A Women’s History Month Conversation with Clyde Group VP Lilia Dashevsky About the Women Who Inspired Her.
As Women's History Month comes to a close, Clyde Group's Public Affairs practice sat down with Vice President Lilia Dashevsky to discuss her perspective on the significance of the month. She shares how the women in her life and career contributed to her successes, and offers insights on how the public affairs industry can empower women to make meaningful change.
When you think about women in your life that made the greatest impact on your success, who do you think about and why?
I’m proud to come from a long line of incredibly powerful and resilient women. My mom, aunt, grandmothers, and great grandmother had the biggest impact on my success and continue to do so. As Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union (now Ukraine), they taught me that nothing in life comes easily and to expect obstacles along the way. Growing up, the lesson I was taught was that we must give it our all, and then a bit extra, to achieve what we want. At a young age, that mentality powered me to work harder, go the extra mile, and take on challenges that others might not — little did I know how much that thinking would support me throughout my political and public affairs career.
What inspired you to pursue a career in public affairs, and how did you get your start in public affairs?
I first visited Washington, D.C. in second grade over Thanksgiving to see my aunt. After we finished dinner, we went for a long walk on the National Mall to see the monuments late at night (the only way to see the monuments). It’s like this happened yesterday: I saw the Lincoln Memorial, ran up the steps, began crying, and as my aunt caught up to me I recalled telling her that I desperately wanted to live in D.C. That experience eventually shaped my interest and involvement in Arizona politics from a very young age. I felt like working in the world of politics was my calling.
In high school, I really began exploring what it meant to work in politics. I signed up for Teenage Republicans as a freshman, became incredibly involved in a local Phoenix City Council race, and eventually, around 15 years old, I marched into the Republican State Party building — about two miles from my high school — and told them I wanted to intern there.
As a woman working in public affairs, have you faced any unique challenges or obstacles, and how have you overcome them?
I think that as a young woman in any industry, you’re bound to face obstacles whether they’re internal — imposter syndrome, work-life balance, etc. — or external, from those questioning your ability, judgment, or experience. Coupled with being a young professional, a proud Jew and a first-generation American, I seldom find myself relating to, or even looking like, the people around me. That can be emotionally taxing and intimidating, especially when you’re just starting out in your career.
What I’ve found over a decade of experience is that the best way to overcome stigmas or challenges is showing your doubters that not only do you deserve to be in the room, but you deserve a seat at the head of the table. Since my first role, I’ve treated every obstacle as an opportunity to prove to myself and others that I am capable and worthy. I’d think to myself, this situation might be uncomfortable, but it’s important to remember that each of us has value — find yours and own it wholeheartedly. And, if you’re lucky, along the way you will meet some incredible women who have been in your shoes, will give you a chance, and show you how to climb the ladder of success.
Can you tell us about a particularly rewarding project or accomplishment(s) that you're especially proud of?
The accomplishment I’m most proud of is actually being promoted to Vice President at Clyde Group. Not only have I never felt so seen and valued by previous employers, but I also surpassed my own professional goals at the time. Furthermore, when I joined Clyde Group more than three years ago, our Public Affairs operation was nowhere near the level it is now. That allowed me, thanks to our leadership, to feel like I was really building something with a very small and talented group of people, which I was incredibly invested in personally and professionally. From a team of four to now a team of 12, we’ve come a long way.
That said, when I was given the news about my promotion, I thought I was dreaming. Since then, I’ve fully embraced — and grown in — my role, carved out new responsibilities and streams of work, strengthened my leadership skills, won awards for my team’s work, and proven to myself that I can do this and more. It’s been an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience over the last year.
What advice would you give to women — of any age — who are interested in pursuing a career in public affairs or a related field?
For starters, get comfortable with being one of the few, or perhaps only, women amongst your peers. While the industry is changing, it’s not changing nearly fast enough. Secondly, challenge yourself in big, bold ways. No one knows you more than you do, so it’s incumbent on you to show the world what you’re capable of while others are questioning your ability. We all have a voice and we can’t be afraid to use it because the worst case scenario is that you get told “no” by someone and move on quickly. Lastly, and most importantly, you need to know when and how to take care of yourself mentally and physically. As women, we tend to overextend ourselves and feel like we have to work twice as hard as everyone else. However, we rarely take a moment to acknowledge that and, as a result, we’re often doing a horrible job of taking care of ourselves.
In your opinion, what can be done to increase gender diversity and representation in public affairs leadership, and why is this important?
I recall in my very first meeting as an intern at the Arizona Republican Party, that I was the only woman at that table. While, at the time, it was an intimidating experience, it also prepared me for what was to come: years of either being the only woman or the youngest person in the room. We have to change that. Diversity, in any field, powers creativity, introduces new points of view, and allows us to work toward an inclusive society.
I think that in order to increase diversity in this industry one of the many things we have to do is show young women in high school and college that there are people who work in this field that look, speak, and think like them. We need to break through stereotypes and be intentional about cultivating a diverse pipeline of individuals. That begins with how the industry and work is perceived, how attainable internships and fellowships are, where we recruit candidates, how we approach hiring, and what environments we create within the workplace.