Lessons in GSG HERstory: Olivia Zayas Ryan

Professional Life and Accomplishments

Who are your female mentors, role models, favorite trail blazers, or heroes? 

One of my biggest role models is my sister, Rebecca. She continuously inspires me to learn and grow while still remaining true to myself, and I couldn’t be more grateful for her selfless guidance over the years.

What would your co-workers be surprised to know about you?

This may not be surprising, but outside of my work here at GSG, I also am a writer. I am often working on personal essays and poems and am always sharing writing/books/poems/songs with my closest friends who are also queer writers. The community of queer artists I have here in New York is so important and inspiring to me.

What is likely more surprising is that watching football with friends and family is one of my favorite parts of fall/winter, mainly because I love yelling and cooking “game day food.” I have a deep internal struggle though because I was raised a Giants fan but my brother-in-law is a Patriots fan, so I just yell about every touchdown to be fair.

What accomplishment are you most proud of OR what has been your biggest success to date?

The nine months I spent as a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs is my proudest accomplishment to date. That program was deeply challenging emotionally, mentally, academically, physically, etc. etc. It allowed me to be comfortable with the idea that being emotional does not equal unprofessional, and people respond well to leading with vulnerability. I was able to turn perceived weaknesses into strengths and be more comfortable bringing my full self to a work space, which I have been actively trying to bring into this space as well.

What is the biggest career hurdle you have overcome?

A major hurdle I have had to overcome is my own insecurity and self-doubt. Being a young, queer woman of color in the corporate workspace is intimidating, and I find myself often having to remind myself that I belong in certain spaces and empower myself to speak up. Imposter syndrome has always been hard for me to overcome, and I have found it to be especially difficult for non-cismen.

Who is a woman everyone should know about?

Maggie Nelson is a writer who I absolutely adore. She has written some amazing books and poems about love, gender/sexuality, death, etc. Her writing has helped me understand much about myself and inspires me as a writer as well.

Also, not a woman, but a femme person everyone should know about is Indya Moore. They play Angel on Pose (which everyone should watch) and their sharing what it means to be trans, femme, and non-binary is so important and inspiring to me.

More about Olivia

If you could learn to do one thing, what would it be?

I would love to learn how to vogue – I am in the process of learning though, so time will tell!

What is your favorite TED talk, podcast, or book?

ONE of my favorite podcasts right now is Popcast by New York Times. Music criticism/analysis (especially of pop music by women/femmes!!!) is one of my greatest passions and I love reading, listening, and talking about it.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I thought I was going to be a singer songwriter up until the time I was 16 and changed paths completely. I still consider myself to be a songwriter in some respects, and I think teenage me would be proud.