As Community Engagement Director for the Women and Girls Foundation, Olivia Benson oversees communications, membership programs, volunteer projects and external community engagement activities. A self-proclaimed “lover of politics, Sephora, social impact initiatives and civic engagement,” the Aliquippa native is also co-founder of She Runs SWPA and an active board member with youth-focused nonprofit organizations. You can hear Olivia in your earbuds as co-host of the She Runs podcast on iTunes. Olivia lives in Mt. Lebanon with her husband, Andrew, and their dog, Bruce Wayne (aka “The Bark Knight”).

Best part of your job?

I work with THE MOST AMAZING team at the Women and Girls Foundation, so it’s hard to say just one thing, but I’d say that empowering the young women of Western PA to become the people they want to be, not what society tells them they should be, is at the top of my list. I get to spend a few hours this week talking to some of the GirlGov leadership and I’m super thrilled. These young ladies are absolutely brilliant and I love chatting with them about their goals.

Write three words to describe Pittsburgh:

Promising, beautiful and impressive.

Podcast you’re addicted to?

The SheRuns podcast, obviously.

Who is the last person you texted (and what was it about?)

I have about 20 group texts going right now … exhausting but effective, right? My most recent texts are to: my close friends, Jamie and Chelsea, about my struggle to find Fenty Beauty foundation in a local Sephora; Sara Innamorato about our upcoming SheRuns event (details coming soon!); my husband Andrew about some great DIY home project I saw on Pinterest; and my mom about my aunt Cindy’s upcoming birthday celebration.

Olivia Benson

Olivia at the Women and Girls Foundation’s GirlGov retreat in September.

What is your favorite creative outlet?

Baking, writing (Tweeting!) and reading.

What song in your playlist is on endless repeat?

More album than song … Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” album is one of my favorites.

You need a drink. Where do you go?

Upstairs at Olive or Twist is underrated for a nice, quiet drink with friends. If I’m looking for something more active, the scene at Sienna Mercato is excellent.

What book is on your nightstand or in your e-reader right now?

I usually listen to Audible on my way to work. I’m listening to three books now: “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth, “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn and “What Happened” by Hillary Rodham Clinton. On my nightstand there’s “Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person” by Shonda Rhimes and my new favorite, “Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me,” written by my super talented friend, Carrie Ann DiRisio.

Olivia Benson

Illustration of Olivia Benson by Linnea Gear.

Last photo you took on your phone?

The Eiffel Tower.

Bridge you love to walk or bike over?

Smithfield!

At what Pittsburgh restaurant do you always order dessert?

It’s not technically dessert, but the Kettle Corn at Pittsburgh Popcorn Company is MY FAVORITE treat.

Favorite Pittsburgh brewery?

Voodoo!

We arrive for dinner. What’s on the menu?

Chili or some other masterpiece made in my favorite crockpot. Oh and some sort of dessert. I LOVE baking for friends and family.

Best escape from the city?

Wine tasting in western New York.

Besides the essentials (keys, wallet, phone), what do you always carry with you?

Must-haves in no particular order: Tide pen, notebook to write down ideas, lipstick, phone charger, perfume and business cards.

What’s your favorite rainy day Pittsburgh activity?

Catching up on Teen Vogue articles, writing think pieces and cooking.

Best PGH brunch spot?

Grand Concourse, HANDS-DOWN!

What upcoming events are you excited attend?

On Wednesday, I’ll meet friends for happy hour and dinner in Market Square. I’m also a proud board member of The Prevention Network & CLASS Academy. The students have a pottery studio (cool, right?) where they make amazing items. This week I’m attending ALL FIRED UP, their interactive art exhibit, live auction and fundraiser. It’s a great way to support the students AND shop for Christmas. On Friday, I’ll stop by the Epicast family reunion at Work Hard Pittsburgh. The Epicast team pretty much makes the SheRuns podcast run, literally, so I can’t wait to hang out, say thanks, and meet up with future collaborators. I’ll end the week on Saturday at Chatham facilitating a session at the Gender Equity in Pittsburgh: Making Intersectional Change Happen symposium.

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