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Lilly Ledbetter

Lilly Ledbetter was born in a house with no running water or electricity in the small town of Possum Trot, Alabama. She knew that she was destined for something more, and in 1979, with two young children at home and over the initial objections of her husband Charles, Lilly applied for her dream job at the Goodyear tire factory. Even though the only women she’d seen there were secretaries in the front offices where she’d submitted her application, she got the job—one of the first women hired at the management level.

Though she faced daily gender prejudice and sexual harassment, Lilly pressed onward, believing that eventually things would change. Until, nineteen years after her first day at Goodyear, Lilly received an anonymous note revealing that she was making thousands less per year than the men in her position.  Devastated, she filed a sex discrimination case against Goodyear, which she won—and then heartbreakingly lost on appeal. Over the next eight years, her case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where she lost again: the court ruled that she should have filed suit within 180 days of her first unequal paycheck–despite the fact that she had no way of knowing that she was being paid unfairly all those years. In a dramatic moment, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read her dissent from the bench, urging Lilly to fight back.

And fight Lilly did, becoming the namesake of Barack Obama’s first official piece of legislation as president. Today, she is a tireless advocate for change, traveling the country to urge women and minorities to claim their civil rights.

Esther Lee

President and CEO of Refraction

Esther Lee is the President and CEO of Refraction, an innovation hub in Northern Virginia, focused on fostering innovation and entrepreneurship by nurturing and mentoring startups and high-growth companies.

Prior to joining Refraction, Esther served as Secretary of Commerce and Trade for the Commonwealth of Virginia. In that role, she led Virginia’s successful bid for Amazon’s second headquarters. Esther also served as Global Chief Marketing and New Business Officer at Burson-Marsteller, one of the world’s largest strategic communications firms.

In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Esther as Senior Policy Adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. She created and led the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (co-chaired by AOL founder Steve Case).

Esther has been Vice Chairman of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, member of the Fairfax County Economic Advisory Commission, board member of GO Virginia, Virginia Economic Development Partnership and Center for Innovative Technology, a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Aspen Ideas Festival Scholar, and co-founder of the Council of Korean Americans. She received an A.B. in economics from Harvard and an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez

Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez is a leading civil rights leader and former 2020 U.S. Senate candidate. She was named “Hero of the New South” by Southern Living Magazine and her work has been featured on NPR, Vogue, The New York Times, MTV, USA Today, Univision, MSNBCs Up Late with Alec Baldwin, among others. She is also a JM Kaplin Innovation Prize winner and a Roddenberry award winner.

Cristina is the founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Jolt — a Texas-wide organization that lifts up the voice, vote and issues impacting Latinos. Founded in 2016, Jolt seeks to win the nearly 11 million Latinos living in Texas the power and respect they deserve. Jolt’s work has reached tens of millions of Americans, mobilized thousands to action and built the leadership of young Latinos across Texas.

Cristina began her social justice career when she co-founded Workers Defense Project (WDP), a workers’ rights organization with the mission to win  better working conditions for immigrant workers in Texas. She built WDP from a small volunteer project into a statewide organization that was named “one of the most creative organization’s for immigrant workers in the country” by the The New York Times. She helped lead the organization for over a decade, taking on two of the most powerful special interest groups in Texas – the construction and real-estate industries.  

At WDP, Cristina won the passage of half a dozen local and state laws better protecting the rights of hundreds of thousands of workers. Additionally, Cristina uncovered widespread safety hazards facing construction workers in Texas, leading to a federal investigation and new national initiatives to ensure stronger workplace safety enforcement for vulnerable worker populations. 

Cristina is an author on issues of race, gender, and immigration, and she is the co-author of “Presente! Latino Immigrant Voices in the Struggle for Racial Justice” published by AK Press (2014).

Pamelya Herndon

CEO of the KWH Law Center for Social Justice and Change

Pamelya Herndon, of Albuquerque, New Mexico is the CEO of the KWH Law Center for Social Justice and Change. She was recently named as a 2019 W.K. Kellogg Fellow. Currently, she serves as 2nd vice chair on the board of directors of United States New Mexico Federal Credit Union; vice chair of the African American Performing Arts Center Foundation; is a member of the board of directors of Emerge New Mexico, holding the office as treasurer; is president emeritus of the Con Alma Health Foundation; is a member of the New Mexico Bar Association and is a member of the Albuquerque Chapter of the National Organization of Women. Herndon received her BA from Howard University and her JD from University of Texas School of Law.