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A Community of Support – By Women, For Women

// May 21, 2019

Why We Sponsor WFCO’s Annual Luncheon

Last year, I had the great privilege of speaking at The Women’s Foundation of Colorado’s Annual Luncheon, where DaVita was the presenting sponsor. I was honored to stand in front of a room filled with more than 3,000 people who were not just contributing to the advancement of women’s success—they were living it. This community of support created by women, for women, is a true gift. And in my opinion, a necessity.

I am proud to work for a company that is a true community leader and champion of equal opportunity for women. I also am proud of what I learned from my mother, and all the women in my life, who realized the importance of “the grind.”  I would like to share with you the story I told at last year’s luncheon.

The importance of the grind

When I was three years old, my dad decided to leave my mother. My mom, having recently moved to Cleveland as any good 1960’s housewife would to follow her husband’s career, suddenly found herself alone in an unfamiliar place. A stranger in a strange land. She quickly packed my two brothers and me up to move back to her home down of South Bend, Indiana where she could raise us with the help of her extended family. She had dropped out of college to marry my father years prior and now had to find a job to support us. A high-school educated woman in 1970 didn’t have a whole lot of options available. She took a job as an administrative assistant – referred to as a secretary back then – for a small stock brokerage office.

But that was just the beginning. She quickly worked her way up to a promotion as office administrator. Her boss recognized that she was capable of much more, and talked her into trying for her stockbroker license.

She went for it, but it wasn’t easy. It was a grind. She was raising three kids, working full time and studying at night. She struggled. But she kept at it. She was the only person in the class that did not have a college degree and one of the only women. She eventually took the test, passed on the first try and became one of the first woman stock brokers in South Bend. We could not have been more proud of her, but it was what she did next that was so impactful for me.

Creating impact one woman at a time

My mom focused her practice on women. Her social group was mainly made up of women who didn’t work but who had a little bit of money to spend on the household. None of them knew anything about the stock market.

So she set up investment clubs to teach women how to invest. When she started out, most of the women had so little money, they had to pool their “allowances” together to create a fund from which they traded and learned about the market.  She had all sorts of different clubs – neighborhood women, teachers, her bridge group. She didn’t make a lot of money off these clubs – I don’t even think she charged for the trades.

Eventually, however, more women started to work and make more money, which they invested through my mom.  Incredibly, many of the husbands saw how well their wives were doing and started to use my mom because of the success their wives had in the market. Her legacy is a generation of women in my little town who learned how to invest and make money for themselves and their families. And she built a great business out of it for herself in the end.

When women have the resources, they can do amazing things

My mom taught me that you don’t have to go big to make a big impact. For me, if I look back over the course of my career, I have tried to help one woman at a time. I’ve tried to do it in a million little ways. Starting out in a law firm, I would go out of my way to take the female associate out to lunch when I could tell she was starting to get overwhelmed. I fought the policy that prevented me from locking my office door so that I could pump breast milk during the day.

I make sure that in environments where leadership is dominated by men, that I pull women into the meetings, the retreats, and the decision-making. I also seek out other like-minded leaders – women and men – who can help lead their own grinds to bend the curve.

If I learned anything from my mom – who was definitely ahead of her time — it is that if you give women a little attention and knowledge, they can do amazing things. It’s just that some days, it may feel like a grind.

Kathleen Waters is the chief legal officer at DaVita.

To find out how your company can sponsor WFCO’s Annual Luncheon, contact Krissy Vaio at kristinav@wfco.org or 303-285-2967.

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