I Am their #1 Champion

I remember feeling like an imposter as I sat in a college class at the young age of 16. The daughter of a landscaper and a nonprofit teacher, excelling in academics wasn’t something I was proud of; it was something I hid. As a young girl of minimal financial means, growing up in a conservative town left me believing I should keep my head down and stay to myself.

But there was one problem.

I wasn’t born with a quiet voice or small dreams; I’ve always been a dreamer, a worker, and a big voice. I remember how it felt to try and make myself small. Being anything other than who we’re fully born to be is exhausting, never sustainable, and it’s the truth that fuels my passion for Visionwork’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion movement. I ALWAYS want to be a megaphone for voices that have made themselves small, when really, they should be the loudest.

Starting at the age of 10, I helped my dad at his landscaping job. After several years of working alongside him, I became the recipient of someone else’s megaphone. A woman whose lawn we cared for used her resources to help me attend college, a gift of generosity and belief. Mrs. Dean leveraged her position to elevate me, a young girl whose only defining characteristic was hard work, to a better place.

That contribution still motivates me today and is why I’m wildly passionate about making every associate feel seen, valued, and elevated. I want them to be ALL they are—people who are worthy of an investment. Their humanity makes them worthy, and it’s my job to create a space where that belief is nourished and resourced.

Women still face workplace dynamics unique only to us. And while we can navigate them, it takes tremendous effort and focus. The American corporate structure is a space for ingenuity, growth, and achievement, AND it still favors some more than others. Change happens most powerfully through relationships, intentional movements, and safe spaces that promote women’s development and allow for authenticity and vulnerability. Seeing our associates engage in our Women In Leadership Business Resource Group reminds me of this truth. Each woman has a unique story of hard work, triumphs, and failures. When given the space to embrace all they are and want to be, their collective power is palpable.

They remind me how it felt when Mrs. Dean empowered me, and that feeling reminds me of who I want to be for them—an advocate, ally, and their #1 champion—because ALL women, ALL associates, ALL humans deserve to be who they fully are and valued enough to have the resources they need to achieve all their hopes and dreams.