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Iranian-American Women Lean In, One Hashtag at a Time

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The late Daniel Schorr once compared the conversational system found on Twitter to an ancient Greek agora -- a marketplace, where individual conversations were everyone's business -- and remarked that, "every person now seems to be a network." I believe Schorr meant that communication is an inherent part of being human, and it is human resourcefulness that keeps our means of civic engagement in constant evolution.

Archetypes of our communication patterns can also be found on Facebook, with dialogue similar to the Iranian noonvayee -- or bakery -- where the latest news and gossip weaves its way through the line, and touches each and every customer. Social media provides our voices with a system to be heard, and we must respect today's digital platforms as a new way to communicate, a new way to organize around innovative ideas and give our voices unprecedented reach.

It is time for Iranian-American women to recognize the power of communication to strengthen our community, and embrace the digital tools that can amplify our voices nationwide. We might not have a demographic boom, but we do command buying power and we command knowledge and expertise. We need engagement from our female engineers, architects, mathematicians, scientists, fashion designers and athletes, and we must all galvanize around a common goal. We must embrace and harness these individual contributions, and seek a collective purpose. To do this we must rediscover, and redefine, our identity and devise our own brand-strategy; a strategy that is centered around our identity in this digital age.

As Iranian-Americans, we can learn a great deal from our other American sisters, mothers and daughters, who exhibit strength and resourcefulness, and recognize each other as sources of strength. In 1848, Seneca Falls, New York marked the first large-scale gathering of American women who could no longer passively-observe a rapidly changing society. Hundreds of disenfranchised women strategized around their common goal of equality, in all areas of American life, and harnessed their voices into a vote. Who would have thought that we, as Iranian-American women, would benefit from a 19th century gathering of primarily American women. As we lead in the boardrooms of America, as space explorers, software developers, medical scientists and every profession in-between, let that first convention remind us of our common goal: equality, and the power of our voice to achieve it.

Let's not forget contemporary African American and Latina women across America, who have tossed out the megaphone in favor of digital media platforms. In Spring 2012, top Latina Bloggers held a retreat in Washington D.C. that included a briefing at the White House, where administration officials discussed the top issues that affect the Hispanic community :education, health and jobs. The retreat underscored that minorities should step into the intersection of technology, social media and entrepreneurship to empower their communities.

I am attending #IAWFNY in the memory and spirit of my grandmother, Helen Jeffreys Bakhtiar of Weiser, Idaho. Helen fell in love with Iran back in 1927, after hearing my grandfather recite poems from the Shahnameh, a 10th century epic recorded by Persian poet, Ferdowsi. The Shahnameh chronicles the journey of a nation seeking justice and yearning for freedom of expression, with mythical and pre-Islamic historical rulers as its heroes and heroines.

By the 1950's, Helen had become a public health nurse, and could be found whipping her own jeep through the dusty roads of Chahar Mahal Bakhtiari region of Iran, where she taught local women about the importance of healthcare. Helen impressed on me the power of the individual, and the importance of empowering your community to the best of your ability.

Iranian-Americans now thrive in every profession, and are often found at the forefront of national conversations. You hear us loudly throughout the media; and especially at NPR, where Iranian-American women journalists help to shape the news from Washington, D.C., to Berlin; reporting stories that deeply affect our lives, from everywhere in between. With no shortage of leaders in the media, we are well positioned to further push the limits and continue to make our voices heard.