Sehba Ali, Superintendent
1. What woman throughout history most inspires you, and why?
In our recent history, there are have been so many girls who have literally put their lives on the line to fight for girls’ education. One young lady who connects with me personally is Malala Yousafzi, a 17-year old Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for her commitment to education and helping other girls attend school. This year, Malala became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala’s grit and courage inspire me to continue the fight to ensure that all of our children, whether in Pakistan or in the U.S., have access to an excellent education. Through education, our children will gain choice and opportunity, and ultimately the freedom to achieve their dreams.
2. Did you ever have a “lean in” moment that was a crucial point in your career? If so, what was it?
Over the last 14 years at KIPP, I have been continuously surrounded by female role models who lead while being committed mothers, wives, daughters, and friends. In Houston, however, I am one of only a few female Superintendents in the greater Houston area. As a five-foot tall woman of color, I find myself “leaning in” on a daily basis to make sure my voice is heard.
3. What was the best career or leadership advice you ever got?
Impossible is nothing.
4. What is KIPP doing that makes it a great place for female leaders?
KIPP creates a safe, loving place where women are given opportunities to lead, and our voices are heard. At a recent School Leader retreat, I was applauded publicly by KIPP’s Co-Founder, Dave Levin, for bringing my 6-year old daughter, who was off from school for the day, to the retreat sessions with me. She sat right next to me all morning!
5. What advice would you give an organization that’s struggling to attract and retain female leaders?
Celebrate your female leaders publicly for being both high-performers and also being mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, and friends. Make your workplace family-friendly and encourage women to speak up in the organization. Encourage male leaders to listen. Create metrics and hold the leadership team accountable for hiring and retaining female leaders. It is important that young women in the organization have access to women in leadership and can see a path forward for themselves while balancing their family commitments.