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Powerful Women: Let's Talk - 63: Vivian TerMaat

Vivian TerMaat
Vivian TerMaat

Vivian TerMaat is today's Powerful Woman

Vivian TerMaat serves as the CEO for the Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore, bringing her bilingual and nonprofit professional skills to this organization that impacts the lives of girls in every community. She takes time to be a mom, a wife, and to listen to podcasts while being involved in her community. As a young girl she's always wanted to be a combination of Barbara Walters and James Bond. Vivian shares her story on this edition of Powerful Women: Let’s Talk.

Powerful Women: Let’s Talk is created by WGVU NPR and made possible by WGVU NPR sustaining monthly donors. Become a sustaining monthly donor now at wgvu.org/donate to support WGVU NPR’s local programs, including Powerful Women: Let’s Talk.

Full Transcript:


Intro: Produced by women about women Powerful women. Let's talk is a series of interviews with women who are trailblazers and have helped shape our world transforming who we are and how we live


Shelly Irwin: Vivian TerMaat serves as the CEO for the Girl Scouts of Michigan shore to shore, bringing her bilingual and nonprofit professional skills to this organization impacts the lives of girls in every community. She's quite involved in her community. Yet takes time to be a mom. a wife and listen to powerful podcasts. Plus, as a kid, she always wanted to be a combination of Barbara Walters and James Bond. Vivian shares her story. Hi Vivian

Vivian TerMaat: hi, shelly Great to be here.

Shelly Irwin: And so that's where we start. Barbara Walters and James Bond this combination. I can see, how fun is this?

Vivian TerMaat: Isn't that crazy? I don't know what it is. My mother loved to watch those Barbara Walters specials and my dad loved the James Bond movies. And I think I just picked up from both of them and what they have in common now that I think about it as an adult it was all about communication and one way or another, right communication and adventure. So that really spoke to me.

Shelly Irwin: Well, that could summarize who you are. Yes, having studied communication and certainly adventure is part of the Girl Scouts. Congratulations on what we’ll call your fairly new position as the CEO of Girl Scouts of Michigan shore to shore They say young Girl Scouts do grow up to be leaders and I do have to ask were you a Girl Scout?

Vivian TerMaat: I was not unfortunately, Shelley. I grew up overseas lived in South America and in Southeast Asia didn't move to the states till I was 10 years old. So, it wasn't something that was available to me. But I I'll tell you; I would have really benefited from Girl Scouts. looking back. I can see that very clearly. So, I did not participate, but it would have loved to.

Shelly Irwin: Why did you move around so much as a little girl? opportunities. Yes?

Vivian TerMaat: Yes, absolutely. My dad worked for GM in the international division. He spent his entire career with General Motors as did his father and he traveled every few years.

You were stationed and moved elsewhere until we finally landed in Michigan and my parents are still in the same house that I was raised. So

Shelly Irwin: what did you want to be when you grew up.

Vivian TerMaat: I wanted to be a reporter I wanted to be a journalist. I thought that was what I was called to do. And then I had an internship at a local TV station, and it was fabulous because I realized it was not actually what I had imagined it to be. So, I shifted a little bit and went into the sales department at the TV station. So, was a wonderful experience and I shifted again from journalism to broadcast sales?

Shelly Irwin: and your educational journey did include study of communication and beyond.

Vivian TerMaat: Absolutely. I studied communications and journalism I also had a Spanish major in college. And then I went for my master's in management, at Aquinas as my kids were all grown, and I decided to go back to school and finished a master's degree and I loved it there. Such it's such a different experience. Shelley being an adult in a university setting versus being a college kid, a college kid. I don't I don't think you really fully appreciate the blessing that it is to be in school and to learn. I was that slightly obnoxious person in the front row that the nontraditional student…

Shelly Irwin: your hand went up before anyone else did

Vivian TerMaat: yes, I was that lady.

Shelly Irwin: Did you stay home to raise your children.

Vivian TerMaat: I did. I took a hiatus. I off-ramp to I put my career on hold for 11 years while the girls were young. And I adored it. I was very involved in our church and keeping busy with volunteer activities as well. But being home with kids is incredibly demanding. So, it was a wonderful experience. And then I decided at one point to on ramp to get back into the workforce and that is daunting. That is daunting because you are really, I found a lot of women lose their confidence in that space. They think, oh, it's been a decade and my skills relevant and they're so relevant. One of my favorite things Shelly is talking to ladies who are considering getting back into the workforce

Shelly Irwin: what do you say to them,

Vivian TerMaat: I say you can do it. Absolutely. I say think of what you manage in a day in a week. Think of the logistics. And the scheduling think of all that you do and how can you use those skills. Just translate those skills. And when I say that they say oh right. Yes, I can manage all kinds of things. So

Shelly Irwin: the mission of the Girl Scouts, building courage, confidence and character. How do we teach this to our young girls? I mean, you have 3. Hopefully you've been there, done that. How do we build courage in a 10-year-old today?

