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Press Release

Outright International Announces Selection of Maria Sjödin as New Executive Director



Publish Date


New York, New York - August 4, 2022 - Outright International, today announced the selection of Maria Sjödin as its new executive director. With 25 years of experience advocating globally for LGBTIQ equality, Maria will lead the international human rights organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) people at a pivotal time of change, expansion, and renewal. This momentous occasion comes after a yearlong, extensive search process that involved highly-qualified, diverse and passionate candidates from around the globe. 

Maria, who previously served as Outright’s acting executive director, succeeds Jessica Stern who joined the Biden Administration last September as the United States Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons at the State Department.

“I am honored and privileged to be given the responsibility to lead Outright International,” said Maria Sjödin. “Our focus on accelerating legal and social change across the world is at a very critical moment. While LGBTIQ communities are more visible than ever, governments, in too many places, are trying to stop or even roll back on our rights and progress. My vision is that Outright will be there, for communities in crisis, for emerging organizations in underfunded regions and for the work that creates sustainable change, ensuring that LGBTIQ people can live in safety, with dignity and with our rights protected.”

A member of the senior management team, Maria also served as Outright’s deputy executive director, overseeing the communications and development teams. During this period, the organization saw significant growth in revenue, enabling strong programmatic expansion, as well as growth in donor engagement, strategic partnerships, and visibility. Maria also helped launch pioneering initiatives including the organization’s LGBTIQ-specific COVID-19 and Ukraine Emergency Funds. The latter is aimed at providing assistance to LGBTIQ people who are in need of safe shelter, basic necessities, and humanitarian support as a result of the ongoing Russian war on Ukraine.

Prior to joining Outright, Maria was the executive director of RFSL, Sweden’s largest LGBT organization and one of the oldest LGBT organizations in the world. During their tenure, Maria established RFSL's international program and played a key role in advocating for marriage equality and the abolishment of forced sterilization amongst trans people as a requirement for legal gender recognition. 

“We are beyond thrilled to officially welcome Maria as Outright’s executive director,” said Jenny Pizer, Outright’s board co-chair and chief legal officer at Lambda Legal. “In the years I have had the pleasure of working with Maria, I have seen the extraordinary blend of intellect, empathy, and long-term strategic vision that is Maria’s leadership style. It is rare that any one person can engage with such deep knowledge, sensitivity, and effectiveness in settings ranging so broadly from the United Nations to vulnerable community gatherings to academia to corporate boardrooms.  The board of directors knows and has great, appreciative confidence that Maria will continue to steward the incredible impact and growth of this organization – always expanding our movement resourcing, research, and human rights advocacy on behalf of our LGBTIQ+ family around the world – in keeping with the mission and values of our global movement.”

Aalap Shah, Outright’s board co-chair and head of product and design at Plume, commended the board’s decision, noting, “This appointment is the culmination of a robust and thorough search process. We are incredibly proud that from Julie Dorf to Jessica Stern and now Maria Sjödin, Outright continues to attract, develop, and empower some of the most important leaders in our movement. And we are excited to continue to foster a culture where our external values are reflected in the diversity and resilience of our incredible internal staff. We hope to continue to be a beacon of talent for those that want to join us in this crucial, life-changing work.”

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