Koyalee Chanda ’92

Vice President for Kids and Animation at media production company Hello Sunshine

What advice would you give to a girl graduating from Williston today?   

Here’s what I WISH I could say: You are graduating in a time where women’s equality is the baseline. You can count on equal pay and advancement in the workplace. You will be given the same respect and privileges as your male counterparts.

Sadly, I cannot in earnest say any of this.

Instead, I will say: Keep your female friendships close. Support each other. Encourage each other to take risks. Give each other courage to speak up and stand up. Align yourself with men who believe in the power of female leadership and women’s contributions.

Stay vigilant and call out the inequities as you see them. Normalize dissent.

Tell us about a woman who is your hero and why?

My late mother-in-law Judith Berman Brandenburg was a feminist WAY before it was cool. In the 1980s and 90s through her work in higher academics, she saw how inequities in the workplace were keeping women from advancing. She saw how sexual harassment was rampant and went unchecked. She established sexual harassment policies at Yale and Teachers College, Columbia. She was integral to starting the Women Studies Program at Yale. As an English major at Wesleyan University, I enjoyed curriculums that were representative of women writers and thinkers, largely due to the work my mother-in-law and so many other early feminists did.

We stand on the shoulders of trailblazing women like my late mother-in-law.

What do you think is next for women in your professional field?

The first part of my career, I was a director of live-action content for kids. It was 20 years ago. I was young, a woman, and a person of color. When I walked on a set, everyone assumed I was the script supervisor (an important, but lower-level role). When I would clarify, almost apologetically, “No, actually, I’m the director,” invariably, I would see looks of surprise, confusion, and occasionally doubt.

Unfortunately, for women in Hollywood, most creative and technical leadership roles are still held by men. It IS changing. But slowly.

I’m hopeful that the next generation of storytellers, creators and directors, will be inspired by seeing more representation in these roles. It’s a cliche at this point, but true: if you see it, you can BE it.