Stories that Inspire -

Read More About GW4W Women Who Are Making A Difference

 

Dr. Tausha Robertson - Read More

 

Dr. Gina Parekh - Read More

 

Kim Davis - Read More

 

Winnie Byanyima - Read More

 

 

Desiree Watson - Read More


  

 

Tausha

Dr. Tausha Robertson wears the many hats of accomplished businesswoman, philanthropist, published author, and, most recently, tech entrepreneur. She currently lives in the up-and-coming tech city of Austin, Texas and serves on the inaugural Board for Global Women for Wellbeing.

Dr. Robertson grew up in the small town of Meridian, Mississippi and lived in Arizona, where she stayed to complete her undergraduate and Master’s degrees in Exercise Science and Nutritional Sciences, respectively. 

Tausha’s internal motivation carried her through her rigorous academic studies. She merged her passion for science with her interests in physiology, health, and human performance. She moved to North Carolina where she completed her Doctorate in Public Health (focusing specifically health policy and administration) at University North Carolina Chapel Hill.

When explaining why she pursued her advanced degrees, Tausha emphasized that “no one can take your education away from you” and she also believes in being a lifetime learner. Armed with her doctorate and her expertise in public health Tausha accepted a position with a private equity firm, to manage its operational healthcare costs. A few years later she left her job to join her former boss, Kim Davis, as partner in startup that would become, Alterity Group, which was acquired by NFP in 2012.

Since the acquisition and her subsequent transition out in 2016, Tausha has kept busy – serving as a mentor, volunteering on board for organizations such as GW4W, and developing her digital platform, msxfactor.com. Tausha’s face lights up when she talks about her platform, which serves as a community where Gen X, women of color can find content and conversations about topics relevant to their lives. She prides herself not only in the diversity of content published but also in the high volume of people reading and sharing these articles. She envisions that Ms. X Factor will create a community of women of color at “peak career” and provide for them a space where they can find commonality with other women who also must balance their jobs with caretaking and with their responsibilities to their immediate and extended family members. Ms. X Factor creates a platform for these women to explore new aspects of their identities and creativity. “At the end of the day,” she said, “these women are more than just sisters, mothers, bosses, etc. They are human beings and they need to focus on that too.”

Shortly after the sale of  Alterity Group, she met Nancy Board, Executive Operations Director at GW4W, and immediately connected with our mission to give women voice to create better health and wellbeing for themselves, their businesses and their communities. Tausha, who already viewed wellness as something beyond “checking boxes”, was ready to see the industry break out of the traditional models. Her life-long passion for helping people (particularly women) be mentally, spiritually, and physically healthy made the choice of becoming a founding board member for GW4W an easy yes.

“We have to change the paradigm of how we prepare women for leadership,” Tausha declared. Many of the books on leadership in print over emphasize the importance of the traits and characteristics of leaders but give little credence to the impact of external factors on women’s ability to take on leadership roles. Women, for example, will forgo promotions and big projects to maintain their roles are caregivers –for children and/or aging parents. To encourage women in leadership roles, we must assess the primary challenges in their lives and find ways to support them. A major focus of GW4W is identifying these factors through research.

While climbing the corporate ladder, Tausha reflected, she would often continue to work while sick or stressed. To underscore her point, she described a difficult moment. About to fly out on a business trip, Tausha found herself at yet another airport. “I had been on back-to-back trips,” she described, and these trips were “grueling to my body because during them I was neither eating nor sleeping well.” Exhausted, she walked into the airport bathroom with tears brimming in her eyes. When she emerged from the bathroom, she heard over the loudspeaker that her flight had been canceled. She called her client to inform them of the cancellation, drove home, and went to sleep. In the morning, refreshed and renewed, Tausha tackled her work for that day but made a promise to herself. “No more,” she said. No more would she be “at everyone’s beck and call,” so she took control of her schedule. From that moment forward she would strategically schedule meetings with clients or colleagues in the same region to limit back and forth travel. Surprisingly, getting ahead of the scheduling process allowed colleagues and clients adjust seamlessly.  She also made it clear that her vacation would be only for vacation and that she would prepare her team and clients weeks ahead of time for her absence.

