An interview with Ximena Hartsock on International Women’s Day

International Women's Day

Every year, International Women’s Day aims to elevate the social, economic, cultural, and political contributions made by women around the world. We took this opportunity to talk with Ximena Hartsock, Phone2Action’s Co-Founder and COO, who has been involved in advocacy since the age of 11. Below, she discusses her motivations for making advocacy more accessible as well as the importance of having mentors at every stage of her career.

What motivated you to become involved with social advocacy at the age of 11?
My father was a big reader. He would read the newspaper every day and would sometimes share the things that he was reading about with me. In general, he made me think about things I hadn’t thought about before, and I think it’s because he read the paper.

I remember being really socially active at age 11 when I tried to save a classmate from getting expelled. I also organized a protest in 6th grade to fight to keep a tradition that my school’s nuns tried to stop, organized a letter writing campaign in defense of a shy student in middle school, and led a protest to let a nun have long hair. I was always active in student government.

What do you think is unique about advocacy in our current political climate?
I think advocacy is more than an activity; it is a deeper way of living life. I don’t think people get up in the morning thinking about taking a specific action on an advocacy campaign. I think people get up in the morning feeling a sense of ownership around issues that are important to them. With this view of the world, advocacy comes from personal responsibility – a sense of higher calling.

With the introduction of the Internet and social media, we are bombarded with information at all times. We hear more stories about what’s happening to people around the world, making us more alert, more informed, and giving us the passion and energy to say, “Wow, I want to do something about this!” It’s very difficult not to care. That’s what makes this time special. Advocacy isn’t just for a few; technology has made it more accessible.

The election has also made issues more heated on both sides of the political spectrum. With 24/7 access to information and the ubiquitousness of smartphones, more people than ever are speaking up wherever and whenever on issues that matter to them. What’s more, their stories are going viral; advocacy connects people across geographic boundaries in ways that nothing else does.

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What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you about being a woman in technology?
On mentors: I’ve been fortunate to have great people around me modeling the way. My first boss was an incredible woman who gave me a lot of nurturing. Youth and children need to see these types of role models more often and they need to see them at an early age. And while it is important for children and young professionals to have role models/mentors, I believe that people need mentors at every stage of their career. In fact, I believe that we often need mentors the most when we are managers, and are making decisions that impact other people. Unfortunately, it’s harder to find them then. So, it’s important to become involved in your industry’s community, and network with others who may have faced similar situations and challenges.

On learning: Learning is not a one-way street; it requires give and take. Surround yourself with people you can learn from, and don’t think that at some point in your career you’re going to stop learning. The higher you get, the lonelier it gets. It’s even more important to continue learning then.

On risk-taking: Life is very unpredictable, so one of the things that’s worked for me is to be adaptable and confident. I take a lot of risks, but I try and trust my instincts.

Why did you want to create Phone2Action?
The idea of Phone2Action was born when I was a Director of Membership for an advocacy group. I was traveling all over the country trying to get people organized. While doing that, I realized that people didn’t know who their lawmakers were or how to contact them. I wanted to create a tool that would make it easy for individuals to contact their lawmakers right from their desktop or phone. At the time, there were no mobile-responsive tools available, and I thought it would be game-changing to bring advocacy to people’s phones. Making the platform mobile responsive since the beginning was a great differentiator.

The name is the description of what the tool does. Use your phone to take action. It was surprising to me that there wasn’t already a tool like this available somewhere.

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What role do women play when it comes to issue advocacy?
There are no boundaries for women when it comes to advocacy. Women are passionate about many issues, and despite differences of opinion, we find unity and inspiration from one another to advocate for these issues. Technology now connects us in new ways and it is incredibly inspiring to see how women around the globe celebrate this special day.

Want to read more from Ximena? Check out her interview with Steve Wozniak, cofounder of Apple, Inc. 

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