Young Women Run New York: Speakers



Keynote Speaker: Valerie B. Jarrett

Valerie B. Jarrett is a Senior Distinguished Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School and author of the New York Times bestselling book Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward, published in April 2019. She is a senior advisor to the Obama Foundation and Attn and serves as the Board Chair of When We All Vote and the Co-Chair of The United State of Women. Jarrett also serves on the boards of Ariel Investments, 2U, Lyft, the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, and the Economic Club of Chicago.

Ms. Jarrett was the longest-serving Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama. She oversaw the Offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs and Chaired the White House Council on Women and Girls. Ms. Jarrett worked throughout her tenure at the White House to mobilize elected officials, business and community leaders, and diverse groups of advocates. She led the Obama Administration’s efforts to expand and strengthen access to the middle class, and boost American businesses and our economy. Read her full bio


Zunera Ahmed, Campaign Manager, Max Rose for Congress Zunera Ahmed served as IGNITE's New York Fellow. She is currently a senior at Brooklyn College, City University of New York pursuing a degree in psychology. Her passion for politics began at a young age and has carried into her college career. She serves as the Speaker in her campus student government has previously interned at Brooklyn College’s NYPIRG chapter. These experiences sparked her passion for advocacy. Zunera was a member of IGNITE’s inaugural college council in 2016-2017 where she was introduced to politically ambitious peers from across New York’s boroughs. As a Fellow, Zunera hopes to educate and support her fellow college women to pursue careers in government, while creating a safe space for women to ask questions and challenge themselves. After graduation and the fellowship, Zunera plans to run for City Council in New York.


Lisa Alexander, Volunteer and Contract Attorney, Day One Lisa Alexander is a volunteer and contract attorney with Day One, a New York City based organization that partners with youth to end dating abuse and domestic violence through community education, supportive services, and legal advocacy. She is part of the statewide Sex Ed Now NY coalition, and is advocating for comprehensive, medically accurate sex education that includes instruction on healthy relationships and dating violence. Lisa formerly worked as a senior staff attorney for Sanctuary for Families and litigated family and matrimonial law cases for survivors of abuse. She is the current co-chair of the Lawyer's Committee Against Domestic Violence, and it's subcommittee with the Mayor's Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence. She is also a member of the New York City Bar Association's Domestic Violence Committee and the Cyber Sexual Abuse Task Force.


Aliyah Ansari, Teen Health Strategist, New York Civil Liberties Union Aliyah Ansari is the Teen Health Strategist for the NYCLU. For five years she has worked as an adolescent sexuality educator for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene as well as several community based organizations. Her passion for helping youth make healthy decisions regarding their bodies and for destigmatizing sexuality education has been foundational in her work and in her continued advocacy for Comprehensive Sexuality Education for students in New York State.

Cydnei Drake, Program Growth Manager, IGNITE As Program Growth Manager, Cydnei oversees programming for our K-12 licensed programs and marketing nationwide. She previously served as the Texas Program and Donor Relations Coordinator. Cydnei is an alumna of both The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas at Arlington earning her Bachelor and Master of Social Work, respectively. Cydnei is passionate about social justice, advocacy and all things Texas politics! She enjoys giving back to her community and currently serves on several committees for Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD and is a member of The Junior League of Dallas. 



Emilia Gutierrez, Politics and Government Outreach Manager, Facebook Originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Emilia has spent the last ten + years in Washington, DC working to empower individuals and organizations to use digital tools and platforms to implement change. Before joining Facebook, Emilia worked as a digital strategist at a number of local and national non-profits and most recently led the digital team as the Director of Online Engagement at Amnesty International USA. When not working, Emilia is hanging out in Northwest DC with her Jack Russell/ Beagle mix, Topper and her husband.  


Jannelle Watson, Politics and Government Outreach, Southwest Lead, Facebook Jannelle Watson works on Facebook’s Politics and Government Outreach team in Washington, DC where she focuses on helping state and local elected officials build a best in class Facebook presence. Prior to coming to Facebook she worked for Governor Jerry Brown's Office of Business and Economic Development and President Obama's Community Solutions team.