Her best advice to women interested in integrating wellness into their careers? “Get clear about what’s important to you and set boundaries around those things. Examples include, “Find a way to travel for work that’s least disruptive to your life but still meets the needs of your client” or “Workouts were key to maintaining balance for me. I would make sure to schedule two workouts per week with my trainer that I rarely missed.” 

To read more about Tausha and Ms. X Factor. Click here.

-Interview and story written by Sarah Taylor


 

 

Those who’ve interacted with Gina Parekh, whether in a professional or personal capacity, know her to be unapologetic, strong-minded and diligent—character traits that have served her well in her life and career, and helped her overcome some seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Empowerment for women is a grounding principle in her life, and her approach has always been to teach by example.

Gina first connected with GW4W through Nancy Board, one of its Co-Founders. In a previous role, Gina had pitched a project to Nancy, who was working for a large corporate bank. Around the same time as Gina was looking for more meaning in her life, Nancy, remembering her contact from the corporate world, reached out to Gina on LinkedIn. When these two successful women connected for a longer conversation, they bonded over similar experiences in life, love and women’s empowerment.

To the GW4W team, Gina brings her tenacity and keen business acumen, as well as a unique perspective, coming from the ‘other side of the world’, that is, far removed from the USA. Born into a traditional middle class family in Mumbai, India, Gina’s environment never let her forget her place as a woman in a man’s world. Her early childhood was marred by a freak accident at the age of two that left her with serious burns all over her body, causing her to be hospitalized for a year. Her mother stayed by her side through her long recovery, even as others gave up hope. “This incident triggered off my resolve to help people in need of healing and from very early on I knew I would choose a career path that would enable this” Gina says. Hence the pursuit of medicine, where she became a doctor and surgeon.

Listening to her recount her experiences, it’s clear that her world-view is moulded as much by soaring highs as well as crushing lows that she’s encountered. Whereas society taught Gina that a woman’s place was as a mother and wife, she juggled a husband and newborn baby while still in medical school, studying to become an ophthalmologist. It was a challenge and many times, she was tempted to give up and prioritize family life over career.

Gina was always determined, with every success, to raise the bar for what she could achieve. She spent less than three years in private practice before exploring alternative careers in healthcare management and embarked on a decades-long journey in the corporate world. As Gina climbed the rungs of the corporate ladder she was often acutely aware of being the only woman at her level, and as her work took her outside India, subsequently being the only person of colour. She struggled with the weight of this responsibility, perceiving herself as a mouthpiece for all women and a representative of diversity. There were times when she found herself adopting an arrogant, stereotypically ‘masculine’ leadership style, and wished there had been more female role models that she could have taken cues from.

Becoming a good manager took time and a great deal of empathy. Initially Gina focused on doing a good job above all else. Employees either loved or hated her no-nonsense style, but after receiving feedback from them and professional coaching over the last ten years, she began to come into her own and inspire those around her. She started to become one of the role models she had sought when she was younger.

At 50, she started to have inklings of “I don’t think that this is what I want to do with my life” and even considered going back to medicine. A year ago she quit her job as Director of Health & Corporate Wellness, Asia Pacific at Willis Towers Watson where she had helped build the healthcare and wellness practices to boost the company’s presence in the Asian market. Her decision might be seen as the onset of a midlife crisis, but it was also a step towards a new direction in Gina’s life. After so many decades focusing on a career path of traditional growth and success, Gina stopped to ask herself – Is this what I really want? Does this make me happy and fulfilled?

Her quest for the answers has led to a great deal of introspection with the help of yoga and meditation, and a conscious effort to become more mindful in her thoughts and actions. She has spent the last year discovering what brings her joy. “I’m telling my CEO brain to shut up and let this new voice make decisions,” she quips.

