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Mayor de Blasio Appoints New Commissioners to Commission on Gender Equity

September 17, 2019

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today the appointment of six new Commissioners to the Commission on Gender Equity (CGE), an agency tasked with supporting City agencies in dismantling institutional barriers for women, girls, transgender and gender non-binary New Yorkers.

The list of new appointees includes strong leaders across a variety of diverse fields including healthcare, law, and nonprofit. The new Commissioners will work with CGE and the current Commissioners as partners and ambassadors for CGE's work and the broader gender equity efforts of the de Blasio Administration. The newly appointed Commissioners are:/p>

  • Sasha Ahuja, Chief of Staff at Girls for Gender Equity and Chair of New York City's Equal Employment Practices Commission
  • Ivelyse Andino, CEO, Radical Health
  • Sherry Hakimi, Executive Director, genEquality
  • Chanel Porchia-Albert, Founder, Ancient Song Doula Services
  • Ellyn Toscano, Senior Director for Programming, Partnerships and Community Engagement, NYU in Brooklyn
  • Dr. Jillian Weiss, Special Counsel, Outten & Golden

"New York City is committed to using every tool we have to create a truly equal city for all New Yorkers, no matter their gender," said Mayor Bill de Blasio. "These new members bring invaluable expertise to the Commission and will continue our work in the fight for gender equity."

"We are excited to welcome this dynamic group of leaders to the Commission on Gender Equity. Their passion, commitment and wealth of experience will contribute significant vigor to ending systemic inequality in our city. I look forward to working with our new Commissioners to create a safer, more inclusive, and economically fair city for all New Yorkers," said First Lady Chirlane McCray, Co-Chair of the Commission on Gender Equity.

"I am excited to welcome six new Commissioners to the NYC Commission on Gender Equity. Their leadership and experience will be central to building upon CGE's success and the broader gender equity advancements in our City. I look forward to our successful partnership on this most critical issue," said Silda Palerm, Co-Chair of the Commission on Gender Equity.

"The Commission on Gender Equity is thrilled to welcome six new knowledgeable and passionate leaders to the Commission, as they bring a wealth of content expertise, community relationships, and long-standing commitment to advancing gender equity and improving the lives of New Yorkers in communities across all five boroughs. As we carry forward the Mayor's mandate to break down barriers to equity for all New Yorkers, regardless of gender identity or gender expression, these new Commissioners will be critical partners as they guide our work. We are immensely grateful for their leadership and look forward to getting to work," said Jacqueline Ebanks, Executive Director, Commission on Gender Equity.

Established in June 2015, CGE works to effectively address issues of inequity and discrimination facing women, girls, transgender, and gender non-binary individuals regardless of their ability, age, ethnicity/race, faith, gender expression, immigrant status, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. CGE works with various city agencies to help progress the Mayor's goal of reducing gender-based inequity, by advancing a safer, more inclusive and economically mobile city for all New Yorkers.

The Commission on Gender Equity (CGE) continues to strive towards gender equity across New York City through the support and partnership of City agencies, commissioners, and community partners. Key highlights of their work include:

  • In 2018, CGE released a 2018 – 2021 strategic plan which serves as a guide of CGE's activities during and for the remainder of the de Blasio administration.
  • Previously, CGE published Leveling the Paying Field: Best Practices for Gender Pay Equity in the Workplace, targeted towards employers and employees.
  • CGE created the City's first ever Gender Equity Interagency Partnership, with representatives from each City agency, tasked with identifying their agency's internal and external policies and practices that advance gender equity practices, with the ultimate goal of creating aligned and sustainable gender equity practices across the Administration.
  • CGE Executive Director Ebanks chairs the Mayor's Sexual Health Education Task Force, which promotes sexual wellness and education within NYC Public Schools.
  • In 2019, CGE hosted a series of Gender Equity Summits across all five boroughs to engage New Yorkers in identifying ways to involve men and youth in the fight to advance gender equity, ensure greater gender diversity at all levels of public service, and prevent, reduce, and eliminate gender-based violence in all communities.
  • In partnership with the NYC Mayor's Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence, CGE led a successful local campaign in New York City for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, partnering with numerous community organizations and City agencies to host over 80 events across 35 community districts, reaching and mobilizing over 12,000 New Yorkers.

