You just left Capitol Hill after many years and started as Executive Director at the Tory Burch Foundation. Before we talk about that transition, can you talk about how you came to work on Capitol Hill?
I began working for then Representative Nancy Pelosi in her district office in my hometown of San Francisco. When a position came open in our Washington office she very graciously offered me the opportunity. I thought I would try it for a year and return to San Francisco. I am still waiting to return to San Francisco.
You worked for a very high profile woman, Speaker Nancy Pelosi – can you talk about what working with her was like?
To be able to work on advancing issues important to women for the first woman Speaker of the House was an opportunity of a lifetime I never expected and will cherish always. I first began working for Leader Pelosi shortly out of college, and, while I have had other professional experiences, I am in many ways the person I have become because of the standard of excellence she sets and because of all she taught me and the ways in which she allowed me to grow. She is a brilliant, compassionate, and effective leader.
What difference do you think it makes that we had a woman Speaker of the House, in terms both of policy and how we perceive women and power?
It says it can be done, and it opens the door for more women and then the conversation in the room always changes for the better when more and different people are represented. And, very importantly, when she became Speaker, she made it a priority to appoint other women to positions of power as well. In terms of policy, there is no question it makes an enormous difference in so many ways – health care reform is one clear example of an achievement made possible precisely because Leader Pelosi was Speaker. Women generally are collaborative leaders, and as you face many complex policy challenges, you need innovative approaches and new voices in the conversation.
How did you decide to make the transition to working in the philanthropic world, and what was attractive to you about Tory Burch’s Foundation?
I met so many incredible people in my time on the Hill trying to do innovative work to make social change. And I thought that if a next chapter presented itself, I would want to be in a position to have some resources to support innovative work to empower women and families. I had no idea I would be so fortunate to do that for someone as committed, thoughtful and successful as Tory Burch.
What do you hope to achieve in this new role?
The Tory Burch Foundation is very young but our intention is to grow and be strategic and thoughtful about the ways we can make a real impact. We are working to strengthen and expand our current programs supporting microfinance and mentoring for women entrepreneurs, as well as expanding our efforts to support the empowerment of women and families more broadly. I think there is so much opportunity to do so, and so many smart people eager to collaborate on that effort.