Episode 002: Sandra Gaddy

Jul 2, 2020

Sandra Gaddy

Sandra Gaddy is a phenomenal woman with a caring, giving heart who also loves a good laugh.  She’s the CEO of the Women’s Resource Center in Grand Rapids.  She seeks to empower those who need that “touch of encouragement.”  Sandra is a passionate servant leader and social justice advocate to her core. Gaddy’s favorite quote comes from Maya Angelou, which states, “No one has ever become poor from Giving.”

Full Transcript:

>> Produced by women about women powerful women, let's talk is a series of interviews with women who helped shape our community and transform who we are and how we live.

>> hi there everyone I'm Jennifer Moss excited to welcome you to this edition of powerful women, let's talk and today's powerful woman is Sandra Gaddy.

She is the CEO of the women's Resource Center that's where she's at right now, but she previously served as vice president of advancement for the inner city, Christian Federation, ICC F she was also the chief communication and development officer for Mel Trotter ministries and prior to her nonprofit works Sandra spent 15 years in banking including serving as vice president of business banking and wealth management.

And of course, too you know what she has received so many awards for community involvement, it is hard to keep up, always recognized for being a strong voice for helping the less fortunate let us welcome Sandra Gaddy today, to ‘powerful women, let's talk’ thanks for joining us.

>>Thank you, it's good to be here always good to be with you Jen.

>>Absolutely I'm so glad to see you and we have a lot to talk about you know you're a very very busy woman having accomplished a lot of what I consider to be a young age you’re younger than me that's for sure so we know you've done a lot and I want to start with your work at the women's Resource Center.

Your mission there which I read is to equip women to achieve a purpose fulfillment and financial stability through meaningful employment.

Now that mission alone sounds a lot to me like a lot of your personal values as we witness your work in this community - is that where you’re coming from?

>> Well, yeah, I do I um I said when I took the position at women's Resource Center.

The mission made my heart sing, the work made my heart sing and still does and it's because I think as women we can relate to especially me in my career and just coming from, I’ll be honest and just say almost nothing because I grew up poor, I grew up on the East side of Detroit, but I had my parents. They were phenomenal providers for us they did the best they could and to really move to this side of the state, my husband is from Grand Rapids and as we married, I mean we really we know what it feels like to really struggle.

Have bills, services turned off and really really scraped to get by and so being able to hone into those skills and do that alongside of mentors who really believed in me and worked with me and help me develop. Yeah that's what I really want to pour into other woman and we really do serve women at women's Resource center from all walks of life. So not every woman comes in at that stage, but you can be at almost any stage and come into Women's Resource Center. We’ve had women, It's very few, but we've had women at executive levels coming into us, and just say I don't have this particular skill, sometimes its technology and they're looking to move into a different position into an executive role and they don't have technology and so we get them one on one tutoring and it’s kinda sometimes for a woman, you're embarrassed to ask or say you don't have that skill at your workplace because you feel like you're supposed to already have it all.

>>And you're afraid to ask.

>>So you keep going.

>>So you keep going and so we honor that space and we honor women when they come in at no matter what level and that they come in and that’s even women coming out of jail. So I love the work that we do.

>>How does it make you feel when you do look at making an imprint,  a mark on someone in a positive light and you maybe perhaps see them light up with ,you know excitement, that they have a tool to use that they didn't have before- clothing to use of that so you can go to that job interview all the things that you provide how does it make you feel enriching other lives?

>> Oh man it's hard to really explain how it makes me feel, but the only thing I can just say is that you go girl, you know it’s just like you ,you're excited for them and it's not like this “oh I’m so glad”, but it's just like I already knew you had that in you- you just had to tap into it and so sometimes we already have it and we just didn't know how to tap into and others help us learn how to tap into it.

>>So you need that one person who believes in you and the whole world can change?