Vivian TerMaat: What we do, Shelly is we show them that they are capable and the way we do that is we talk to them about their dreams. Big small. What are you dreaming about? Then we teach them okay You know what a goal is? let's set a goal. Okay. You've got a dream and a goal. What's the bridge between the 2? You need to plan a plan of action. Take those steps every day to get you towards that goal. And when they discover, oh, I can do this. It's simple. There's almost this mysticism around achievement. How will i get there just break it down into small manageable steps. And if every day you’re getting closer to that goal. It's tremendous. And then when a when a girl sees. Oh, I achieved that she discovers that she had it within her all along. She's capable. That's how we built those girls up.

Shelly Irwin: Is it true that many young Girl Scouts do turn out to be leaders.

Vivian TerMaat: Absolutely. Absolutely. There are all kinds of data. I know the last report I read over 60% of the women in Congress were Girl Scouts. All females Secretary of states have been Girl Scouts. There is significant research in this space that shows that those girls. I know most of the female astronauts have been Girl Scouts. So, there's definitely a great argument to be made for Girl Scouts as leadership development

Shelly Irwin: and the Girl Scouts sell cookies does that help that leadership skill.

Vivian TerMaat: Absolutely. Absolutely. We are in fact; we call it the Girl Scout cookie program it is a program because what happens is the girls learn so many different facets of business. It's really an entrepreneurship program so here's your product. Who are you going to talk to how will you market this, what we're follow-up be? What is your communication style? Does it differ with different audiences? Your neighbor versus being in front of the grocery store and then what's follow-up? How do you thank your customers so going through the entire sale cycle with them and teaching them all those different skills? So maybe the more introverted girl will learn. I can communicate more powerfully. I can develop that skilled girl who's not super comfortable with math. She realized OK; I can do this. Each box of cookies is $5. How many how many customers do I have. And they grow in that space.

Shelly Irwin: Your favorite cookie is?

Vivian TerMaat: My favorite cookie. Well, I’m gluten free.

So, it has to be gluten-free one but If I really am going to risk it. It's going to be the peanut butter. Patty,

Shelly Irwin: every once in a while, we take a risk going to ask you about that. Still on the topic of leadership million. You lead a nonprofit. You have in the past. Education leads that way. What is especially needed in leading a nonprofit

Vivian TerMaat: right now.

I think it's essential that you have the right people in the right spots with the right attitude. That's essential that that goes in any industry. But the secret sauce for a nonprofit is hiring and developing people who are mission minded. They have to be there because they love the mission, and they feel powerfully about it, and they get so jazzed even talking about it to other people. That enthusiasm should be contagious. That's when you know you have the right people.

Shelly Irwin: What are the challenges for today's girls as you are out and about surrounded by these young leaders.

Vivian TerMaat: Yeah, Shelley they’re tremendous. They really are. To me the greatest challenge facing girls today is the incredible the significant increase in pressure to perform the academic through sports. I mean, their schedules are so busy. The expectations are so high for many girls and is just simply not attainable across the board at every level. Right. Very few can excel in everything. So, there's tremendous pressure. So that's the first thing I see. The second thing is social media. Social media is a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing. You know, you can let show Grandma what you're up to send her photos. But you also have an incredible amount of pressure, especially for girls in appearances. That's huge. We know research shows us that heavy social media use for teenage girls is directly related to mental health problems that's been documented. So, we see that and then the other element to the 3rd challenge facing girls is the fact that they are not developing healthy coping skills as well as they could be or perhaps have in the past.

Shelly Irwin: All right. Back to fun facts. We mentioned your international living before you're ripe. Old age of 10. Is there a memory? I mean, you you're bilingual. Is this a I mean, many positives from this experience.

