I grew up in a small town in the Appalachian foothills on the border of Ohio and West Virginia. My family founded the county in 1803 and remain there today. It is a place of deep poverty. As a child, I watched my parents help others: taking a tuna casserole with a Ritz Cracker crust to a sick friend, following an ambulance with other family members in tow, and volunteering their time at church.
At the age of 18, I wanted to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 Company (I have always been a dreamer!) so I went to the local library and looked up the best undergraduate business schools in the country. When I set foot on the campus of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, I quickly realized that the world was a very big place and I knew very little!
I started my professional career at McKinsey & Co., a global management consulting firm, and eventually became a Senior Partner, advising those very same CEOs I had dreamed of being. And I kept dreaming, but found my dreams began to change. I came to understand that I am meant to help the most vulnerable, not the most powerful. I want to be proximate to people and really listen to what they need (not what I think they need). So I left McKinsey after 13 years and found myself working to help immigrant mothers with babies living below the poverty line at Nido de Esperanza in New York City. Leading with my Appalachian heart and my McKinsey-trained brain, I dove in to understanding early childhood poverty—how to prevent, not just undo.
After these last five years of on-the-ground experiences at Nido, I continue to be most fulfilled by partnering with grassroots organizations that face insurmountable odds and persist with grit and determination. I am drawn to women leaders whose voices are not heard enough. I spend a lot of time trying to really “see” people… I am still a dreamer and love to hear mothers’ hopes and dreams for themselves and for their children.
Grounded in these values and principles, our foundation has launched The Bridge Project, a guaranteed income program in NYC for mothers of young children. We are putting cash directly in the hands of women with no strings attached. No patriarchy. No pretending that I know best. I trust these mothers to do what they need to do for themselves and their family—they have the answers within them. We have started with 100 mothers and will continue to expand it in the coming months.
My upbringing gave me so many examples of people showing up for other people and the power of community. Every day I have a choice as to how I spend my energy. Every day, I reflect on “Who am I showing up for in this world?” I lean into my discomfort, and try to act with humility, to listen, and to trust.
Women helping women in community feels like a great place to ground myself. This is why I am so excited to make my #GetEqual commitment to realizing a gender equal world.