Gina carefully planned her exit and found and trained her successor. Upon leaving she has dedicated herself to her own wellbeing with rest, physical fitness and personal projects. She hopes to start GW4W in Singapore and take it throughout Asia. Elaborating on her goals for the organisation, Gina emphasized the importance of reaching out to girls and women in high school and college—when they are “the most vulnerable”—and teaching them to be resilient and think boundlessly. Gina also recognises the importance of mentoring women in middle management positions who have reached a point in their lives when marriage and children start to take precedence over work. Through mentorship, Gina hopes to demonstrate that “If I can do it, so can you.”

Gina offers the following advice to women: Break the mould, don’t be afraid to dream big. When in doubt, collect data, analyse with your head but listen to your heart. Own your choices and decisions, nothing “just happens”. Be self-aware and think before speaking, sometimes it’s more important to be kind than to be right. Live your life as a role model for others. A story that you can be proud to tell.

Gina has started working with children from under-privileged homes – teaching them mindfulness as a coping tool. She also volunteers with the Singapore Council for Women’s Charities (a consortium of women-focused charities), and has transformed her bracelet-making hobby into a small charitable business called the PoP Strings Project (PoP – stands for Power of Positivity). One aspect of the initiative is creating the bracelets - an activity that she finds therapeutic. She imbues each bracelet with good intentions that she dedicates to another person. She then sells them and donates all the proceeds back to the women’s shelter of her choice. The other aspect is educational; once a week she teaches other women at the local shelter and contributes all the earnings from a sale to the woman who made the bracelet. “It’s my way of combining my desire to give back to the community and effecting positive change in the world”.

-Interviewed by Sarah Taylor

 


 

Kim

When not serving as the Board Chair of Global Women 4 Wellbeing (GW4W), Kim Davis acts as the Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for NFP, an insurance broker and consulting firm that specializes in corporate benefits, property & casualty and individual life solutions. Simply put, she oversees and implements programs and practices that keep NFP employees well, which in turn improves the quality of the work of the organization and the delivery experience for its clients.

With nearly 4,000 employees in more than 150 offices (both international and domestic), NFP proves no easy task. But Kim, who has worked for the last 25+ years in human resources, thrives in her role as she creates an “engaging and supportive work environment” to support the wellbeing of NFP’s employees. In essence, she builds active engagement into the company’s key strategy as afoundation for employee success and health. At NFP they call that a Peoplefirst, people-centric environment and it all starts there.

In addition to being a long tenured HR Executive,  Kim also knows the entrepreneur world well. She founded her own HR consulting business to help maximize companies’ results and control their increasing healthcare costs, all while prioritizing the benefits, wellbeing, and engagement of their employees. That consulting firm was purchased by NFP in 2012 and shortly thereafter Kim took on the additional CHRO role for the internal employee base.

Many years before she became the successful businesswoman and entrepreneur she is today, Kim spent her formative years in Cape Coral, Florida. The distant youngest of four children, she succeeded as a middle and high school cheerleader, even coming in runner-up in a National Miss Pop Warner contest for her community work, worldview and cheerleading abilities. While on the squad, Kim relished in the camaraderie and excitement of group sports. To this day, watching professional football ranks as one of her main hobbies and she will proudly inform anyone that she usually “knows the majority of the coaches, players and success rates of many of the teams”.

In her childhood home, Kim’s father struggled with alcoholism. For a long time Kim blamed her mother for staying in the relationshipthat was untenable for her and her mother. After Kim left the home when she graduated high school, her mother finally left her father but only for a short time. Her parents reconciled and stayed together until Kim’s mother passed away in 2015. When she reflects on her father’s disease, Kim now can appreciate the positive influence her mother had on her life. “I used to be angry with her for not taking herself and me out of the situation,” Kim admitted, “but she had her reasons and she always told Kim to be stronger than she was able to be, to go out and be her own person and do great things in this world. She reinforced in me the lessons she didn’t learn, but I could. All of those things and more make me who I am today.”

