This month the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) Spotlight features Commissioner Darya Larizadeh, member since 2015 and a San Mateo County resident since 2008. Darya has devoted much of her career to policy research in the areas of criminal and juvenile justice reform and women's rights. She leads the CSW Criminal Justice Work Group and regularly contributes to policy issues for women that the CSW researches and discusses. 

What is your current role in your life (work and/or personal)?

As a new mom, a huge portion of my day is spent taking care of my little one and learning how to be a mom! When I am not with my son, I work at a school district as a Community Liaison for a program called AVID (, which works with students who will be the first in their families to go to college. My role is to grow and manage a career development program that offers internships and company visits for high school students. Prior to taking this role, I worked as an attorney and policy researcher in the areas of criminal and juvenile justice.

How did you first get involved with women’s issues?

My first introduction to women’s issues came both at home and at school. Dinner table conversations were often focused on current events, inequities in the classroom, and the struggles of disadvantaged groups, including women. I was fortunate to be able to attend an all-girls high school, which placed a huge emphasis on women’s rights and women’s empowerment.

If you could change one thing about women’s lives, what would it be?

When we look at every facet of women’s lives, there is room for great improvement—the home, the workplace, the healthcare system, the jails and prisons, the education system, and even just daily interactions on the street. The change that I see as being the most impactful is a cultural shift in attitudes towards women’s capabilities, inherent worth, and roles in life. And at the heart of that cultural shift is respect. If women and young girls are respected, they will be treated better and have more opportunities to reach their potential.

Please describe someone who influenced your decision to impact women’s issues.

Both my mother and father were instrumental in me pursuing a career in social justice. As educators, they always encouraged me to work hard in school so that I could go out and make the world a better place. I’ll never forget my father asking me one day whether I thought he’d be more proud on the day I got married or the day I got my graduate degree. I knew the answer was the one that involved education! My mother worked hard her whole life and continues to be the caretaker to our extended family and friends. She worked outside of the home and still was the person who always stepped up to the plate to support others in need. She taught me what it means to be a mom but also showed me the many ways that women’s contributions can be taken for granted. 

What do you do when you aren’t working and/or volunteering?

I love to travel, cook, eat delicious food with family and friends, play with my dog, and spend time by the ocean.

Who is someone who has impacted your leadership style?

Many people have impacted my leadership style, both by showing me how I want to lead and how I don’t want to lead. In general, I think great leaders lead through direct communication, collaboration, a strong belief in the mission or project at hand, and they carry themselves with a sense of confidence, humility, and passion. 

Darya Larizadeh Spotlight graphic

CSW Spotlight - Darya Larizadeh

Darya Larizadeh and husband

Darya and her husband, Jonathan, getting ready for the San Francisco Women's March in January 2017.

Darya Larizadeh

Enjoying the great outdoors!

Darya Larizadeh and baby

Darya and the newest member of her family