>>Yup and it’s like can you see what we already see you can’t see it now but it’s like you go. So cause you already had that and now you you've been able to tap into it and you've been able to elevate your life for yourself and for your family in a different way just because you've been able to tap into it so I think for me and my entire team it’s, it’s an incredible feeling to see women just be able to evolve.

>>And blossom.

>>And blossom, yeah.

>> So of course you’re holding a position of leadership so what leadership traits as you work through the variety of jobs that you've held- what leadership traits do you like to see? Perhaps in those that you mentor or those that you work with? Because it’s important to lead, like you said that you can bring somebody from one place to another.

>> So I've said this, shared this before and it is unusual but I it’s a gift from my mom, it’s a gift of and a trait of hospitality and I don't believe that we always treat people and welcome people in and we’re actually seen that  from a holistic standpoint in the environment that we're seeing right now, especially over the last couple of weeks.

Black folks don't always feel welcome into environments that they come in so I don't care what level that you feel that you're at or how high you feel that you're at, I want to welcome you no matter what I'm doing to make you feel like this is your home, this is your space no matter what.

And that is how I want our team members to make everyone feel -like when they're walking into the door when they’re walking into office it’s an opening act is that they get the opening act performance, not that what we're doing is a performance but what we're giving them is of our best and so I believe that hospitality is an incredible trait that I believe as leaders that we should develop, but I also believe that

just maybe, even also the gift of or the trait of mentorship sometimes when we have arrived or I feel like no one ever really arrives, but when they've made it to that next level we don't always reach back and help others come along and helping them into the mentorship and the development in the coaching in all of that.

>>It's all about sharing and helping and not looking at any one’s certain predicament or situation or skin color or any of that but be welcoming no matter what.  It’s a leadership trait because then people will follow if you’re, you know good to others.

>>Good to others because as leaders I mean I always have mentors who are supporting me and speaking truth to power into life. into into me and tell me what I need to hear not just what I want to hear and we as we develop ourselves, we need to help others develop as well.

>>And on that and so many women deal with this as we continue to make positive strides what has it taken for you Sandra -to find your own voice and kind of to own it to be comfortable in your own skin?

You've got a lot of history behind you working at Mel Trotter, ICCF, I mean and so now at the women's Resource Center, how did you find that space-- your own voice and have you found and I would imagine you have,  but have you?

>>Yeah I have I found my own voice in the end. I would say this may not be what everyone wants to hear because especially some male leaders but it was some not just a couple male leaders that were not very good at supporting me but there have been some women who have not been good at supporting me and so I thought OK what do you want, how do you want to develop in your leadership skills and how do you want to develop as a person? So, I just started going back and just say you know who are the people that I want to emulate and just you know, model my behavior after- and one is my mom.

The  another is my dad and but I also being on the West Side I was not always comfortable being who I was.   I grew up on the East side of Detroit. Sometimes, you know, you go back; you know how it is for those Detroiters, slip back and you know, and at first has to say, “oh shoot I’m comfortable with that now and I'm OK with that”.

>>It’s who you are.

>>It’s who I am.

>>And you should be proud of it.

>>And I am very proud of it and if anybody knows I will tell them I’m from Detroit.

>>Yeah, the D.

>>And I'm very very proud of that and sometimes people say oh you’re from Detroit, and I’m like what do you mean? I’m like I am from Detroit!

>>And you’re very proud of it.

>>And I'm very proud of that and I'm I've been here in West Michigan for 20 , you know something years and I love West Michigan too but I love my roots and my roots is what grounded me seeing and growing up in the city and a lot of people like to refer to things now as urban no, I grew up in an inner city and I'm very very comfortable with  where I grew up, and  what I grew up around and the exposure I had.

>>And I would imagine that that is what would help you find your voice.

>>That’s what helped me find my voice.

>>Like sometimes you might not see it, but then you go back to it like you said if you if people present barriers or other issues.

But you have to be comfortable with who you are because then I think you really make progress with with yourself and with your career and with your family being comfortable in your skin.