Kim described her earliest female mentor, her cheerleading coach, as someone who “always made me think about who I was as a person underneath the cheerleader”. Her coach, Mary Jo Peterson, Kim explained, “showed me resilience and heart long before I really understood what those things would come to mean in my life”. At the same time that Mary Jo imparted this wisdom on Kim, she had already started her own nonprofit organization called ‘Hands for Giving.’ With financial backing from her mother, Kim would bake desserts, take them to the local supermarket, sell them, and give the proceeds to the local children’s home. She admits that even to this day, “I am a fantastic baker but not a very good cook!”

Kim holds many passions and interests close to her heart, though none closer than her “internal passion for bettering the lives of people”. While this passion has remained the same, her “external view” of how to make that bettering happen constantly evolves. 

After high school, Kim married and had 2 children. When the children were just 5 and 3, Kim found herself to be a single mother and head of household. Kim knew that to give her children a good life she would need to be educated and have a career that would fulfill herself and give her children a good footing in their own lives. Working, raising children and going to college at night and on weekends made what is usually a 4 year journey for most young people become a ten year journey for Kim. In addition to the small amount of time Kim had to give to her college studies, she also dabbled in a few education areas before finding her true calling. Kim took classes and considered a career in computer programming and accounting. But after closer consideration of her skillset and goal of helping others, Kim shifted her career focus to her now passion of HR. Beginning “from the ground up” Kim delved into “each and every area of HR as a generalist incorporating what I was learning with how those connections were making company’s successful”. Behind each organization’s success, Kim noticed, were people. Since making this realization as to the integral importance of people to a company’s success, Kim has “been hooked ever since”.

After her mother and her coach Mary Jo laid the foundation for who Kim is today, many women since have helped her through critical decisions in her life. One woman who stands out was a leader of Kim’s and had worked her way up from Administrative Assistant to the Head of HR at a large travel company. Kim describes her as a “compassionate and sensible woman”. Her response to each and every one of Kim’s questions would be “what are you thinking the right answer is?” After Kim reflected on what she thought the answer would be, she would share her own experiences to compliment or counter Kim’s response. Kim still thinks of her as her wisestmentor, and tries to help others learn through trial and error of their own thoughts with a helping hand ready when needed.

In forging her path to her current leadership role, Kim worked to make decisions that prioritized her health. Though she would be the first to admit that she has never been her own best role model, she makes “relatively healthy decisions” most days, which, she admitted, helps. As she progressed in her career she learned to take better care of herself and her family. This self-care resulted in increased productivity and focus for her at work. “None of us have it all figured out,” Kim stated. “We all struggle individually in order to figure out our own personal balances.” She qualified that “Women with young children at home today have a very different balanceneed from me where I am in my career now”. Kim, in 2017, knows who her best self is. When she begins to stray from that, she looks inwardly, or takes queues and flat out statements of fact from her very special husband Doc, and makes the appropriate adjustments to get herself back on track. This is a constant process for her.

To other women, Kim would offer the following tidbits of advice:

  • Know yourself and your own health and wellbeing limits so you can actively monitor them. Kim often sees people wait until they’re so sick and stressed that returning to that baseline is almost impossible. “Remember,” she advised, “at the end of the day, the only person who will take care of you is you. You may have responsibilities to your friends/spouse/significant other/family/workplace, but you must be in touch with yourself and your needs. No one else will prioritize you. And, if your health falls to the wayside, all that you care for will fall to the wayside as well.
  • Personally: Be resilient. Everyone has setbacks in life and their own personal challenges. You must know that you’re strong and smart and can get up, brush yourself off to try again and do better.
  • Generally: Build your networks widely and then deepen them. Find that balance of an expansive professional network that you sustain overtime. Everyone has something to teach you. Find mentors and bosses who will pave the way for your success and be honest in their feedback and critique of what your strengths and weaknesses are. “We should all be happy to share what we’ve learned to help the next generation of women leader’s succeed!”

