National Day of Action Policy Briefing

Women of Color Leading Change: Policies that Break Down Barriers and Open Opportunities

Thursday, April 27, 2017
2:00 to 3:30 PM
House Visitor Center, 201 A&B
First Street NE, Washington, DC 20515

Refreshments will be provided at this free event, however space is limited, so please register in advance.

We will present a panel of women of color leaders in the corporate, education, media, and nonprofit sectors who have been trailblazers in their communities. Each panelist will discuss the barriers they have had to overcome, the successes they have achieved and discuss the public policy solutions that could help break down such barriers.

Today, women make up 57 percent of the labor force and currently outpace men in obtaining undergraduate and graduate degrees. Despite these statistics, women, and women of color specifically, are still underrepresented in leadership roles across fields and sectors. For example, women of color comprise only 6 percent of elected officials nationwide. In Congress, there are only 40 sitting women of color out of 535 seats.

Across sectors, women of color have made incredible gains over the last 50 years, but still face immense barriers. On Thursday, April 27, YWCA USA will host a National Day of Action briefing to kick off our 10th annual Stand Against Racism. This briefing will delve into public policies that address these barriers to leadership.


  • Lillian Rodríguez López, Vice President, Sustainability and Stakeholder Relations, The Coca-Cola Company
  • Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes, Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity, Williams College
  • Fatima Goss Graves, Senior Vice President for Program and President-elect, National Women's Law Center
  • Maria Robles Meier, Chief Strategist and Founder, MTerprise Inclusion Strategies
  • Vanessa Jimenez, Associate Director, YWCA San Antonio
  • Symone Sanders, CNN Political Commentator, moderator

YWCA USA thanks our honorary cohosts, Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ). Special acknowledgement to Rep. Watson Coleman for her assistance in securing space and presenting opening remarks during the briefing.

Please contact Jessica Pinckney, government relations manager, with any questions.

Lillian Rodríguez López
Lillian Rodríguez López, Vice President, Sustainability and Stakeholder Relations, The Coca-Cola Company

Lillian Rodríguez López is the Vice President, Stakeholder Relations and Customer PAC Support for The Coca-Cola Company. In this role, she is responsible for fostering dialogue and positive relationships with the company's key stakeholders and supporting customer channels on Public Affairs & Communications related issues in North America. Lillian previously served as Director, Latin Affairs, helping to position the company as the leading corporate citizen in the U.S. Hispanic community. From 2004-2012, she served as President of the Hispanic Federation, a non-profit membership organization of 100 Latino health and human service agencies.

Prior to joining Coca-Cola, Lillian was elected to chair the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of the leading Hispanic national organizations focused on federal public policy. She also worked with various diversity councils at major corporations, serving on the Nielsen, News Corporation and Comcast councils. She was recognized by People en Espanol as one of the 25 Most Powerful Hispanic Women in the country in 2010 and as one of the 25 Most Influential Hispanics in the country in 2009. She currently serves on the boards of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, La Amistad, and chairs the Hispanic Advisory Council of the Nielsen Corporation and the Board of Business Advisors for the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators. Lillian has a B.A. in Communications with a concentration in Broadcast Journalism from Fordham University.

Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes
Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes, Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity, Williams College
Twitter: @LeticiaSEH

Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes is a leading civil rights advocate, accomplished educator and seasoned lawyer. As Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity at Williams College, she collaborates with stakeholders on and off campus to develop and implement best practices for building and sustaining diverse, inclusive and equitable communities. Leticia previously directed the Education Practice at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., where she used legal and policy advocacy to ensure access to equal educational opportunities. Her portfolio at LDF included school desegregation, access to higher education and the school-to-prison pipeline.

Leticia clerked for the late Honorable Dickinson R. Debevoise of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. She has also served as an associate at O'Melveny & Myers LLP, a policy advisor to former Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, and a public elementary school teacher in New York City. Throughout her career, she has contributed to and helped shape the national dialogue around best practices in education, and she has served as adjunct faculty at several educational institutions, including the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as on a number of non-profit boards. Leticia received a B.A. from Williams College, J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School, M.S. in Educational Administration and Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Fatima Goss Graves
Fatima Goss Graves, Senior Vice President for Program and President-elect, National Women's Law Center
Twitter: @FGossGraves

Fatima Goss Graves is the Senior Vice President for Program and President-elect of the National Women's Law Center (NWLC). Fatima has served in numerous roles at NWLC for more than a decade, fighting to advance opportunities for women and girls. As SVP of Program, she oversaw the Center's program agenda to advance progress and eliminate barriers in employment, education, health and reproductive rights and lift women and families out of poverty. Prior to that role, Fatima led the Center's anti-discrimination initiatives, including work to promote equal pay, combat harassment and sexual assault at work and at school, and advance equal access to education programs, with a particular focus on outcomes for women and girls of color.