Seema Hingorani, Managing Director, Morgan Stanley Seema R. Hingorani is a Managing Director at Morgan Stanley Investment Management focused on talent development, client relationships and diversity initiatives. She joined Morgan Stanley in 2019 and has 28 years of investment experience. Seema is also the Founder and Chair of Girls Who Invest, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the number of women in portfolio management and leadership in the asset management industry. Previously, Seema was the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of SevenStep Capital, an opportunistic investment platform focused on seeding women portfolio managers. She was also a Senior Advisor at Crestview Partners and an Advisory Group member at Walter Scott & Partners Limited. Seema served until June 30, 2014 as Chief Investment Officer for the New York City Retirement Systems which had assets of $160 billion. Previous to this appointment, Seema was Interim Chief Investment Officer and before that Head of Public Equities & Hedge Funds for the pension funds. Under her leadership, the pension fund was named Hedge Fund Manager of the Year - Large Public Pension Plans by Institutional Investor. Prior to Seema’s four years of public sector experience, she served as Global Director of Fundamental Research at Pyramis Global Advisors; a Partner, Portfolio Manager and Senior Equity Analyst with hedge fund Andor Capital Management; a Partner and Senior Equity Analyst at hedge fund Pequot Capital Management; Co-founder of hedge fund Mirador Capital Management; and an Equity Analyst with T. Rowe Price. Seema has worked with several organizations focused on issues concerning women and girls and is a prolific speaker on the topic of a more robust inclusion of women in the corporate sector. She was honored as the 2019 Bloomberg 50 “Ones To Watch”, the 2016 Woman with Impact by the Connecticut Women's Business Development Council, and Wall Street Women Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015 by Traders magazine. Seema served as a member of the National Finance Committee of Secretary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential Campaign. She is an active member of The Economic Club of New York and 100 Women in Finance. Seema earned a B.A. in psychology/philosophy from Yale College and a M.B.A. in finance from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Liza Landsman, Venture Partner, NEA Liza Landsman joined NEA as a Venture Partner in 2018, focused on investments in the consumer, ecommerce, and fintech sectors. Prior to joining NEA, Liza was President of where she was a founding member of the executive team and later, following Jet’s acquisition, of Walmart’s US Ecommerce leadership team. Prior to joining Jet, she was Chief Marketing Officer and a member of the Executive Committee at E*TRADE Financial, Global Head of Digital for BlackRock and held various leadership roles at both Citigroup and IBM earlier in her career. In addition to her involvement with NEA portfolio companies, Liza is an independent Board Director for Choice Hotels (CHH), Squarespace and Applause App Quality as well as the NYC based non-profit organization The GO Project. Liza graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University.


Sarah Malaika, Partnership Specialist, U.S. Census Bureau Sarah Malaika is a Partnership Specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau conducting outreach to communities around New York City for the upcoming 2020 Census, with a focus on the West and East African communities.  Ms. Malaika comes to public service after a decade in the non-profit sector.Most recently she coordinated fellowships for recent EU refugees with Open Society Foundations, and previously she worked at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum where she managed education programs, artist projects, and international museum partnerships.  Originally from Arizona, Ms. Malaika received an M.A. in Middle Eastern and Museum Studies from New York University.


Emily Michalakes, State Research Outreach Manager, Act Blue Emily is ActBlue's Regional Outreach Manager for the northeast. She helps candidates in her region use ActBlue's tools to build digital fundraising programs and reach as many potential donors as possible. Originally from the great state of Maine, she has lived in Massachusetts for several years and has almost a decade of organizing experience at the local level.

Emily Ni Fhaolain, Executive Director, JP Morgan Emily is an Executive Director within the Corporate and Investment Bank. Based in New York City, Emily leads direct and matrix teams globally, responsible for ensuring completion of KYC records. Over the course of her career, Emily has spent nearly twenty years within the financial sector in the UK and US.

Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, Policy Chair, Sexuality Education Alliance of New York City Zoe is an activist whose work focuses on gender, sexuality, and racial justice. As Policy Chair of the Sexuality Education Alliance of NYC and a coordinator of the #SexEdNowNY campaign, she leads statewide legislative advocacy for comprehensive, LGBTQ-inclusive sex education. She is also a law student at NYU and sits on the Civil Rights Committee of the New York City Bar Association. Prior to law school, Zoe earned her Bachelor’s at Columbia University, then led community organizing and legislative advocacy efforts across a number of issues, including LGBTQ youth homelessness, gender violence in schools, juvenile incarceration, and abortion access. She regularly speaks and writes on these topics; her writing has been published in outlets including the Yale Law Journal and the New York Daily News.


Ashley Sawyer, Director of Policy and Government Relations, Girls for Gender Equity Ashley is the is the Director of Policy at Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) in Brooklyn, NY. Ashley is committed to improving the opportunities and well-being of young people, especially youth of color, through city and state policies, coalition work, and legislative advocacy. At GGE Ashley works to ensure that girls and non-binary youth are heard by elected officials and that their needs are reflected in city and state policy decisions. Ashley was previously a staff attorney at Youth Represent, where she led the representation of youth facing school suspension hearings, and supported the organization’s School Justice Project. She also represented young people in misdemeanor criminal court, licensing hearings, housing court, and other civil legal issues. She led the reentry legal representation for girls and female identified youth on Rikers. Ashley’s life work is situated where education justice and the criminal legal system collide, to that end, she is committed to dismantling youth prisons and other forms of state violence, to build communities that invest in youth rather than harming them. 

