My guest today is Elizabeth Ayala. Liz grew up in the Inland Empire of Southern California to a mother who worked in factories and a father who is an entrepreneur. Liz’s parents encouraged her to attend college but often linked college with financial success. She attended Stanford University and received her Bachelor of Arts in International Relations. During her college journey, Liz learned more about work in the non-profit sector and her passion for social justice and advocacy bloomed. She is currently a program manager for The Women’s Foundation of California. Liz has also been active in many social justice movements, marches, and protests and is dedicated to educating her community. She is a member of the Riverside Resistance Revival Chorus and Board President for Child Leader Project. Liz describes her career as joyful, fulfilling, and important but discusses the challenges of reconciling her passion for political engagement and activism with some of the expectations of her immigrant family. Here is a little of her First Gen Journey . . .
In this episode, Liz discusses how she developed a career in the non-profit sector and the challenges of being first gen and pursuing work in social justice. She also reflects on how she navigates educating her family, making choices for herself, and maintaining positive family relationships. Here are a few highlights from her episode:
· Liz’s parents encouraged her to go to college from a young age by referring to her future as a college graduate and starting a savings account for her (1:06).
· Growing up, many of the messages about college and career referenced financial and monetary success (2:39).
· Liz noted that career exploration was limited when she was younger due to a lack of exposure to different professions. Her senior year of high school and her freshman year of college was when she learned about potential careers in the non-profit sector (3:15).
· Liz pursued International Relations as a major and was excited about studying and hopefully working abroad. Her parents had concerns about her traveling outside the country “on her own” and Liz discusses how she handled that conflict (4:54).
· There were many moments in Liz’s college and career path that led to tension with her parents but Liz was committed to helping her family understand the choices she was making (9:12).
· Liz also had to navigate her own expectations and the realities of starting a career that she wasn’t familiar with. This was especially difficult when she found opportunities that were not accessible given her financial background (11:20).
· In this section, Liz discusses her current position and the continued need to explain her career choices and professional activities to her parents (12:55).
· As noted earlier, Liz’s parents had certain expectations of what a college degree would provide. Liz has forged her own path and is defining success in a way that matches her own values. She discusses how she navigates her parents’ expectations of financial success both with them and with herself (14:15).
· Political activism is part of both Liz’s professional and personal identity. Her family respects her choices but doesn’t always understand her interests (20:05). Liz gives tips for how to engage in political discussions with family (24:56).
· Thus far, Liz has had positive experiences with mentorship and building connections in the non-profit sector (26:11). Still, there are other aspects of the non-profit sector, like the culture of philanthropy, that she finds hard to navigate as a First Gen (26:47).
Liz’s Tips for engaging in political dialogue with family:
1. Be open to dialogue but choose your moments wisely
2. Focus on gratitude and family support during difficult moments
3. Have empathy and perspective and try to be respectful
4. Correct inaccurate facts instead of criticizing beliefs
5. Let them know that you are willing to tell them more if they are interested.