OUR INSIGHTS

By

imageupload1614283926348 Copy of Blog Graphics

Our commitment at WBC to advance women in business through collaboration includes honoring talented and accomplished women who have paved the way for future generations. The fast-growing WBC Nashville chapter is very proud to showcase some of their members for Black History Month. This powerful group of women of color leaders, change-makers, and movement creators have advanced themselves, other leaders, businesses, and communities through their passion and perseverance.  Enjoy their unique visions, voices, and hard-earned wisdom in these profiles. “Faster, Together” is our promise at WBC and there is no better way to do just that in Nashville and beyond than by learning and growing as one.

CYNTHIA WHITFIELD-STORY

President & CEO, INSPIRE1, LLC.

Q: What is the one life lesson you would like to share with others, especially younger women entering the workforce today? 

The major life lesson for me has always been to be a calculated  risk taker. I learned early in my career to volunteer for new assignments, raise my hand to take on different career opportunities, and learn something new or different everyday. Being a risk taker has allowed me to become an expert in some areas, a general manager and a developer of employee talent. The biggest rewards were to always be learning new skills and getting ready for the next challenge.

Q: As you look towards the future, what or who makes you most excited about the progress we are making related to women of color in the workplace or in our Nation?

I am very excited about the opportunity that was presented to me in January 2020  to become a national member of the Women Business Collaborative (WBC) organization. At that meeting, we discussed the challenges that women face and how this organization  committed to create a women’s business movement through collaboration. They were going to focus  on equal positions, pay and power for all women. I later learned about 3 of their 9  initiatives that aligned with work I had been doing my entire corporate career:  parity in the workplace, building a pipeline of women and diversity, equity and inclusion. Of course I became a member!  Since being involved in the national WBC and witnessing all the accomplishments in improving women representation in businesses, I am honored to be  one of the Co-Chairs of the WBC in Nashville. We will collaborate with our members and business partners to continue to incorporate and advance women and women of color in  Nashville.

 

LAQUITA R. STRIBLING

Vice President of Sales and Customer Experience, Randstad US

Q: What is one life lesson you would like to share with others – especially younger women entering the workforce today?

As a woman progresses in her career, the workplace can sometimes be a lonely place. Don’t be intimidated by being the “only one” or the “first one”.  Get comfortable with the discomfort of being uncomfortable.  Being forced outside your comfort zone is typically where the most learning and growth occurs.  Embrace it as an opportunity.  Set your goals, do exceptional work, and invest in yourself.

Q: Do you believe we are making progress in Nashville and Middle Tennessee related to gender racial equity in the business community?

While I believe some progress has been made.  There is still a huge disparity in representation for women and people of color in leadership, the C-Suite, and the Boards of Directors in far too many companies in Nashville and Middle Tennessee.  While diversity, equity, and inclusion are all popular buzzwords, far too often women and people of color are not in the rooms and at the tables where the real decisions are made. Oftentimes, they are not seen and considered for leadership roles. Each company should get out the mirror and give themselves a serious litmus test to assess how well the words match the reality of the effort.  Women, people of color, prospective employees and customers notice when no one looks like them.

CINDY KENT

Executive Vice President and President of Senior Living, Brookdale

Q: What is one life lesson you would like to share with others – especially younger women entering the workforce today?

I have learned how important it is to surround oneself with an incredible support network and to not be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help.  I was a first generation college graduate in my family, and subsequently, started my professional career without a great deal of prior exposure to corporate environments.  I cannot underscore the value of a strong supportive network, both personally and professionally.  Having mentors, sponsors and advisors—and for those younger in their careers, it’s important to understand the difference—to help you navigate new and uncertain situations.  In most cases, a member of your network has already traversed similar situations and will willingly share insights from their own experiences and this can be game-changing for your own path.  To this very point, I recently received a call regarding a board directorship and the Nomination and Governance chair making the call happened to be my first ‘formal’ mentor that my first employer had assigned during an internship thirty years ago!  Although I had already accepted a directorship, it was wonderful to reconnect.  You never know where such formal and informal relationships will lead!

Q: As you look towards the future, what or who makes you most excited about the progress we are making related to women of color in the workplace or in our nation?