>>My dear friend Shannon Cohen has a tough skin, soft heart podcast, and her book and when I think about her book you know, she's from Detroit too and you do develop, I think coming out of Detroit, in most cities I think you develop this this tough skin, but then you have to kind of create that soft heart too and sometimes it's the other way around you  may have the soft heart but you have to develop your top skin and it was ironically my mother who taught me tough skin and it was my dad who taught me the soft heart.

>>Oh that’s neat, that’s neat.

>>And so being able to pull from both of them and knowing that you're a product of your environment and, but it can help build you and help feed into who you are, but it doesn't have to be who you are.

>>Touch on a little bit more… but have you encountered a number of barriers or any barriers that touched your career in any way that as you continue your climb upward onto the various positions- have  there been a lot of instances or things or people trying to block your success?

>>Yeah, that has happened and those are always so difficult but they also have helped create in me the leader that I don't want to be.

So thank you for those barriers because women should not have to carry or encounter those barriers all women encounter barriers and pretty much all people of color encounter barriers and we should not have to encounter those barriers but the barrier of being a woman has definitely been tough when you're in boardrooms and applying for positions against her male counterpart also but being a woman of color.

I've had tremendous amount of barriers and I think the majority of my barriers have existed where you're a woman of color and you’re a woman.

>> The double whammy effect.

>>Yeah you do.

>>But you have to move forward and those barriers I always like to say thank you for my promotion, thank you for helping me move forward because you're going to get over the barrier at some point right.

>>That's right that's right and the thing is I I just say to women you know just to stay the course you don't have to encounter abuse. I would never want any woman to or person of color to encounter any abuse but stay the course if its tough. They need your toughness there too. They need it so stay the course because you're going to grow through the process because you want to help another woman or man or person as they're going along through their work.

>>Making their strides.

>>But you just mean that barrier- just don't allow that barrier to cause you to give up.

>>Absolutely.

>>You know find your fight.

>>Absolutely. So you know being a CEO of course, no small task always something I like to know about people who are very busy and on the move.

How do you find that work life balance with your personal and family life, I know your children are grown now for the most part but you've been a very, I mean along your career you've had a lot to juggle and balance how did you find and how do you find the balance between your work life and your family and fun life?

>>Yeah, so over my career, one of my mentors said find your no, you got to learn to say no to some things and so I learned over the years to say no to some things, but my family was just incredibly important to me. So incredibly important to me and there was just non-negotiables and not every family have a situation where they have a non-negotiables. There was a time early in my career, I didn't have that situation where I had a nonnegotiable but as I evolved in my career and as I was able to negotiate things that I want for my life it was my family- like I wanted to be there for my son's football games or track meets and my daughter’s track meets and basketball games.

I needed to be there to be able to support them and they needed to see me I needed to be there. When I was a bank teller many years ago, I was able to work out can I just be a room mom for one day a month. Can I just do that one day a month and I was able to work that out with my manager and so.

>>And to get that balance sometimes you do have to sacrifice a bit. I mean there's a give and take so that you can still spend time with your kids because you know sometimes employers don't want to necessarily give those that room to have that space to do that but you are able to do that.

>>Yeah and I would say to employers if you're not giving your team members the opportunity to and enjoy the opportunity to spend that time with your family and you have a mom a single mom or dad or or family member who's taking your kids or have a family member who's elderly and they need to take care of them- they need to be a home caregiver come on you have to be able to and that’s one of the things that we advocate for at women's Resource Center.

So that we can give employees fair practices when it comes to time off- people need time off so they can spend it with their family and we’re seeing through COVID right now, I mean to you parents out there who are being the bomb.

Teaching, look I tip my hat, because that's just an incredible amount of pressure but time and resources and love.

>>And you have to find a balance between teaching your kids.

>>Yeah, and I think right now through COID-19 where employers thought parents couldn't balance that or could not work virtually they’re seeing that they can.

>> I think a lot of things are going to change; things in many areas.

