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Jessica Shortall
Jessica Shortall Young

Jessica Shortall

CEO, Texas Competes

Jessica designs solutions to humanitarian problems. In her 20s, she lived in Uzbekistan, where she worked with local people to open the town’s first and only English-language library.

She went on to co-found a U.S. non-profit organization, The Campus Kitchens Project, to place university students as leaders in fighting hunger. They reclaim un-served food from campus and nearby restaurants and supermarkets, and use under-used university kitchen space to turn that food into meals for local homeless shelters, after-school programs, and senior citizens. To date, the program has served 3.2 million meals in more than 60 cities.

Jessica went on to become the first Director of Giving for a start-up company called TOMS Shoes. She built out the company’s One for One concept, developing programming and logistics worldwide to use shoes to combat neglected tropical diseases and help children attend school. She helped launch the company’s eyewear line, and designed its program that supports local social enterprise eye clinics around the world.

In 2015, Jessica published a survival guide for breastfeeding and getting back to work, called “Work. Pump. Repeat.” These days, her focus is on LGBT rights in Texas – a state that is so big, if it were a country, it would be the 12th largest economy in the world. Since 2015, more than 50 anti-LGBT laws have been proposed in Texas, ranging from attacks on same-sex marriage to attempts to regulate bathroom usage by transgender people. So Jessica started Texas Competes, a coalition of more
than 1300 employers making the economic case against discriminatory laws in the state. This model has become of national interest in the United States, and so far, all but one of the relevant bills has been defeated.  

Jessica lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two children.

Building bridges on diversity: (en)

What the fight for civil rights can teach us about designing with empathy

Design is everywhere, if we know how to look for it. Join TEDx and SXSW keynote speaker Jessica Shortall on her journey to design and build new common ground on LGBTQ rights in a surprising place: deeply conservative Texas. 

In 2014, Jessica found herself tasked with building the first-ever business opposition to LGBTQ discrimination in one of the biggest, most politically conservative states in the U.S. Along the way, she faced more than 50 anti-LGBT bills in the state legislature, dived into the human behavior driving this push to legislate people’s lives, built a data-driven model based on the economic risks of discrimination…and found a beating human heart at the core of the struggle. 

Jessica will close Web Days 2017 with a talk about the complicated, emotional work of designing a solution that builds bridges and creates unexpected allies. 

See Jessica talk on Friday.