When asked why she chose to serve as the GW4W board chair, Kim effused, “I cannot begin to tell you the admiration and respect I have for the founders (personally and professionally). To see strong, smart women out there and offering up their whole selves to make a difference, there’s nothing better. For my whole life I have tried to make peoples’ lives at work better. I want to bring forth a better workplace for women, which aligns perfectly with the mission of GW4W.

Links:

-Interview and story written by Sarah Taylor


 

 

“What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others is immortal.”

Winnie Byanyima, the current Director of Oxfam International, has led a life in accordance with this principle. Her story is reflective of her true devotion to benefiting the world by helping others. She has worked relentlessly to break down barriers and to stand up for those without a voice. Her moral compass, leadership abilities, and genuine character have allowed her to be a leading female contributor to global wellbeing.

The story of Winnie Byanyima’s life begins in Uganda, where she was born and raised. The year she was born, 1959, was not a time in Uganda when gender equality was prioritized. Being an intelligent young girl growing up in Uganda through the 60s and 70s came with its challenges. Obstacles never hindered Byanyima, however, and she began to break down gender barriers at the young age of 22 when she became the first female Ugandan to obtain an aeronautical engineering degree. She then received a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Cranfield University. For several years, Byanyima worked as a flight engineer for Uganda Airlines. The outbreak of the Ugandan Bush War, which lasted from 1981-1986, ignited a passion in Byanyima to fight for her country, so she left her job to go fight. She and her husband served as combatants for the National Resistance Army (NRA).

After the NRA’s victory, Winnie was appointed as the Ugandan Ambassador to France. Her role in Ugandan politics continued on until the early 2000’s. After various parliamentary positions, she was appointed Director of the Women, Gender, and Development Committee at the African Union in Ethiopia. She then held a position as Director of the Gender Team in the Bureau for Development Policy at the United Nations Development Program. Then in January of 2013, it was announced that she would be the next Director of Oxfam International. She began her five-year directorship in May of 2013.

Oxfam International is a global organization that works to end the injustice of poverty. Through disaster relief, human rights advocacy, food and water programs, and education, Oxfam International is devoted to supporting the world’s most vulnerable people. Not only do they provide short-term relief, but they also believe in the power of long-term support to help end the cyclical nature of poverty that is prevalent in many areas of the world.

Winnie Byanyima has constantly directed her efforts as a leader toward achieving gender equality, fighting poverty, combating climate change, and giving a voice to those who are silenced. She has broken so many barriers, from being the first female Ugandan to obtain an aeronautical degree, to becoming the first African director of Oxfam International.

Byanyima has also been very vocal about the growing income inequality facing our global community. In a speech to the World Economic Forum, Byanyima condemned the fact that the gains of growth across the world have gone mostly to a small percentage of people. She advocates strongly for all members of society to pay their fair share of taxes and to help corporations understand the benefits of paying their lowest employees a living wage.

Through whatever lens you perceive global issues, there is clearly a need to combat global poverty, act to preserve the environment, and work to uphold women’s rights. Byanyima has spent a lifetime dedicated to solving these issues and she has broken down many racial and gender barriers along the way. She has been and continues to be a leading contributor to global wellbeing in the 21st century.  

-Story written by S. Ginsberg


 

 

 

Between her appearances at the United Nations in New York and at the Wilson Center in D.C., Desiree Watson, a member of the GW4W Advisory Board and Founder & CEO of Wellness Interactive, sat down for an interview on a rainy Monday afternoon.

Desiree grew up near Buffalo, NY as one of sixteen children. Her mother, who Desiree describes as her first boss, gave birth to all sixteen children (12 daughters and 4 boys) and ensured that thirteen of those sixteen children went to college. “We are who we are because of her and my father. At other relatives’ funerals, people are still talking about our mother,” Desiree recalled.

