Simone Leiro knows the importance of political involvement, but she's also acutely aware of the barriers that many Americans face when they try to get involved. She's knocked on doors and had them closed on her face, and she's heard "I don't do politics" more times than you could count. That's why she's dedicated her career thus far to helping people fully participate in civic life — first as the Associate Director of Online Engagement at the White House under President Obama and now as the Engagement Lead at All in Together.
Recently, Leiro shared how she made her passion for political involvement into a career. Then, she gave us insight into what (and who) inspires her, how she's better equipping women to take part in politics and how women can show up for themselves at work.
Fairygodboss of the Week: Simone Leiro
Engagement Lead, All in Together
Greater New York City Area
Tell us a little about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
During my first political experience, knocking doors in North Carolina, I kept hearing the reply "I don’t do politics." I kept thinking: "But politics will do you!" My career has been guided by the idea that we have to make our government and political system better serve all of those that it represents, not just people who think of themselves as political experts.
Currently, I’m the Engagement Lead for All In Together — a nonpartisan, nonprofit that equips women to participate fully in America’s civic and political life. In my role, I get to build partnerships across corporate and community organizations to reach diverse women around the country, many of whom might not yet see political engagement as a priority.
Previously, I served as the Associate Director of Online Engagement at the White House under President Obama. Our team worked to make government more responsive and accessible through digital tools. In this role, I also focused on issues specifically impacting Latinx and young Americans, working creatively to reach those who otherwise may not engage with the President.
What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
I’m proud of launching All In Together’s national community program, the Gretchen Carlson Leadership Initiative. The initiative is in its second year and every part of the program is thrilling to me. We’re bringing All In Together’s civic engagement programming to cities across the country in order to equip and inspire women to become civic leaders in their communities and beyond.
The initiative is focused on reaching women who have experienced gender-based violence because, while it’s known that survivors are far less likely to engage politically, their voices and experiences are so needed in order to achieve informed policy and a truly representative democracy. Getting to design the program from scratch and work in partnership with incredible organizations across the nation has been a career highlight.
What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?
Like so many other women, imposter syndrome is a constant challenge, especially when you look different from many of the other people in a room. It has been through amazing role models, mentors and bosses that I’ve learned to own my experience and leadership in the workplace.
Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? and Why?
My Fairygodboss is Laura Miller. Laura led the social team during my time at the White House and truly exemplified leading by example. Her passion and drive are contagious, and make everyone around her want to produce their best work. She lives her value of "empowered women empower other women" by constantly lifting up those around her. She’s an incredible mentor, role model and friend.
What do you do when you're not working?
I love to travel and to get outside. On a given weekend, you can usually find me taking the train to a new hiking spot or the perfect beach. It’s been my favorite way to find some calm while living in NYC.
If you could have dinner with one famous person - dead or alive - who would it be?
Frances Perkins. Frances was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet and even before that, she was a pioneer in civic engagement. She knew that the key to impactful change was making the political into the personal. She advocated for safe working conditions by leading legislators through factories and sweatshops to see firsthand how regulations could impact the daily lives and safety of their constituents. Her advocacy is a shining example of driving people-based policy.
Lightning Round: What is your karaoke song?
Like any good North Carolinian, "Wagon Wheel" by Old Crow Medicine Show.
Lightning Round: What is your favorite movie?
Recently, Coco. It had my whole family in tears.
Lightning Round: What book would you bring with you on a desert island?
This is just too hard — can I bring a Kindle?
Lightning Round: What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?
Plane Tickets. A lot of them.
What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
Bet on yourself. Finding fulfillment at work can be a constantly shifting target, but learn to trust your gut and follow your passions, even though it can take extra work. Trust in your own abilities to get there.
Why do you love where you work?
Each day I get to work creatively with an incredibly supportive team to empower and educate women on how to reach their full potential as leaders and advocates. It’s so energizing to help equip women from across the nation and all different walks of life who want to make our country better.