Additionally the de Blasio Administration has continued its commitment to making great strides towards gender equity with key legislative advancements including:

  • Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act: Expands sexual harassment protections under the New York City Human Rights Law and mandates anti-sexual harassment trainings in the public and private sectors.
  • Gender "X" Marker Bill: Offers New Yorkers the option to reflect their non-binary gender identity on their birth certificate, without requiring a letter from a health care provider.
  • Diaper Changing Accommodations Law: All restrooms in new and heavily renovated buildings are required to have diaper changing stations.
  • Expanding Lactation Accommodations: Employers covered by NYC Human Rights Law are to provide lactation rooms, as well as refrigerators, in reasonable proximity to work areas.

"As chair of the Committee on Women & Gender Equity, I offer my heartiest congratulations to the new members of the City's Commission on Gender Equity (CGE). Collectively, they exemplify a tremendous commitment to equal opportunity and social justice, and to elevating the voices of women, transgender and gender non-binary New Yorkers. I greatly look forward to working with the Commission to combat gender-based inequity in New York City in all its forms," said Council Member and CGE Commissioner Helen Rosenthal, Chair of the Committee on Women and Gender Equity.

"Women, girls, transgender, and gender non-binary New Yorkers are too often an afterthought," said Council Member and CGE Commissioner Carlina Rivera, Co-Chair of the Council's Women's Caucus. "I am proud to welcome six transformative leaders to the Commission on Gender Equity (CGE). Our city urgently needs bold solutions that disrupt pervasive systems of gender inequity and racial injustice. I look forward to working alongside these innovators in law, reproductive health and community organizing in pursuit of dignity and justice for women, transgender and gender non-binary people across the city."

"New York City's mandate to promote gender equity - especially through a racial justice lens - could not be more urgent. I am eager to use my role as a Commissioner on New York City's Commission on Gender Equity to ensure that folks most directly impacted by systemic inequity in our city have a seat at the decision making table to influence policy that impacts their lives," said CGE Commissioner Sasha Ahuja, Chief of Staff at Girls for Gender Equity and Chair of New York City's Equal Employment Practices Commission.

"I stand on the shoulders of powerful women who fought for and continue to fight for equity, freedom and liberation for all gender identities. Audre Lorde said, "I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own."​ Today we are still not free, it is my duty through this CGE appointment​ to continue to fight for freedom and equity for all, especially for our Black, Brown, indigenous, justice impacted, ​undocumented, LGBTQI, disabled, and underestimated communities. Together we will call for accountability and change within the existing systems and create a pathway for future young women to carry this movement forward," said CGE Commissioner Ivelyse Andino, CEO, Radical Health.

"We are in a moment where we need everyone to take action to advance gender equality. Gender inequality affects public safety, economic development, education, housing, healthcare, and more. Cities hold tremendous power to effect change that citizens can see, and the City of New York is unique in its ability to effect local change while setting a global example," said CGE Commissioner Sherry Hakimi, Executive Director, genEquality. "I am grateful for the opportunity to be in service on the Commission on Gender Equity, and honored to join such an inspiring group of Commissioners. I especially look forward to engaging with the City's leadership in designing policies, programs, and practices that move the needle towards gender equality. Together, we can ensure that the City of New York continues to lead the way and set an example for how to mobilize citizens and enact meaningful change."

"It is imperative that we move towards equity in addressing the disenfranchisement of gender within reproductive health outcomes in NY. As a commissioner my hope is that pregnant people within NYC will have equitable access to the healthcare they need and deserve. I am excited to be working with so many esteemed colleagues within different sectors as part of the NYC Commission on Gender Equity as we actively reshape the narrative of care and access within NYC," said CGE Commissioner Chanel Porchia-Albert, Founder, Ancient Song Doula Services.

"I am honored, and challenged, to be appointed to this important Commission. While we have made some obvious advancements in gender-based legal rights, real regression in social, political and economic rights and gender-based violence demands our active attention," said CGE Commissioner Ellyn Toscano, Senior Director for Programming, Partnerships and Community Engagement, NYU in Brooklyn "Rights of cisgender and transgender people must be understood in the context of other aspects of intertwined identities - race and ethnicity, nationality, age and class for example, so that we can work towards a city that celebrates the rich, productive variety in human experience. The tasks ahead of us are many, and the needs are pressing. I look forward to getting to work!"

"The regression of freedoms for trans and gender non-conforming people in the United States during the past three years is emblematic of the devastation that all marginalized communities are experiencing. I am proud of the people of New York City, heroically defying the malevolent forces convulsing our country, and creating a level of dignity and liberty unparalleled in the world. As a proud trans woman, and civil rights attorney for the LGBTQ community, I am honored to work with the esteemed civil rights leaders of the New York City Commission on Gender Equity to ensure that people of all genders are respected in all areas of City life," said CGE Commissioner Dr. Jillian Weiss, Special Counsel, Outten & Golden.