Today Desiree serves as an expert in integrative, complementary, and alternative medicines. Desiree’s journey to this medicinal path began with a veritable “ah-ha” moment during her first pregnancy in her early thirties. When she was just 21 years old, her reflexologist determined she had fibroid tumors in and surrounding her reproductive organs. Eleven years later, the same tumors made pregnancy a nearly fatal undertaking for Desiree for as her baby grew, so did the fibroid tumor. Five months into the pregnancy Desiree went into labor. Her obstetrician stabilized her and stopped her contractions. Though she refused her physician’s recommended four months of hospitalization, Desiree returned to the hospital every other day to check her amniotic fluid to ensure the baby did not lose its fight against the fibroid tumor for her blood supply. Even though the baby and the tumor grew side-by-side, Desiree delivered a healthy baby girl to term.

Desiree’s second pregnancy – somewhat of a miracle after her death-defying first – brought along her second “ah-ha moment”. While, at the time, she knew a little about alternative medicines, Desiree delved into research about treating fibroid tumors. Upon discovering the paramount importance of hydration to providing fluids to both her fetus and the tumor, she increased her water intake and avoided milk and sugar. After nine months devoid of the medical crises of her first pregnancy she delivered another healthy baby girl. It was at this moment that Desiree realized that thousands of women needed the same information she found in her research. “Equipped with that information, many more mothers and babies would live through pregnancy.” Filled with inspiration and drive, she began speaking wherever she could (churches, community centers, etc.) about alternative and complementary medicine. “Big pharmaceutical companies ran the U.S.,” she explained. “It was a lonely place then, and I sought information abroad.”

At a dinner at then Vice President Al Gore’s home, even the surgeon general had not heard of integration and reflexology as treatments to complement standard medical care. Since the recent exponential growth in alternative medicine for the mainstream, Desiree’s friends and colleagues approach her with incredulous awe saying, “You were talking about these things 30 years ago!”

Through it all – the growth of her career, the birth of her children, and other critical decision moments in her life – was Desiree’s husband - the CEO of a health insurance company. Desiree and her husband travelled together worldwide on many business trips, and at any given time with up to 100 CEOs. They constantly shared information with each other, and her husband “never told her to be quiet or tone it down.” He consistently encouraged her in business. Desiree came to understand that the most important observation was sharing information. With her strong opinions and a supportive husband, she had a seat at the table - able to engage her travel companions about wellness and alternative medicine in order to have a positive impact on community and corporate social responsibility.

GW4W welcomed Desiree to its team with open arms. Her extensive background in alternative medicine, her commitment to sustainable wellness for women, and her connection with the Global Wellness Institute, made her an immediate top recruit for the board. “Everyone at the Institute knows that I’m their go-to advocate for women” she explained. As the mission of GW4W closely resembles the work she does for her own company, Desiree readily accepted the position. With her willingness to travel, to provide expertise in running businesses and nonprofits, and to be an advisor to the GW4W Executive Team, she has substantially helped to grow the awareness and success of GW4W to date.

When asked, “what advice would you offer other women about the importance of wellbeing?” Desiree responded, “You must make the time and create the space to think about what wellness, goodness, and health you will bring to your community and family. As women, we must be advocates for our own health. We must understand what health and wellness is. We need to understand the history of medicine, including complementary and alternative medicines. The United States may have ‘the best medicine in the world,’ but we must recognize that medicine is available to save lives and it should also emphasize keeping people well by offering less invasive and natural treatments, such as acupuncture, that have been around for thousands of years.”

The health system in the United States is a money making business run by pharmaceutical companies and hospitals. It’s important for women to know it and learn how to better navigate this system, because for women, as the primary health caregivers, it’s imperative that we stay close to the issues at hand.  

To learn more about Desiree, click here and here.