I believe the future is very bright relative to the progress of women in general, and women of color, in particular in the corporate sector.  This is a pivotal time in our history, as the talent and capabilities of women of color are being elected and appointed to some of the highest offices in the world, let alone our nation. Signs of positive change in corporate America, in 2021 already is that 39.5% of board director appointments have been women and 26% women of color. Also, 8.4% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women of color—and two African-American women, Roz Brewer and Mary Winston,  were named CEOs in the past few weeks.  I am encouraged by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s words, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  The rate of progress and change is slow, and never as fast as advocates, allies and capability would dictate, but it does happen.  As progress happens, I am most excited that the future will find women of all generations and all shades, particularly those of browner hues who have generally been discounted, dismissed, and at times ignored who are amazingly brilliant, inspiring leaders who have used their time in the shadows to prepare and equip to shine at full wattage.  This will be our finest hour—and this hope is what makes me most excited!

SHARON W. REYNOLDS 

President/CEO DevMar Products, LLC

Q: If you had to pick one person, who do you think most influenced who you are and all you have accomplished?

The person who was most influential in my life is my paternal grandfather, Theodore Howard Williams. He was the first successful entrepreneur in our family I observed up close as a young girl until he passed away in my later teens. I was always intrigued and curious, noticing others referring to him as “Boss” in the company bearing our family name – T.H. Williams & Sons. During a time when African Americans were marginalized and had few human rights, my grandfather defied the odds, persevered and created a middle-class lifestyle for his family, impacting future generations.

Q: Of all of your accomplishments, what is the one that you most value and why? 

The accomplishment I am most proud of is launching DevMar Products from the ground up in 2007 named for our two sons, Devin and DeMarco. During the height of the 2008 economic downturn, it was a counterintuitive move and uphill climb to go against the grain of starting a new business under a dark financial cloud. However, I have a long family history of entrepreneurship, and fear was not in the equation. I experienced my earliest moments as a 7th grader when my dear Aunt Gloria taught me how to design and make my own wardrobe. By my senior year, I had over 30 customers juggling between schoolwork and customer deadlines. This experience was a precursor to my 30 plus years as an entrepreneur. The “why” is the importance of leaving a family legacy for our sons and granddaughter as a message that anything is possible.

 

RITA JOHNSON MILLS

Independent Director serving on the Board of Brookdale Senior Living, Inc. (BKD)

Q: What is one life lesson you would like to share with others – especially younger women entering the workforce today?

Response:  To every little girl, especially those who are Black and brown, that has ever been told you are “not enough something,” know that you are enough.  You have the ability to rise above your meager beginnings, as I did, growing up in the sticks of the southernmost tip of Missouri and told that colored girls don’t go to college.  Never let anyone define you.  Allow yourself to dare to dream and see your full potential and go for it with your whole being.  Show the world that not only do colored girls go to college, they excel.  They administer national programs.  They become CEOs of fortune 25 companies.  They own their own businesses.  They serve on corporate and private company Boards.  They are limitless!

Q:  Do you believe we are making progress in Nashville and Middle TN related to gender and racial equity in the business community?

I believe we are making progress and even more can be done.  We have 4 HBCUs, Black leadership in the Courts system and City government.  Our Police and Fire Chiefs are Black.  Numerous City Council members are Black. We even have a museum of Black Music.  Meharry Medical College is finally receiving the national recognition that it deserves.  So yes, progress has been made.  Now it is time for these leaders to step up and speak up for the people of Nashville, particularly North Nashville.  Let’s not lose the rich heritage of Jefferson Street to gentrification.

 

CHARLOTTE Y. PEACOCK

Vice President and Small Business Banker at Bank of America

Q: What is one life lesson you would like to share with others – especially younger women entering the workforce today?

Not to second guess yourself and don’t be afraid to let your light shine.

Q: Of all of your accomplishments, what is the one that you most value and why? 

The most valued accomplishment is starting and completing my MBA in my 50’s.  I was at a point in my life/career that it was no longer clear about what I wanted to be when I grew up…Never stop learning and investing in yourself.

Register for this year’s Action for Impact Summit happening on September 25, 2024!