Sherry Hakimi, Founder of GenEquality
“We talk about women running, amplifying their voices. But we don’t tell men to support women candidates. They should donate to women. Knock on doors and GOTV. Even manage a woman’s campaign.”
Meet Sherry Hakimi. Sherry is a public policy nerd, community organizer, and gender equality advocate.
During the 2016 campaign, Sherry was a GOTV regional director for her home state, New Hampshire. She is also Co-President/Board Director of a 501c3 nonprofit named HIA, which runs an annual weekend-long conference at Harvard University aimed at expanding communication, community, and collaboration on issues and initiatives related to Iranians globally.
Sherry joined Civic Hall in its second month of existence and is one of our ambassadors.
She is the founder of GenEquality, which she describes as “dedicated to activating gender equality with, and for, everyone.” You can follow Sherry on Twitter (twitter.com/SherryHakimi), while GenEquality has a presence on Instagram, Twitter, and wishes to be liked on Facebook.
What Does She Do?
From Barbara Kruger (“Your Body is a Battleground”) to Shepard Fairey (the Obama “HOPE” poster) typography has been used to both critique and persuade. As the founder of GenEquality, Sherry has created a line of t-shirts which have been designed as behavioral nudges towards taking action towards gender equality.
“Our vision is that, by spreading proven ideas, including everyone, and bringing concrete actions into mainstream culture, we can collectively accelerate the rate of change for gender equality.”
In GenEquality, Sherry has brought to bear her experience across marketing, corporate communications, and corporate social responsibility. “I’ve taken a lot of studies — what I put into practice with my clients — and have boiled these down into 2 to 4-word messages that everyone can clearly understand. I’ve then added talking points around them because most people do not have time to look at the research or do the reading. It’s an icebreaker to spread these ideas, deliberately digestible to reach as wide an audience as possible.”
While the headlines are evocative, the talking points can be indelible. While one of the 7 shirts, “Actions Inform Culture,” is a timely message around sexual assault and harassment, its fine print informs the wearer — and reader — that if we committed to stopping repeat offenders we could prevent 59% of all sexual assault. And the fact that 99% of repeat offenders aren’t held accountable raises awareness and demands action.
A slogan like “Seeing Is Believing,” about role models and representation is also the result of research, in this case, findings that gender diversity drives performance. Mixed-gender teams ranked higher on collective intelligence than single-gender teams. Mixed-gender and gender diverse teams were 70% more likely to capture a new market, and 45% more likely to report a growth in market share over the previous year. “Gender diversity is a means to an end; meeting the needs of everyone, whatever your organization is trying to do.”
How Did She Get Into This Work?
Sherry recalls being teased by an uncle, “You’re a little Feminist!” At the time — at the age of 8 — she didn’t quite grasp what that meant and blurted out, “I am not! I’m an ‘Equalist’!” Even at this tender age, she knew in her bones that men and women should be equal — which she points out, is the definition of feminism.
Growing up, Sherry bounced between Teheran and New Hampshire. Despite the fact that the Granite State was nearly 94% white, she had a very different experience. Sherry was raised by a mother who created a daycare center in their house (thus circumventing her father’s edict about not working outside of the home) that drew that kids who had a bit more melanin. One of her playmates was Dominic, the offspring of Haitian and French Canadian parents. It was 1988, but until they found Sherry’s mom, daycares across New Hampshire had turned Dom away because he was “of mixed race.”
As a businesswoman, her mom created budgets, designed meal plans, and welcomed inspectors. “Seeing my mom working all of the time, it never occurred to me that women couldn’t work, couldn’t do whatever men did.”
How Did She Come to Civic Hall?
Sherry was serving as president of student government at Harvard Kennedy School when she first met Heidi Sieck, who was then a class rep. They remained in touch and Heidi contacted her in September 2014 excited about a new project — Civic Hall. Heidi — Civic Hall’s founding COO — sought advice on building out a fellowship program for Civic Hall. In November of that year, Sherry decided to leave Cambridge Leadership Associates (CLA) — an adaptive leadership firm where her niche was in applying its framework to the challenges of government, entrepreneurship, and gender equality — in order to focus full-time on working with clients to advance gender equality in the workplace. She joined Civic Hall in March 2015 and later that fall, became an Ambassador. She is currently part of the Civic Hall Organizers in Residence (CHOIR) program that launched this summer. (Thank you, Craig Newmark)
What Projects Is She Working On?
Currently, GenEquality views its line of t-shirts as a range of “nudge projects” focused on action and activation. As GenEquality grows, Sherry hopes to add education and training to its offering.
“We designed and launched 4 actions (“Mind the Adjective,” “Greet Neutrally”; “Share the Work”; “Invest Equitably”) and 3 messages (“Actions Inform Culture”; “Seeing Is Believing”; and “Equal Work Equal Pay.” In the interest of empowering everyone to wear their values, we’ve designed a set of shirts (and onesies) that each promote a specific research-driven action that everyone – yes, that includes men – can take to advance gender equality. The talking points for each action/message are printed on the sleeve, so they’re always handily available.”
What Is Her Ask of Civic Hall?
“There’s a lot of talk around gender equality, but we need more action.”
Sherry wants our community to “wear our values.” And in doing so, GenEquality will financially support those non-profits who are leading the change. Each t-shirt’s profits are earmarked to an aligned org. For example, sales of “Actions Inform Culture” goes towards Callisto: Tech To Combat Sexual Assault, a technology designed to combat sexual assault, specifically, online systems which are designed to detect repeat offenders, which we now know account for almost the entirety of sexual violence. Revenues from “Mind The Adjective” go towards Girls Who Code.
GenEquality is partnered with Cotton Bureau, an ethical and sustainable printer that does batch orders. For the next 2 days — ACT NOW! — it will be accepting orders for the holiday season. Pro-tip: T-shirts are two sizes down; a small is large. The onesies are an especially inspired idea — gender inclusion can’t start young enough.
While Sherry believes that Civic Hall is modeling best practices to help foster inclusivity in our community organizations and partners, she offers that those who wish to design and embed gender equality have to think about their blind spots, perhaps bring on a women co-founder. She cites both Streetlives.NYC and NYC Veterans Alliance as doing the work of highlighting women.
Where the elective office is concerned, Sherry elaborates on “Seeing Is Believing”: “We talk about women running, amplifying their voices. But we don’t tell men to support women candidates. They should donate to women. Knock on doors and GOTV. Even manage a woman’s campaign.”
GenEquality will hold a gender hackathon in the coming future —- stay tuned for the announcement.