Vivian TerMaat: Absolutely. We lived in Singapore for the longest period of time, and I love Singapore. It was 85 degrees and sunny every day. What's not to love about that right in the pool every day. You would have loved it, shelly. But one of my favorite memories is being out about downtown and there was church next to mosques next to temples and they were so many people from so many different backgrounds. It's really, you know, where East meets West there in Singapore. And there are so many different languages and backgrounds, and people were just getting along beautifully. There was no strife. There was an island ,a small space, a small community, but so many people coexisted together well in a respectful manner. And that to me, I've never forgotten that.

Shelly Irwin: Thank you for that. You are fascinated with the sisterhood now puts sisterhood in quotations of your 3 daughters. Talk more about that.

Vivian TerMaat: Sure. I grew up with brothers and they’re lovely. It was a wonderful experience, but something I observed them I see my girls, it's really very different. There's something really beautiful and powerful about that relationship. There is a nurturing amongst them that I see between the 3 of them. And I think it's just incredible. And I do everything I can to facilitate that and encourage it. And I'd love to see it continue for many, many, many years as I see the same relationship in the Girl Scouts. Very much, the sisterhood the coming together. And if you know that at the close of every Girl Scout meeting. Maybe they did this. When you're a Girl Scout. But you know, you join hands. You join arms. You sing a song, and you think one another and you really building that sisterhood relationship and that experience.

Shelly Irwin: Yes, and I was a Girl Scout. Thank you for that. You love listening to personal development, podcasts. We are never too experienced to get some help,

Vivian TerMaat: right. Oh, absolutely. I love it shelly. It's one my favorite things love to go on a walk and pop in one of those podcasts and learn something I think is just a love of learning something new and it could be something tiny. A little tactic that you can implement in your everyday life that will improve that will add value that will help streamline or support other people. So, again, always learning one of my favorite people colleagues of mine. He's in his mid-80's. He still working part-time. He's he continues to learn. And he was and he's an inspiration to me. So, it's again, it's you're never done learning. And that's what keeps you interesting and interested in life around you.

Shelly Irwin: What's recommended podcasts author you present.

Vivian TerMaat: Oh, I love Jay shetty, his tremendous and also Louis House both really good solid individuals who interviewed talented people and glean their wisdom and share it with their audiences in a variety of on a variety of topics.

Shelly Irwin: I am going to lead. My next fun fact. Talk about love at first sight.

Vivian TerMaat: Oh, my goodness. So crazy. So, 24 years ago I walked into grand River saloon member at the corner down there to not there anymore. Think its Sundance grill today and across the room. I saw my now husband and everything else disappeared. I just saw his face. True story. I know it's ridiculous, but it's absolutely true. And here we are 24 years later with 3 beautiful, wonderful daughters, very blessed. So that does happen.

Shelly Irwin: There's a lot in between. you know. Let me just to follow up with. Did he see you?

Vivian TerMaat: He did. He did. And he said that he had the same experience. I wont speak for him, but he's said he said I saw you and you smiled and also where the teeth, isn’t that funny. So, thank you to my dentist. But it was, you know, but that's just the beginning of the marathon, right. So, 24 years who you have to. Some days you have to remind yourself of that

Shelly Irwin: write your memoir and we'll catch up with that. What do you hope for the future? Not only for your girls but the future of Girl Scouts.

Vivian TerMaat: My hope for the future of Girl Scouts is that girls can continue to collaborate work together support one another, which is so essential in female relationships and also utilize the gifts that they've been given make the most of those talents that they have not to worry about what other people are doing to use again, these unique gifts. When we lean into what we been created to do and that only we can do. That's where we really shine and supporting one another I think is so essential.

Shelly Irwin: You leave us with a moto?

Vivian TerMaat: You can do all things through. He who gives you strength. That's what I think of every day.

Shelly Irwin: Thank you for this conversation Vivian TerMaat on behalf of our powerful women. Let's talk podcast CEO of Girl Scouts of Michigan shore to shore. Best of luck to you and the girls.

Vivian TerMaat: Thank you so much Shelly:

Shelly Irwin: I'm shelly Irwin


Outro: produced by women about women this powerful podcast focus on powerful women in how their strength transforms who we are and how we live.

Want to hear more powerful women.

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Let's talk is produced by WGVU at the Meijer public broadcast Center at Grand Valley State University,

the views and opinions expressed in this program do not necessarily reflect those of WGVU its underwriters or Grand Valley State University.


Shelley Irwin is the host and producer for The Shelley Irwin Show, a news magazine talk-show format on the local NPR affiliate Monday through Friday. The show, broadcast at 9 a.m., features a wide variety of local and national news makers, plus special features.
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