Doing the right thing and making a positive impact are values that have guided ESC Board member Danielle Benoit throughout her life and career. Danielle is currently a Business Partner at Barrett Business Services, Inc (BBSI) and has been part of ESC’s Board for nearly four years. She has provided her time, expertise, and knowledge so that ESC can better serve our nonprofit community. We are honored to feature her as our first Board Spotlight!
ESC: What first drew you to ESC?
Danielle: Great people. I met a Board member [Lizbeth Nevarez] whose company was a sponsor of the event I was attending. We hit it off and met for lunch. She said, “You’d make a great addition to the Board. Would you be interested?” I was then introduced to David – a special person inside and out, who’s been a great partner and mentor. ESC’s mission was right in alignment with my core values and professional past. It was a no brainer.
ESC: What motivates you to volunteer as a Board member?
Danielle: The values of doing the right thing, being a true advocate for others, and a true partner in helping build capacity for those that need the support. I want to make a difference and being a partner with ESC allows me to impact hundreds of nonprofits and thousands of people. The quality of consultants is above and beyond anything else I’ve seen. The level of resources we bring to organizations is just unparalleled. ESC runs with high levels of integrity and accountability with the overarching mission in mind. I just love that about ESC, David, the Board in general, and all the consultants. Just good people who truly care and want to do the right thing.
ESC: What is a highlight of your professional career?
Danielle: I’ve traditionally worked in industries highly dominated by Anglo-males – commercial real estate and insurance services – and not populated by women, much less African American women. Starting as a receptionist, I worked my way up and was promoted. I would make myself the best. I would always get picked or recruited. As I reflect now, I think “Wow, I was the only African American woman out of 300 people, or even when I walked into a room of 1,000 people.” It’s happened a lot in my career and in the moment, I didn’t notice it. I didn’t have the clarity then.
ESC: What challenges in your field have you had to overcome?
Danielle: As my roles would change, I had it my head that I was the same person. But the feedback and interactions I started having were different. I started getting into more conflicts, and it hadn’t occurred to me that the reason was because my role had changed. I had to adapt my understanding and expectations as to what the new obligations and roles entailed on both ends. I’ve learned to understand that as you ascend to different levels and roles in your life, especially in corporate America, the feedback you get from others will change. You have to be confident and comfortable with yourself in knowing you are doing the right thing. That sustained me enough to have the courage to keep doing the things I wanted to do in an environment where I was always the outlier. It can be difficult because it takes courage.
ESC: Who was a role model that inspired you?
Danielle: I have been very fortunate that throughout my professional career I’ve had at least one strong supporter that advocated for and mentored me at different stages of my career. I personally had a thing about rejection, so I kind of knew how to read the room and figure out what skills I needed to be almost indispensable in that environment. That’s been a blessing and a curse. You start to think your value or what you do is of more worth to others rather than who you are. I’ve been fortunate to have people that recognize the value of both who I am and what I do.
ESC: What piece of advice/wisdom would you offer to women who want to have leadership roles in the private or nonprofit sector?
Danielle: Be courageous. Know that you can, even though historically it may be that no one else has done it before you, or that it may harder for a woman to make it in an Anglo-male dominated space.
Follow your passion because it will make it easier to face the barriers outside. I was just doing what I’d loved, and I always felt like I was supposed to be there. It’s not that the barriers don’t exist, but if you focus on the problem, you often stay stuck on the problem.
Focus on the positive output, then you will see more of the positive things you want and seek.