to lean in to change and drop negative self-talk along the way. Kathy is one of the great teachers of my life. I’ve been changed because I know her and am excited to absorb more lessons in the months and year ahead.
10. Amanda Adler Berg
Why she inspires me: I’ve only spent about 5 years of my entire life living further than an hour from Amanda. We went to middle school, high school and college together. During that time we’ve been through oh so much. And through both the good times and the bad Amanda handles it all with grace. Six years ago, Amanda’s mother left this earth. It was far too soon and I’m tearing up now just thinking about it. Amanda stepped up as soon as her mother got sick and she has carried her family through the pain to happier times with sweet determination. I am beyond proud of my friend and continiously blown away by her fierce resilence.
11. Carrie Tyler
Why she inspires me: Carrie is probably the first business owner I met who made me feel like I could start a business. She walks to the beat of her own drum and gathers women from all walks of life to gain strength as a tribe. If there is any woman who can draw out your spiritual depth and your wild side at the same time, it is Carrie. I literally stand taller because of her and if I have any kind of core strength it is because of her company Rasamaya.
12. Liz Dee
Why she is inspires me: While she has many accomplishments under her belt, I get the feeling Liz Dee is just getting warmed up and that she will stop at nothing to make this world a better place for farm animals. Liz is one of two other millennial women (her sister and cousin) who run Smarties Candies. She also co-founded Baleine & Bjorn Capital which invests in companies creating solutions to outdated animal products. Liz is deeply humble by nature but has come to see that she can be a powerful voice for change and is elegantly stepping into the spotlight.
13. Angelique Rivard
Why she inspires me: Angelique is Lighter’s Chief of Staff and she gets shit done. She can brilliantly balance ferocious determination and a friendly disposition. She tells me what to do more than anyone else and knows exactly when to smile and when to get serious. We’ve been working together ever since 2012 when she cornered me in a bathroom to ask for an internship while she was in law school and quickly made sure I couldn’t live without her. If I am working late in the office, it is highly likely that Angelique is right there with me. She exudes grace, is a source of strength for the entire company and constantly makes me better.
14. Erica Meier
Why she inspires me: When most people see cruelty they turn and look away. Erica Meier does not. She is the Executive Director of Compassion Over Killing and in that role she leads a team of bold investigators who go undercover to capture the most abhorrent forms of animal cruelty on camera for all the world to see. Erica got her start on the streets of D.C. where she would kick down doors and climb into tight spaces as an animal control officer. She now has one of the most versatile skills sets of anyone I know. She is an incredible public speaker, a detail-oriented organizer and a mesmerizing storyteller. She knows the intricacies of the law and also how to work with the media. I am in constant awe of her leadership in our movement and proud to be in this fight with her.
15. Christine Chuang
Why she inspires me: Not many people can break the golden handcuffs that come with a big law firm job. But my incredible friend Christine did just that. Her plan was to work at a big firm for five years, pay off her loans and then become an advocate for those who need it most: children, immigrants and the disabled. And she stuck to her plan. After Tropical Storm Irene left disabled New Yorkers stranded, Christine fought for sweeping changes to New York City’s accommodations for people with disabilities during disasters and other emergencies, making the city a much safer place for the people who are most vulnerable when disaster strikes. Christine is now the Deputy Attorney General for the Bureau of Children’s Justice in the California Department of Justice. There are few jobs that are more heartbreaking or important.
16. Aude-Olivia Dufour
Why she inspires me: When I met Olivia she was on stage talking about how to raise money for start-ups. She seemed like such a well put together French girl. (She’s actually Canadian.) I am so glad I went to that event. I got a best friend and also met Lighter’s first lawyer. Over the years I’ve witnessed Olivia’s stunning transformation; a couple years ago she found her wild child, her global nomad, her other worldly goddess — and Olivia decided that she needed to explore. Tonight she is going to be staying at my house (!!). I greatly admire her newfound freedom, which she is generously sharing with the world, and can’t wait to hear about her adventures.
17. Colleen Holland
Why she inspires me: Colleen is a boss. She is one of those women who went through fire and came out stronger for it. Colleen is the co-founder of VegNews which has won nearly every major magazine award and reaches 1.3 million people each month. More importantly, she knows who she is and what she needs to be happy. She’s laid down her non-negotiables— those parts of life that she just refuses to give up such as eating healthy, getting a good night sleep and practicing yoga every day. #lifegoals
18. Hetti Brown
Why she inspires me: When Hetti and I met we were both State Directors for HSUS. During that time she worked on a task force that encouraged the State of Delaware to move their Animal Control Office out from under the Department of Agriculture and under the Department of Health. The State said they would do it — but they needed Hetti to lead them through the transition. And so three years ago, Hetti left HSUS to start the very first Division of Public Health, Office of Animal Welfare in our country. She built a state agency from scratch and created a successful model that I hope other states use to transform their relationship to animals from one of control to one that focuses on welfare. Badass. World Changer.
19. Lynn Diamond
Why she inspires me: Lynn is one of my mom’s best friends. She started her own company, Innovative Information Techniques, in 1977 with nothing but a bag of bricks (seriously, I hope she tells you the story one day) and built it into a wildly successful enterprise. Lynn has a firey energy that is contagious and alluring. Whenever I think about the challenges women in business face in 2017, I think about Lynn starting her company in 1977 and just get back to work.
20. Ela Madej
Why she inspires me: Women in tech need to know other women in tech. We need to be able to look up to each other. There aren’t too many of us and meeting another woman, who also cares about fundamentally transforming our food system, has been deeply empowering. Ela is a serial tech entrepreneur and a Y Combinator alum (YC S12). She’s also a founder of impact.tech — a community of techies who want to combine purpose with profit. Ela has been very active in the Polish & European tech scenes until moving permanently to the US in 2014, and she just recently launched Fifty Years, an investment fund that supports entrepreneurs solving the world’s biggest problems with technology.
This is the end of Part I. Stay tuned for Part II! And please do let me know, who inspires you?