This October, Sophia Andary, a senior systems analyst for Levi Strauss & Co., was appointed to the Commission on the Status of Women in San Francisco. We sat down with Sophia to ask her about her recent appointment and ongoing work as an activist.
What drives your passion for activism?
I’ve always felt the need to help others and stand up for injustice.
In high school, I was involved in a few clubs where our focus was community service. In college, I protested against the war in Iraq, because I know what war really is. I lived in the Lebanese civil war from the age of 3 to 8, and I saw the destruction created by men guided by hate and ignorance. I saw that all sides looked the same and never understood how anyone knew who was on what side or why they bombed and killed each other. After September 11, I knew from the beginning that the war in Iraq was based on false pretenses and guided by ignorance and fear, so I stood up against it and was called a terrorist by some at the university for being against the war.
After the November 2016 election, I knew I had to use my voice and organizing skills to do something, so I helped found Women’s March San Francisco (WMSF) and have been co-chair since.
How has LS&Co. supported you?
LS&Co. has been amazingly supportive and provided financial support, which has helped greatly. It is very difficult as a grassroots organization to try to raise money for our bare-bone budget for our yearly March & Rally. But many coworkers and groups/departments at LS&Co. have also been very supportive and have helped amplify WMSF to get folks to our marches.
How do you balance your “day job” and your activism? Are there any crossovers between the work you do in both spaces?
The crossover is being the co-chair of RIVET (LS&Co.’s Women’s Employee Resource Group); I am guided primarily by social justice in that role.
Balance has been a struggle only because I basically have multiple jobs (only one paid) and more responsibility, which means I am always on the go. But I do my best to make sure that I give each responsibility my all. I also try to take time for myself and have kept an active social life. I do burn out sometimes, and I am trying to be better about that.
What is the Commission on the Status of Women in the City and County of San Francisco, and how did you get appointed as a Commissioner?
I was asked by a couple of community leaders to apply for the open commission seat and basically to put my name in the hat. I was picked and appointed by the Mayor of San Francisco, Mayor London Breed, on October 7, 2019, to the Commission on the Status of Women of the city and county of San Francisco. This commission works on creating equity and advancement for women and girls through policies, legislation and programs, working with both elected officials as well as community organizations.
What does this appointment mean for your future in activism?
I don’t know the full scope yet, however, it may mean that I look into a future in politics or as a civil servant. I will always be an activist but may need to step into more advisory roles in the near future.
What advice would you give to others looking to get involved in activism?
Nothing is out of reach when you silence the noise of the systems that try to stop you from seeing the true power you hold. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind by using your own voice. Even if you shake, keep speaking your truth and be unapologetically YOU.
Use your privilege to help those who are more marginalized than you. All your activism should be guided by intersectionality. Leave all ego aside; you gain respect by doing the work and showing up. Always mentor and share what you learn — remember there are many fighting the same battles as you and it’s important to combine resources and power.