Meena Harris Talks Diversity, Empowerment and Motherhood: 'Representation Matters'
Meena Harris, who moderates the new episode of "Coach Conversations" dedicated to women breaking barriers, tells PEOPLE: "Representation is everyone's responsibility, all of the time"
Meena Harris has grown up surrounded by strong, inspiring women. And now, Harris is using her platform to uplift other women and champion important causes through special projects — like her latest with Coach.
The Phenomenal CEO and Ambitious Girl author, 36, moderated the new "Coach Conversations" episode with model Paloma Elsesser and singer-songwriter Yuna, which featured a discussion about representation, diverse role models and more in celebration of Women's History Month. The message, Harris says, is one all men and women need to hear.
"Representation matters! It sounds obvious, but how incredibly powerful is it for little girls to see Paloma on that iconic Vogue cover — or hear Yuna, who started recording during law school on a cheap microphone, collaborate with Usher and launch her own indie label," Harris tells PEOPLE.
"Their impact is so, so important in terms of representing their successes and redefining what's normal. As the saying goes, you can be what you can see. So the fact that they're showing it's not impossible — that if you put your mind to it, you can absolutely be it — is empowering beyond words," Harris adds.
Being raised by a "community of incredible women" taught Harris the importance of speaking out against injustice. "A hardworking single mom, a grandmother who was a pioneering breast cancer researcher and civil rights activist, an aunt who taught me what it means to be a fighter — these are the women who shaped me, made me who I am today," she says. "So there was never any question that I was going to follow in their footsteps."
While she says she "wears a lot of different hats," bringing women together to speak about equality, diversity and representation is the "common thread" in everything Harris does.
"To me, it's as natural as breathing, and doing anything else would be as unnatural as holding my breath," she says. "I am not only passionate about bringing women together to speak out about equity and injustice, but I also view it as my responsibility."
Throughout the past year, Harris has found joy in writing her first children's book, Ambitious Girl, which she calls "an incredibly rewarding way to spend this stressful year." And while she sees a "brighter, more inclusive future ahead," the mom of two still knows there is much more work to be done.
"We've absolutely seen progress and one of the most encouraging arenas is male allyship. Men, especially in the younger generation, are realizing they can be effective allies by making space and amplifying the voices of women around them," Harris says.
She believes one of the best places to start is "expanding our circle of allies." Harris says: "When each of us is an ally in our own sphere of influence — when we embrace the fact that representation is everyone's responsibility, all of the time — there's real potential to meaningfully change the conversation."
Since becoming a mom to daughters Amara, 4, and Leela, 3, sparking these kinds of discussions has become even more important to Harris.
"Raising two daughters has driven home, for me, just how important representation is, in just about every facet of life," she says. "So that's something I try to carry with me as I move through the day, showing them — and so many girls who look like them — that entrepreneurs and CEOs can look like them, too"