"I am thrilled that the Commission on Gender Equity will add six new diverse, strong and capable Commissioners to further their mission to make our city a better place for girls, women, gender non-binary and transgender communities," said Council Member Adrienne Adams. "The fight for gender equity is essential to shaping a more inclusive city and I look forward to the advancement of this cause to break down barriers for New Yorkers."

"I am thrilled to hear of the addition of these 6 dynamic women who will be joining the Commission on Gender Equity. I am sure that with their experience and commitment to women, transgender, and gender non-conforming rights we can truly achieve inclusivity and equality in New York City," said Council Member Vanessa Gibson.

About the Newly Appointed Commissioners

Sasha Neha Ahuja is a community organizer who has worked to lead advocacy efforts and campaigns rooted in racial and gender equity. She got her start in the movement for social justice almost 15 years ago at the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. Since then, Sasha has built her career facilitating community-driven policy change in government, in the labor movement and at local and national progressive organizations. Sasha served as Deputy Director of the Policy Division at the New York City Council under former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito where she helped New York City respond to a national call to action to invest in cis and Trans girls of color. At the Speaker's office, she designed and executed the New York City Young Women's Initiative (YWI), a participatory policymaking process to lift up young women and girls of color, engaging +200 advocates, senior officials across City agencies and the Mayor's Office.

Sasha currently serves as Chief of Staff at Girls for Gender Equity, a Brooklyn-based organization that led the New York City Young Women's Initiative and has served as a hub for the movement to end gender-based violence, centering girls of color. In July 2019, Sasha was also appointed to Chair New York City's Equal Employment Practices Commission. Sasha is an Adjunct Instructor of Social Policy at several schools of Social Work across New York City. She holds a BA from the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College and a MS in Social Work from Columbia University.

Ivelyse Andino is an Afro-Latina health equity innovator born and raised in The Bronx and the founder and CEO of Radical Health. Ivelyse enjoyed a fledgling career in health tech, pioneering some of its first digital health solutions, including bringing the first mobile app prescribing platform to market and working with global clients such as National Health Service (NHS London) and Kaiser Permanente.

While she routinely trained oncologists on new drugs, she found herself unprepared when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. This forced her to directly and intimately confront the systemic healthcare disparities she knew that existed. In founding Radical Health — the first Latina-owned and operated Benefit Corp in NY — she has sought to combine her expertise in healthcare and her passion as a community organizer. Coming from an historically marginalized community herself, it was important for Ivelyse to initially build Radical Health by bringing together her neighbors around her kitchen table and hearing first-hand from voices — including the undocumented, women of color, those with disabilities, and LGBTQIA — who are otherwise (figuratively and literally) never given a seat at the table to have a say in their own healthcare destiny.

Through Radical Health, Ivelyse is committed to the task of transforming healthcare by facilitating health literacy and self-advocacy, as well as forging a relationship between meaningful face-to-face conversations with cutting-edge technology. Ivelyse is a 2019 Roddenberry Fellow and a 2019 Aspen Ideas Health Scholar. She is also a founding board member of the Mott Haven / Port Morris Community Land Trust.

Sherry Hakimi is the Executive Director of genEquality, a nonprofit organization on a mission to activate people to achieve gender equality. genEquality leverages behavioral insights to develop and implement nudges everywhere from corporate lobby spaces to high school hallways. Focusing on behaviors and beliefs, genEquality's research-backed nudges promote 10 small actions with big impact on long-term gender equality.

Sherry's professional work has spanned the public, private, and nonprofit sectors on five continents. She began her career working on a health education initiative in Iran; prior to founding genEquality, she served as Executive Director of Strategy & Marketing for the Workforce Development Division of the City of New York. Sherry has worked with a range of companies, clients, and institutions such as Reebok, Harvard Business School, Fidelity Investments, and the United Nations.

Outside of her gender equality work, Sherry serves as a National Security Fellow at the Truman National Security Project and chairs the annual Iranian Summit at Harvard. Her writing has been published in Fast Company, Defense News, and The Kennedy School Review, among others. She holds a B.B.A. in Marketing and B.A. in International Development from University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and an M.P.P. from Harvard Kennedy School.

