Meet Tonya Williams

Get to know the latest Engage Woman!

Please introduce yourself to the Engage community! Who are you?

Tonya Williams – a curious, diplomatic, sarcastic, empathetic, and determined problem solver with an incredible sense of humor, who actively seeks to maintain and establish meaningful and productive partnerships to facilitate greater understanding and achievement of the possible. And if I can do it over a great meal with a glass of wine – even better! I’ll stop there since this is starting to resemble one of those terrible personal ads. Humph …


What do you wish you knew when you were a 20-something starting out?

The importance of saying YES, with purpose – even when you aren’t sure exactly how you will achieve what you are agreeing to. A healthy and intentional bias towards yes takes courage, but it almost always introduces you to interesting people and opportunities that will get you moving in the direction of your goals and priorities much faster than sitting on your couch at home, reading about those who are actively “doing.”


What role do politics or policy have in your life?

Politics has always been a big part of my life – for most of my life it was my work, but it is and always will be my passion. And when it is working, it can be a great force and multiplier of good for our society, especially for the most vulnerable.


If you had a magic wand in Washington that could pass any law or make everyone focus on any one issue, what would you use it for?

Voting rights – it is the foundation upon which all else is built. Without the vote, and faith in the process, there is chaos.


What attracts you to Engage?

Engage focuses on one of the most fundamental and determinative social values that influence our behaviors and decision-making: security. Economic insecurity is the elephant in the room that drives our rhetoric and our politics. More than anything else, our economic needs quietly influence our science, our education, and our society, but it is rarely the focus of our conversation. And if we don’t talk about it and amplify the needs of all women, connect the seemingly disconnected dots for ourselves, and consistently raise our collective voices, policymakers will continue to ignore the needs of those who outnumber, outvote, and outlive men. Those who make the macro-level decisions that undermine our well-being need to hear from us.


Who are you most inspired by right now?

Healthcare workers – their ever-present bravery and unconditional commitment to our communities and society, even when it puts them in harm’s way is extraordinary and commendable. This pandemic has pushed them to the max, and while many of us have been working from home or huddling in our self-selected pods and debating the merits, successes, and failures of government response from the safety of our homes, they have been on the frontlines all day, every day trying to save lives — no matter how or why you ended up in their care. We owe them everything, including a break!


What is one thing you have seen, read, or heard that you would recommend to everyone?

The BBC News – facts and a global perspective matter!


If you could have any job in the world for one month, what would it be and why?

Political commentator/pundit – I can’t think of anything more interesting and exciting for a political junkie with lots of thoughts and opinions who loves debate and who is an eternal optimist with a potentially misguided belief that she can find common ground with anyone!! Joe Scarborough – can you hear me!? Give me a chance, we would make great television.


Who do you love to follow on social media and why?

I’ve given up on “following” social media, as I have found it to be a tremendous time suck that takes me away from actively participating in the present and often takes me to unhealthy extremes by unquestionably confirming my beliefs or just pissing me off – neither of which is good. More often than not, the discourse is disingenuous, and the facts are nowhere to be found.


Why do you think it’s important for women to engage with the political system?

I think it is the most important and consequential thing that women can do for themselves and the things they care about. And they should do it early and often!!


Tonya Williams is the Director of Government Affairs at Softbank. She is one of our four Engage Summit Co-Chairs.

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