Daring Women Q&A: Alicia Crank, Corporate Relations Officer at YWCA

"Turn obstacles into opportunities. Don’t let the concept of being told 'no' deter you from trying anyway. Own your experiences."
 
 

This week's Daring Woman is Alicia Crank, a corporate relations officer at YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish, a nonprofit working toward eliminating racism and empowering women. Crank wants women to speak up and not be afraid to go toe to toe with their male colleagues.

Read about her career high points, challenges, and how men and women can improve gender equity in the workplace in this week’s installment of our Daring Women Q&A series.

1. Tell us about the high point of your career. What do you love about your work? Describe your proudest moment.

Becoming the first executive director woman of color to run a corporate leadership program in Silicon Valley called Leadership Mountain View (similar to Leadership Tomorrow in Seattle). I tend to be the first African American woman in a lot of roles I take on professionally and in the community. I love being able to show other women and POCs not to be afraid of taking a chance on success. My proudest moments running Leadership Mountain View were being able to train and influence the tech community on race and diversity for over six years.

2. What challenges have you faced as a woman in your industry? How have you addressed them?

Currently, I am only one of a few women (and fewer women of color) in corporate philanthropy/fundraising in greater Seattle. One challenge I’ve faced is the perception of being more emotional than businesslike in fundraising. Men are not perceived that way by donors. I always make a point to let my business acumen take center stage when working with current and potential corporate donors by highlighting my institutional/corporate banking experience and pairing it to philanthropy. It helps in being taken seriously and being seen as a force.

3. Tell us about a person who has inspired or mentored you. What key lesson did you learn from them?

When I started in corporate banking, two people shaped my overall career: Maurice Shane and Bob Gajewski. While they are men, both had to deal with being the only African American first vice president and openly gay first vice president in the entire organization — across six states! — in the early ’90s. Each taught me to let my work precede me, not to be afraid to take chances, not to be fearful of being the only person in the room who looks like me as well as not be cowed by prejudice and fear.

4. What advice would you give to a woman getting started in her career?

Turn obstacles into opportunities. Don’t let the concept of being told “no” deter you from trying anyway. Own your experiences.

5. What can women do to improve gender equity in the workplace? What can men do?

Women should not hesitate to go toe to toe with their male counterparts, should not doubt their abilities and should mentor/sponsor other women. Men should not only create space “at the table” for their female counterparts, but also encourage them to take those seats.

6. Tell us about a favorite book/show/podcast and why/how it inspires you.

I’m going with Anne of Green Gables. She was an outsider in so many ways yet she was determined to be her own person no matter what others thought or felt she should be. She was true to herself and encouraged others around her to be the same way. No compromise.

7. Where do you find support and inspiration? How important is networking and how do you expand your contacts?

In several places, but all have a commonality of empowerment. I thrive at attending networking events, even if the subject matter isn’t closely aligned to my current profession. Being able to belong to diverse networking groups (race, tech, social) allows for a fun and educational overlap of experiences and relationships. I am a serial networker.

8. What are the most important characteristics of a good leader? What leadership traits are overrated?

The ability to listen without having the need to give a quick answer; being the example you are encouraging your teammates to be; the willingness to show weakness and the drive to be stronger. Overrated: the need to always be “in control” or “put together.”

9. What would you do differently in your career if you had a do-over.

That’s a hard question. While there are a few things, I believe it would mean missing out on some things that have crafted me into the person I am today. I’d hate to think that doing something differently may not make me as strong a person as I am today.

10. What would be the title of your autobiography?

Turning Obstacles into Opportunities.

We’d love to hear from more women across all industries who are challenging the status quo. Does it sound like you? If it does, click here and fill out our questionnaire.

Daring Women Q&A responses have been edited and condensed.

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