Chanel L. Porchia Albert is the founder and Executive Director of Ancient Song Doula Services a reproductive health organization focused on providing resources and full spectrum doula services to women of color and marginalized communities. Her work within infant and maternal health has led her across the globe to Uganda were she has served as a maternal health strategist in rural war torn areas to address the lack of resources to birthing mothers, she is a certified lactation counselor, midwifery assistant and vegan chef and has served on various advisory boards throughout the country. She has served as a consultant for the NYC Department of Health in Mental Hygiene and other healthcare institutions engaging providers in birth justice and serves on the advisory board at Ariadne Labs at Harvard Medical School, Board of Directors for March for Moms, Board Member of The Foundation for the Advancement of Midwifery and Village Birth Intl. Most recently she has been appointed as an Advisory Board Member for Marymount College School of Politics 7 Human Rights. Her work in birth and reproductive justice continues to span into the research and methods of care of marginalized people and people of color bringing a human rights framework into birthing rooms and beyond into institutional reform and accountability measures within healthcare to address implicit bias and racism. Chanel and Ancient Song work has been featured on CNN's Champions for Change, cover of Working Mother Magazine, NY Times and more. When she is not teaching or facilitating workshop you can find her spending time with her six children.

Ellyn Toscano is the Senior Director for Programming, Partnerships and Community Engagement, New York University in Brooklyn. In this position, she is charged with fostering programming partnerships at the intersection of technology, new media and the arts, establishing new programming and strategic partnerships with Brooklyn's civic, cultural, business and educational communities. Working with NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, she is coordinating the expansion of Emerging Media Arts in Brooklyn and establishing Tisch as a laboratory for interdisciplinary collaboration in the arts, science, technology and business.

Before assuming these duties, Toscano was Executive Director of New York University Florence, Director of Villa La Pietra, the founder of La Pietra Dialogues, and the founder and producer of The Season. Before arriving at New York University Florence, Ms. Toscano served as Chief of Staff and Counsel to Congressman Jose Serrano of New York for two decades, serving as his chief policy advisor on legislative, political and media concerns and directed his work on the Appropriations Committee. Ms. Toscano also served as Counsel to the New York State Assembly Committee on Education for nine years.

Toscano organized numerous international conferences and meetings on women and gender equity including: Vital Voices: The Power of Women Leading Change Around the World (November 2018, Florence Italy); Trafficking in Women from Nigeria to Italy: A Crisis of Modern Slavery (May, 2018); Violence Against Women: Institutional Responses and Coordination (May 2018); Trans Identity and Fundamental Rights in Europe (November 2017). She produced, with Vital Voices, a performance of Seven, A Documentary Play in November 2017 as part of the City of Florence's Festival of Rights, and an exhibition of contemporary art entitled Picturing Women responding to the images of women in historical art. She cofounded the La Pietra Coalition of Vital Voices, gathering fifty leaders from the private and public sectors and NGOs at New York University Florence to talk about the economic empowerment of women.

A lawyer by training, Ms. Toscano earned an LLM in International Law from New York University School of Law.

Dr. Jillian Weiss is a lawyer in private practice, representing LGBTQ+ employees. She is Special Co-Counsel to the law firm of Outten & Golden LLP, and a member of the firm's LGBTQ Practice Group. Prior to joining the firm in 2019, Dr. Weiss was Executive Director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, a Professor of Law & Society at Ramapo College, and in private law practice. She received her B.A. from Yeshiva University in 1983, her J.D. from Seton Hall University in 1986, and her Ph.D. (Law & Society) from Northeastern University in 2004.

Dr. Weiss co-litigated the first transgender employment rights cases with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice. She has published several law review articles on transgender legal issues, was the first transgender member of the Board of Directors of Lambda Legal, and is a member of the Committee on Labor & Employment for the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.

She was the longtime Chair of the annual Transgender Law Symposium, and founding Executive Director of the National Transgender Bar Association. Dr. Weiss has also consulted with major corporations, public agencies and educational institutions regarding gender identity policies, including Harvard University, Boeing and New York City. She has received several awards for her advocacy for the LGBTQ community, including the New York State LGBT Bar Association's Community Vision Award and the Arthur Leonard Award for Service from the LGBT Rights Committee of the New York City Bar Association.

Dr. Weiss is admitted to practice law in New York and New Jersey, as well as the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, the District of New Jersey, and the Northern District of Illinois, and is a member of the New York City Bar's Labor & Employment Committee, National Employment Lawyer's Association and the American Bar Association.

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