#GirlBoss Lessons from NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito #LaJefa


According to the Urban Dictionary, a Girl Boss is “THE woman who is in control. She demands respect and gets it. She runs the show.”

Why in the world there isn’t a photo of Melissa Mark-Viverito next to this description, is beyond me. The current New York City Council Speaker oozes girl-boss-ness (yep, I made that up), right down to her unconventionally cool childhood story: She credits her father, a doctor who provided services to people who couldn’t afford medical care; and her mom, a feminist, as the source of her lifelong social consciousness.

This thirst for social justice, she says, informs all her decisions when it comes to enacting policy and speaking up on issues, such as immigration. Under her leadership, for example, the city has implemented legislation that limited cooperation with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in order to protect undocumented New Yorkers who have committed nonviolent, low level offenses from deportation. It has also secured legal representation aid for unaccompanied minors brought to the city, among many other initiatives. All because, in her words, “we believe people should have legal representation and get a fair shot.”

These initiatives are prompting other states to seek her advice as they seek solutions for similar circumstances. Her growing influence has not gone unnoticed, and is already prompting speculation about her future in politics. And while she says she’s staying put for now, she also concedes that “all options are on the table.”

From equality to the shifting Latino leadership she’s helping pioneer in New York City, to the plight of women of color in politics, Speaker Mark-Viverito shared one glorious half hour with me on her first-ever Google+ hangout, veritably handing out fierceness lessons at every turn. And she did it in the only way she knows how: “Sin pelos en la lengua” (Literal translation: With no hair in her tongue. Real translation: Like a total BOSS.)

For the full effect, you MUST watch the full video above. But, for now grab a pen and take notes. Here’s how a real Girl Boss gets the job done:

On the need for more women in politics*:
“There’s still a lot of work that need to do to create an inclusive environment in which young women would want to run, in which we are cultivating and nurturing young Latinas and women of color to consider running. We need to have government, in all aspects, to be truly reflective of the diversity that we live in this city.” [Tweet This!]

On Immigration Reform:
“I think that we have done such a disservice to this nation by not implementing comprehensive immigration reform. We’ve shortchanged the lives of many and we’re also limiting the economic potential of including […] specifically undocumented immigrants into the pool.” [Tweet This!]

On Inclusiveness:
“We should be aspiring to live in a society and in a city that is inclusive, that makes everyone feel welcome, regardless of your immigration status, regardless of your economic reality, regardless of the neighborhood you live in, etc.” [Tweet This!]

On Latino Leadership:
“We need to elect more Latinos to office, but it has to be the Latinos with the right kind of framework. It’s not just about being in the position to be in the position. It’s also about the values that that individual is bringing.”          [Tweet This!]

On Standing Up for What You Believe:
“When you’re speaking for what’s right you should never be afraid to lift your voice. […] We need to be engaged and concerned about the what is happening in our communities. We can’t leave it or expect for others to do the work for us.” [Tweet This!]

Here’s how the conversation played out, simultaneously, on Twitter (Under hashtags #LaJefa and #GirlBoss):

* NOTE: There are 51 members in the City Council, only 15 of which are women. New York City’s population of 8.4 million people is 52.3% female and 47.7% male.

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