The Holistic Client Interview: Dorri McWhorter of YWCA

Being a media company, Holistic is dedicated to helping our clients tell their employer brand story. Recently, we were able to chat with Dorri McWhorter, CEO of YWCA to get an inside scoop at how the organization is fostering an inclusive environment.

Holistic is excited to be part of YWCA’s mission to create a more inclusive and equitable environment for all.


Holistic: YWCA is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, and freedom and dignity for all. What does the organization do to take action on these sorts of things?

Dorri McWhorter: Since we do have such a large mission like that, we really try to boil it down to three empowerment priorities. One is safety and wellness. We're really trying to make sure that women are free from violence, and then accessing the wellness resources they need. The second is education and training, so making sure that children have access to high quality really early learning education, and that the parents can afford to send them there as well. The third is economic sustainability and making sure that women and families have access to career pathways as well as being a small business development center, and offer financial management services.

Holistic: Tell us a little bit about your journey with the YWCA.

DM: I had the great fortune of joining the YWCA as a board member, and was on the YWCA's board for over eight years. I'm actually in my sixth year as CEO, and so really have been involved for the last fourteen years at the YWCA. I’ve loved seeing it evolve and continue to really activate on that mission, being able to not only come from the board but then also understand how I could really support our community strategies.

Holistic: What is something that you're really proud of that you've accomplished here at the YWCA?

DM: I brought together a really good team. They've been able to help us do a lot as an organization. We've doubled in size, and for us that's our revenue numbers but also the amount of impact. We've actually been able to go deeper with our services. So while we have reached over 200,000 women and families annually, we're also providing deeper services. Whether it's with our teen parenting programs or our prevention initiatives we are able to assess children to make sure that they're on their developmental path. So that's been great for us, to really be able to deepen that work as well as expand how we engage corporate America with our Women's Empowerment Exchange Traded Fund that we launched in the European stock exchange. So to have the people on our team that can do a variety of these core initiatives or really critical initiatives has been something I'm really proud of.

Holistic: Where do you see things going at YWCA?

DM: I see us continuing to be very innovative and trying to understand how we can use all parts of the marketplace to do our work. I keep saying that we've been here for one hundred and forty years and we've been doing our best to empower women and support them to participate in the marketplace, so we also want to change the marketplace on a systemic level to make sure that they accept and can really allow the women that we are preparing to contribute.

Holistic: YWCA is a big leader in diversity and inclusion in the community. What are some of your goals and vision for the future of these matters?

DM: Well, our mission says "Eliminate racism," so that is our goal. We actually want to accomplish that. So we absolutely have approached it on a number of levels. One by ensuring that our organization itself is diverse and very inclusive, which we are although we don't have as many men, but that's why they were chosen, quite honestly. Having said that, we do look at how we deliver our programs and services and making sure our employees are highly culturally competent, which is really important to create inclusive services as well. We continue to work with our staff and our board to make sure that they're truly living out the values of our organization relative to diversity and inclusion.

Holistic: What are you optimistic about in this area of diversity and inclusion?

DM: I'm optimistic that there continues to be an appetite. So even though we're sitting in the backdrop of a really divided country, I really feel that there is an appetite for more understanding and more willingness to be inclusive. I think it's really important that work environments model that because people don't necessarily do that in their personal home environments. And so, to the degree that we could create these opportunities for people to engage with different cultures and understand each other just by the mere fact that they come to work, I think can absolutely be a way that we continue to move the needle around inclusion.

Holistic: Holistic is working with you to make YWCA a place where it's not “just work.” We're trying to help you make YWCA one of the best places to work ever. How would you characterize what you want for your employees in the organization?

DM: We want to essentially model with our employees what we're doing with our clients every day. So if our goal is to eliminate racism, empower women by promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all, we need to model that internally. So we need to understand what our employees value, what's important to them? How do we actually, as we like to say, support them in unleashing their purpose or potential? What does that look like? So our vision and the reason we've engaged with Holistic is to really be able to assess that and implement strategies to actually achieve that.

Holistic: What would you say makes a great employee experience?

DM: I think one that recognizes the employee for who they are and allows them to truly be their authentic self and contribute in a way that they want to contribute but that's also supportive of the organization's goals and objectives so that employees’ experience is enhanced by what they're able to work on and do for the organization. We do that in a way that honors who they really are and we do not ask them to fit into a box or the infamous "cultural fit". What does that really mean? For us, we just want to make sure that we create a work experience that values the authenticity of the person.

Holistic: What are some of the challenges you feel that you face as a non profit? Do you feel like it's harder for non profits?

DM: It's interesting. I actually feel like it's almost easier. One, because I think about coming out of the accounting firm environment, because the motivation is a little different relative to purpose and mission, and so it's easier for us to justify supporting our employees as part of fulfilling our mission as well than I think it was in the private sector where the expense or the cost of supporting employees would hit the bottom line. It hits the bottom line for us too, but it aligns with that mission so we can't not walk the talk. We can't say that we need people out there to do these things for people out there and then not do the same thing for the people inside the organization. So I actually think while we may be more resource constrained in a lot of ways, we're more mindful about how we make that happen.

Holistic: The YWCA has done some incredible creative things and projects. One of them was the Exchange Traded Fund. Can you tell u a little bit about that and how people can get involved?

DM: The Exchange Traded Fund we're really proud of because it essentially provides a road map for how corporate America could actually advance women and empower women. So we know we're going to do our part, but corporate America, business, makes up sixty percent of the economy. So if non profits are only a slight sliver of seven percent, we need the rest of the economy working to support us. So by identifying the specific actions that corporate America can take, it absolutely helps us accelerate fulfillment of our mission, and that's our goal. So we're really excited to be able to have the Exchange Traded Fund as a tool to engage with corporate America around what they can do in addition to supporting us.

Holistic: What is another project or another creative thing that you have done that you feel proud of and is making an impact?

DM: I feel very proud of just the way that we continue to think about our programs and services. We're embarking upon several things to enhance what that looks like. We're working on a project right now that's looking at understanding what I consider that right cocktail or digital and physical experience relative to our programs because I do think that people forget that even though we have people that may experience challenges that come to us for our services, but they have an option. They can also not receive our services, so we want to make sure that we're providing excellent experience to make people actually come to us not because they need us, but because they want to be here, and then really encourage people to continue to improve themselves. So that's something I'm excited about that we're working on. We actually have a role called Chief Paradigm Officer that's looking at the paradigm shift in human services delivery and what they looks like for us, and really drafting that plan to move that forward. So we'll let you know in probably another year or so where we are on that. We're excited about that, but then other things that we've already accomplished outside of continuing to evaluate the way we do our work is we've launched our Women's Health Exchange which allows women to access health insurance, and in addition, understand health information that's out there and available to them. We want to sort of aggregate all the women's information and really put it at one site where people can then figure out what's relevant to them, as well as our which is our eCommerce site which we like to say is our Amazon of cost marketing, but they're so not afraid of us right now. But what we've been able to do with that is not only generate revenue by the merchants giving us a portion of their sales, but also support these small businesses by accessing our channel that we have to really help support their work as well.