INSPIRING WOMEN: Matrika Bailey-Turner

Matrika Bailey-Turner was a close friend at Hamline University.  My first full year of college was Matrika’s last, so we were not at Hamline together for very long. But, the time we shared was just what my young, budding feminist and increasingly socially aware heart needed! Matrika has been an inspiring woman in my life since we connected in 2007.

Matrika is bold, smart, deeply committed to women’s and social justice issues, and unapologetic.

Matrika received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Justice and Women’s Studies from Hamline University in St. Paul, MN, but found her true passion in international relations when she spent a semester in Fiji months after the 2006 coup d’état. Although she hails from Hanover, NH, Matrika considers herself a dual citizen of both Minnesota and New Hampshire. She is also a fellow Green Bay Packer fan! ;)

Although we were pretty similar in age, I started college much later than Matrika because of my exchange year in Germany and an additional semester off. So, it felt like I was coming in to Hamline just as Matrika was going.  Like it is for many young people, college was truly a time of momentous growth for me.  Of course, it was much more than classroom experiences that created this time of change. It related, in large part, to the people that came in to my life– like Matrika.

I loved Matrika’s presence and took note of what she said as she was able to put things into words what I was still exploring or grappling with. She took me under her wing and helped me connect to students, staff, faculty, and organizations that became huge parts of my college experience.

The biggest piece of advice I took from Matrika was to be unapologetic. On her bathroom mirror in the Hamline University apartments, Matrika often had post-its and quotes to live by. I remember, distinctly, one post-it that read “do not apologize”. This troubled me at the time. My Minnesota nice, naïve self didn’t quite get that living and speaking unapologetically is a revolutionary act.  Those with marginalized identities are often silenced, asked to explain, made to feel bad for speaking the truth. Realizing this blew my quickly-developing, young feminist, socially-critical mind!

Now, of course, I see the beauty in this and ascribe to the same sentiments. Do not apologize for your thoughts and feelings. Do not apologize if your truth makes someone uncomfortable.  As women, we’re taught to quickly apologize if we might have offended or “overstepped”. And, I’m as guilty of this as anyone, how often do we say “sorry” as a reflex or start a statement with “sorry, but. . .”? No! Sorry, not sorry! 

Matrika just recently took a new position as a Speaker Management Coordinator at Orate – an online marketplace that helps event organizers and public speakers more easily find one another. She is the first employee in this fast-growing start up. (How exciting!)

Before this new position, Matrika worked with the United Nations Foundation to weave entrepreneurship and innovation across its campaigns and initiatives, building partnerships with entrepreneurs and private sector champions that positively impact the United Nations. She believes that entrepreneurs help drive global change, and are critical players in helping create solutions to the word’s most pressing humanitarian challenges.

Prior to Orate and the United Nations Foundation, Matrika was also doing important work centered on empowering and supporting women and girls through Girl Up and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. I admire Matrika’s professional dedication to women-centered causes. I’m inspired by her career moves.

Below, read what and who inspire Matrika, advice, and words to live by. . .

What inspires you? What do you care about deeply? 

“I was adopted from Kerala, India when I was 2.5 months old, and I know that my life has turned out very differently than if I had stayed in Kerala, so I am constantly thinking about the improvement of women and girls around the world and in the U.S. to have the same opportunities I have been afforded."

“I am fortunate to have worked alongside passionate global leaders who are driving global progress through entrepreneurship, innovation, and long lasting partnerships. I have truly internalized that empowering women and girls is one thread throughout global development that really underscores and elevates change, but also impacts women at the local and national level here in the U.S.  Groups like NOW, Girls Who Code, Girl Up, Women for Women International, and Girl Scouts help create a platform for women and girls to succeed and are entities that I support.”

Who are women in your life or throughout history that inspire you? 

“My mother and grandmother are certainly trailblazers that stick out in my mind. They have both busted through stereotypes, disproved assumptions, and mastered the art of juggling the home and work life. They were the first women in my life to display what it looks like to go after what you want and still be able to have a family and tick off those awesome life milestones.”

“Lately, I’ve been inspired by South Asian women doing bad ass things, because growing up I didn’t really see women who looked like me in the media. Right now, I’m deeply in love with Mindy Kaling, Kamala Harris, Maya Harris, and Mira Nair. All South Asian women but different in their self-expression and demonstration of ‘what it means to be a South Asian woman’.”

“My close friends in D.C. and college friends and high school friends throughout the country inspire me. I feel honored to be surrounded (both physically and digitally) by women doing amazing kickass shit that makes them feel powerful and excited about life.”

If you had one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be and why? 

“I wish I could tell myself that, despite the pressure from high school/college/external influences to pursue certain career paths and how to obtain those careers, I should always trust my gut and keep moving in the direction that makes me feel excited, happy, and powerful. I am happy to say that I eventually found my way to these opportunities that made me excited, happy, and feel powerful, but I was dubious and unsure of myself when I really should have just jumped in.”

“There are far too many assumptions and expectations of how to craft your personal and professional trajectories as women, millennials, women of color, women of certain educational backgrounds…if I could go back 10 years, I would shut out the external noise and just put one foot in front of the other without pausing.”

Matrika also shared a few mantras that she incorporates into her everyday life: 

Don’t second-guess your gut instincts, because 99.9% of the time they’re on point.
Only do it if it makes you happy even if your friend/significant other/family member will get annoyed if you pass it up…no reason to torture yourself for someone else.
Do something that takes you out of your comfort zone, even if it’s just a few steps.

This March, I am celebrating all the amazing women around me! Sharing women who have influenced me and make up my personal history. As the month goes on, you can see all my Inspiring Women posts here!