Fatima received her J.D. from Yale Law School in 2001 and is widely recognized for her effectiveness in the complex public policy arena at both the state and federal levels. She began her career as a litigator at the law firm of Mayer Brown after clerking for the Honorable Diane P. Wood of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Maria Robles Meier
Maria Robles Meier, Founder and Chief Strategist, MTerprise Inclusion Strategies
Twitter: @MariaRMnDC

Maria Robles Meier, the founder and chief strategist of Mterprise Inclusion Strategies, built a two-decade career in public service. Now, she channels her commitment into building political empowerment through professional and personal development and helps change-makers develop inclusive talent forces. Her career and life coaching practice, VidaLife, takes clients through the process of going from living to thriving. Complimenting this, she created and guides Vida Coaches, a national network of Latino professional coaches. Maria's extensive experience in public sector diversity and inclusion has allowed her an opportunity to provide advice on best practices with government leaders at some of the highest levels in European nations. She has also coached and provided professional development to young European leaders from diverse and migrant backgrounds.

Maria is the former senior advisor to the U.S. Senate Democratic Leader and director of the U.S. Senate Democratic Diversity Initiative, in addition to holding other senior level positions in Senate and House leadership offices. In 2015, National Journal magazine named Maria to their list of the "20 Most Powerful Women Staffers on Capitol Hill. She is an active member of the alumni association of Stanford University, where she enjoys mentoring individuals at all stages of their professional life and promoting public service as a career. Maria volunteers in the community and pursues creative endeavors whenever possible. Members of Congress have commended her for "Outstanding Service to Community and Nation." Maria resides in Washington, D.C.

Vanessa Jimenez
Vanessa Jimenez, Associate Director, YWCA San Antonio

Vanessa Jimenez is Managing Supervisor at YWCA San Antonio. Vanessa has 16 years providing youth development and support services that include character building, team building and promotion of higher education. She has 14 years in program management demonstrating strength in contractual compliance and a cultural and business understanding of community collaboration. She has a history of providing evidence based parenting education promoting positive empathic parenting with an overall goal of reducing child abuse and neglect. Vanessa is passionate about YWCA's mission to "eliminate racism and empower women." Since the inception of the Stand Against Racism campaign, Vanessa has led local activities to promote dialogue, community involvement and awareness. In partnership with an individual group of donors, Vanessa established the Mi Carrera Scholarship – a full paid college scholarship for teen mothers.

Vanessa received a certificate in General Non-Profit Management through Our Lady of the Lake University and the San Antonio Area Foundation. Through YWCA USA, she has received a Leadership Certificate and a Financial Leadership and Management Certificate. Vanessa holds a B.A. in Psychology from Texas A&M University Corpus Christi and an M.A. in Counseling with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy from St. Mary's University.

Symone D. Sanders
Symone D. Sanders, CNN Political Commentator, moderator
Twitter: @SymoneDSanders

A champion for women, Symone D. Sanders is a democratic strategist and CNN Political Commentator who rose to prominence during her tenure as the national press secretary for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign. A communicator with a passion for policy and juvenile justice reform, Symone is the immediate past chair of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice's Emerging Leaders Committee and former member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice. Through her involvement with CJJ and the FACJJ, Symone worked to raise the profile of young voices in the fight for juvenile justice reform and bring millennial perspectives to policy conversations.

Symone has been featured on NPR, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, Fox News, ABC, BET and has been profiled in the Washington Post, Essence Magazine, Black Enterprise, Cosmopolitan, and ELLE. In 2013, she was honored as the youngest recipient to ever receive the Midlands Business Journal's 40 Under 40 Award. She was recently honored by Fusion as one of 30 women under 30 who will influence the 2016 elections; she was named one of 16 young Americans shaping the 2016 election by Rolling Stone and one of the most influential African-Americans of 2016 by The Root. A native of Omaha, Symone is a proud member of the Capital City chapter of the Links, Inc., Northern Virginia Urban League Young Professionals Network, and The Collective 100. She is based in Washington, D.C.