YWCA’s CEO continues mission of empowering women

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The YWCA has supported the advancement of women for more than a century, and it’s something that the new CEO vows to continue like never before.

Sharon Roberson started as a volunteer with the YWCA before becoming a board member. Now she’s the first African-American CEO in the nonprofit’s 119-year history.

“This role fits me very well. I enjoy it. I love it every day. I help this community every day,” she said.

Roberson recently showed News 2 the organization’s new Dress for Success Boutique.

“All of the clothes you see in this area have been donated,” she explained.

Roberson’s job is to fulfill the YWCA’s mission of empowering women and the boutique is one of the first stops for women looking to re-enter the job market.

(Photo: Submitted)

“This is helping women who may not have transitioned well into the working world. They may be coming from our domestic violence center, they may be coming from other agencies that refer them to us,” Roberson said.

Roberson said professional attire and career counseling help empower women to take control of their lives. It also helps keep them safe and free from domestic violence.

“Tennessee is the fourth in the country for women who die at the hands of an offender. This is a stat we take seriously,” she said.

So serious, the nonprofit has formed a partnership with Metro police to reduce domestic violence homicides. It’s called Lethality Assessment, or LAP.

“What this does is a police officer can go on a domestic violence call, go through a series of questions with the individual, typically a woman, to determine whether or not her particular case is lethal or not. If it is lethal, then she is offered not only a safety plan, but a shelter,” Roberson said.

As a result, Roberson told News 2 more victims are seeking shelter and the YWCA is looking for more shelter space to accommodate them. She believes empowering women begins with mentoring young girls and that’s why the YWCA created Girls Inc. in Metro-Nashville Public Schools.

“Girls Inc. is dedicated to supporting girls being strong smart and bold,” she explained. “The reason for this is that women have to appreciate their self-worth and value in order to feel they are worthy of an education. Once you are educated, no one can take that from you.”

(Photo: WKRN)

Roberson added she wants to bring the social justice mission of the YWCA to the entire community, making everyone an agent of social change.

“You can’t control everything that happens in other places, but you can control whether your neighbor knows how to read. You can control whether there’s a woman who lives in your community who needs a helping hand in sustaining her employment. You can help a young girl who is trying to find her way,” she said.

She said the bottom line is to volunteer because there are so many ways to make a difference.

Thursday night is a big night for the organization. Seven outstanding women will be inducted into the Academy for Women of Achievement along with the Nashville Predators Organization.

Click here for more information on the YWCA.

Click here for more of Anne Holt’s Tennessee stories.