Kay Fernandez Smith
Vice President, Policy and Innovation
Why do you do what you do?
I’m a proud first-generation Filipino American, mother, woman of color and resident of Oakland. My experiences sparked my life’s work on one central goal: that all people — regardless of race, class, gender or status — have just opportunities to reach their full potential in our society. When I moved to the U.S. as a child, my family first lived in a diverse low-income neighborhood. After my mom found a better job, we moved to a more affluent white suburb where there was access to high-performing schools, safe parks, healthy food and good jobs. I learned at an early age that where you live determines your access to opportunity, and I’ve been determined to change that.
What drew you to the foundation?
I joined the foundation right as we sharply focused our work on equity — a focus that completely aligns with my values. It’s exciting to be part of a community foundation that takes on roles beyond grantmaker, but also serves as a civic leader, convener, investor and advisor.
How would you describe your role?
I’m responsible for the Policy and Innovation division of the Community Impact department. This includes the strategic collaboration, alignment, and integration across the foundation’s housing agenda to ensure that Bay Area residents with low incomes have a safe and affordable place to call home. I also lead our policy advocacy and lobbying efforts. My team includes the staff of the Partnership for the Bay’s Future (Policy Fund), and Great Communities Collaborative.
Are you involved in any volunteer activities?
I’m the board chair of Forward Together Action, a national c4 multiracial organization focused on ensuring that all families thrive.