Absolutely no more excuses for some of these employers- so but I still tip my hat to the parents who have to go in as essential workers, who are delivering food at Meijer.  I mean we need to make sure we thank the doctors and nurses but we've got to thank the people that they are also cleaning these hospital rooms bringing food and acknowledge their work as well. They’re essential as well.

Absolutely and they've had difficulty in balancing their work life and their family life and so again let me say hats off to all front-line workers.

Tying into the balance piece, though, of course important what makes you laugh, what are, what’s something in your world that is, you know because laughter, you know they say laughter is good for the soul . 

So do you have anything, I mean do you enjoy laughter with you know going out with your husband or your family, what are the things that kind of bring you that inner joy and laughter? On the home front, work front- doesn’t matter.

>>So I am a practical joker.

>>Uh oh.

>>Yeah. So my team and my family.

>>Little things we didn't know about her.

>>I've been like that since high school-probably middle school but I, man laughter is good for your soul and I love laughing I love I love joy and so man just watch out you may have a Sandra effect with a practical joke so just don't get too comfortable.

>>And you love to see them when they play out right?

>> So my mom just had this belly of a laugh, my youngest daughter has this robust laugh and I do is I just love when people are able to laugh and especially for those who don't tend to laugh at all and if I can get them to smile or laugh, and let out a chuckle.

>>Your mission is accomplished.

>> My mission is accomplished so I think that has been a personality trait that it took my husband as a boyfriend some time to get used to.

>>Wait a minute what just happened?

>>Yeah. He was like I just did not think that was your personality -well welcome in.

>>Absolutely. Ok so there's so much going on these days.

We're looking for positives do you have perhaps a favorite saying or a model that you might use to encourage to keep people up lifted? I mean there's so much going on in the world right now what are some of positives or positive quote or something that just encourages and inspires you?

>> Oh man. There’s, there’s a lot.  I'm a firm believer in that we can do more with each other than we can do alone -so my team always hear me say teamwork makes the dream work  and they probably just roll their eyes when they hear me say that, but I just believe that even if you're working alone if you have someone who's living alone -we can always go out together and help someone else.

And for me watching my parents, my dad is a pastor, but he also worked as an auto worker at Chrysler so he retired and my mom when I was 7 or 8 years old. 6 of us, 3 girls 3 boys and she opened up a child care to help make ends meet and one of the things that we, like I said we didn't have money it was a family of 8 and I watched my parents after we had just went grocery shopping and someone else was in need of maybe it was one of her parents maybe was a neighbor down the street.

She would have us go and grab all of the good stuff that we bought you know. I was like not the King Vitamins, the captain crunch and she would have us go and take it.

To someone.

To someone’s family, yeah, and so she would leave us with post-it flakes or corn flakes and you know we were told…

The captain crunch had to go too.

The captain crunch had to go. I mean she would get literally all of the what we as kids thought.

I mean that’s a servant's heart.

Yeah, it was a servant's heart and she would, she told me you always give up your best.

And so I've spoken on that I have and share that with people it brings tears to my eyes when I give something away to someone else. I'm always going to give up my best I'm never going to give them my least.

You know what and on that note I think we will wrap this up. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Sandra Gaddy you got to bring a tear to my eye looking at you. Like oh no I’m not going to cry. But we really do appreciate you.

Thank you.

Spending time with us on this episode of ‘Powerful Women, Let's Talk’ and I want to thank all of you out there for listening, I'm Jennifer Moss we'll see you next time.

Produced by women about women. These powerful podcasts focus on powerful women and how their strength transforms who we are and how we live. Want to hear more ‘Powerful Women, Let's Talk’ get additional interviews at WGVU.org or wherever you get your podcasts please rate and subscribe powerful women, let's talk is produced by WGVU at the Meijer public broadcast Center at Grand Valley State University, the views and opinions expressed on this program do not necessarily reflect those of WGVU its underwriters or Grand Valley State University.