Alejandra Castillo: What’s the YWCA?

January 21 - Sarah Ashlock

FIRST THOUGHT: Reform and Uplift the Nation

It’s easy to be a cynic. It is. Seeing the glass half empty before you even see the dang glass doesn’t take much work. Can you tell I read the comments of a recent article? Did I respond to every negative comment with a Judge Judy GIF? Yes, yes I did. Social scientist Brene Brown talks about reading the comments following her viral TED talk. Then she shares that if someone isn’t in the arena, their opinion doesn’t matter. I keep thinking about that when I read the critics whose only arena is their keyboard. Today, don’t give credence to someone’s opinion if that someone doesn’t matter.

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: $3.1 trillion

Part of what Brene Brown teaches is that people are happiest when they put themselves out there—when they’re vulnerable. But, it’s no secret that that’s also one of the hardest things to do. Starting your own business is a prime example of this kind of vulnerability because it can result in closing up shop, pivoting in an unexpected way, dealing with obstacles. Women-owned businesses flourish though, generating $3.1 trillion in revenue.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Alejandra Castillo, CEO YWCA

Local YWCA associations help communities with job training, childcare and more. Alejandra Castillo is the CEO of YWCA USA, which serves more than two-million women and girls. With more than a couple hundred locations across the states, YWCA has been an integral part of many lives.

The YWCA started in 1855 in London, when a woman created a refuge for nurses traveling to and from the Crimean War. A couple decades later, it was merged with a woman-founded prayer union and has continued to honor its Christian roots. The US YWCA was at one point segregated until the civil rights movement and has since established a strong stance on racial justice.

Alejandra’s role as the leader of one of the largest and oldest women’s organizations is vast. The Latina leader served in both the Obama and Clinton administrations. For President Obama, Alejandra became the first Latina to lead the Minority Business Development Agency.

Part of Alejandra’s job at YWCA is to reach women where they’re at. That includes the big majority, whom speak Spanish. Alejandra was raised by Dominican immigrants who moved to Queens, New York in the 1960s. They developed businesses and instilled principles of hard work and strong values in Alejandra. That’s why she has long established a career in serving multicultural populations.

From October 14–18 the YWCA’s celebrated a Week without Violence. It’s a global movement to recognize and identify the violence that happens against girls and women every day. Alejandra has raised two nieces like her own daughters and expresses the urgency of addressing the ongoing danger of being female in this country. Can it be solved in a week? No. But it can start a discussion. That’s what Alejandra’s aiming for.


Michelle Obama said:

“Success isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”

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