Ashley was previously a Stoneleigh Emerging Leader Fellow/Staff Attorney at the Education Law Center-PA, where she did policy projects and special education litigation on behalf of incarcerated youth, work to dismantle the School-to-Prison Pipeline, and led a project focused on reducing the disproportionate school exclusion of Black girls in Philadelphia. She earned a B.A. in Political Science from Douglass College at Rutgers University, where she was a Eagleton Institute for Politics Undergraduate Associate and the 2010 Center for American Women in Politics Hazel Frank Gluck award winner. Ashley completed a Voorhees fellowship through the Rutgers Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. Ashley is an alumna of the Howard University School of Law.


Amanda Nora Septimo, Community Activist and Former Candidate Born and raised in the South Bronx, Amanda Septimo has a long, rich history of service to the community that began with community activism in her teens. Over the years Amanda has worked with local community organizations to advance an agenda of inclusive, sustainable, and responsible growth in The Bronx. Most recently, Amanda Septimo ran for New York State Assembly in The Bronx’s 84th District. The core message of her campaign was built on the ideas that everyone deserves access to opportunity, and that we must support policies that work to uplift the entire community. Prior to running for State Assembly, Amanda Septimo worked with the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) to ensure that school leaders and students have the resources they need to transform every school into a thriving learning environment. Before joining CSA, Amanda Septimo spent four years working with Congressman Jose E. Serrano in The Bronx. In 2014, Amanda became one of the youngest serving senior staffers in Congress when she was promoted to District Director for the 15th Congressional District. In her time as District Director, Amanda Septimo significantly expanded the pool of federal resources in the district and amplified the array of services available to constituents.

Samantha Perlman, Councilor at Large, Marlborough City Council Samantha Perlman recently made history as the youngest woman ever elected to the Marlborough City Council at age 24 and the first first-time candidate to top the ticket in a Council race. A proud graduate of Emory University, Sam currently works at a nonprofit dedicated to evidence-based policy and is Chair of her city’s Cultural Council. Her background is in state and federal legislative policy work, community organizing and youth civic education, where she helped secure passage of the 2018 Massachusetts civic education law. Sam is also a graduate of Emerge Massachusetts and is passionate about empowering young leaders to pursue paths in government and public service.

Carla Serrano, CEO, Publicis New York Carla Serrano is the Chief Strategy Officer of Publicis Groupe and Chief Executive Officer of Publicis New York. In her current role, she draws on her background in strategy, integration and leadership to incorporate transformative thinking in all aspects of Groupe agency operations and in service of the Groupe’s clients and businesses. Carla started her advertising career at Chiat/Day Toronto at a time when account planning was an emerging discipline in North America. She cut her teeth in the business working on iconic brands like Apple and Nissan. Throughout her career, Carla has worked in strategically led creative networks for global brands like Coca-Cola, Samsung, Absolut, and Kraft. She has held many leadership roles that meld strategic leadership with business management, from President of Berlin Cameron United, CSO of TBWA Chiat/Day, to CEO of Naked Communications. Her experiences thus far continue to fuel her passion for seamless strategic innovation in service of radical creative solutions.


Tricia Shimamura, Candidate, New York City Council, and Chair, She Will Rise Tricia is a progressive activist, trained social worker and proud resident of the Upper East Side. She serves as Second Vice Chair of Manhattan Community Board 8, and is also the Chair of the Diversity and Outreach Committee of Four Freedoms Democratic Club. Previously Deputy Chief of Staff to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Tricia has also volunteered on several NY campaigns, including Christine Quinn, Rebecca Seawright, Carolyn Maloney, and Hillary Clinton. Tricia is a new mom to Teddy Gibor and a candidate for New York City Council’s 5th District, which includes the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island. Together with other like-minded women, Tricia founded and Chairs She Will Rise, which seeks to combat gender inequality through building a pipeline of female leadership and inspiring young women to engage with their local communities. She Will Rise prepares women to rise up and become the next generation of leaders in government and across professional sectors through offering a wide array of leadership training and programming, including Government 101 classes, financial literacy trainings, and professional development seminars.


Jessica Weaver, Board Member, Newington Board of Education Jessica was just elected last month to the Board of Education in her hometown of Newington, CT at the age of 21. She is a recent graduate of the University of Connecticut where she earned a BA in Political Science. During her undergraduate career she interned for Congressman John Larson, The Connecticut Office of the Treasurer, and the Commission on Women, Children and Seniors. Currently Jessica is finishing her Master’s in Public Policy at UConn, and serving as a graduate fellow at the YWCA Hartford Region in their Advocacy Department. She is active member of the community serving as a CT Civic Ambassador and an Obama Foundation Community Leadership Corps Member. Jessica also recently started at the Office of Early Childhood working on the State of Connecticut’s 2Gen intergenerational anti-poverty program. She is so grateful for all of the help and support IGNITE has given her! 



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