10th Anniversary Dreams Campaign 10 Question Series - Kathy Cade

One of the ways we are celebrating our 10th Anniversary Dreams Campaign is through a 10 Question Series. The Dreams Campaign was created on the belief that girls who dream, become women with vision and through this campaign we hope to connect the SEGA girls with people and organizations around the world through their shared dreams. Our goal is to show each girl at SEGA the endless possibilities that come from investing in girls' education. We are excited for you to read our 10 Question Series with Kathy Cade, former White House Project Director for Rosalynn Carter and Investment Banker for the BankBoston Corporation, and current Co-Chairperson at Rosalynn Carter Institute of Giving.

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1. What did you aspire for at an early age?

I knew I wanted to go to college but didn’t have a specific dream in mind. When I was growing up, women’s dreams for careers were either being teachers or nurses. You didn’t imagine being an astronaut, an airplane pilot, a doctor or a lawyer.

2. What inspired those dreams?

In my family education was very important.

3. What is the most difficult decision you’ve had to make to pursue your dream?

After President Carter was defeated in the 1980 presidential election, I lost my job. I had worked for Mrs. Carter as her director of projects, coordinating all her substantive activities as first lady. When I started to look for a new job, people suggested I should go work for a party planning company. When I explained that the first lady did much more than supervise entertainment at the White House, they had a hard time thinking about other kinds of opportunities for me. So I decided to go to graduate school, which would open more doors for me in the future. I was admitted to two leading schools --- one on the east coast and one on the west coast. At the time choosing between the two seemed like a very consequential decision, but it really was not as consequential as I had imagined. One reason I stayed on the east coast is that I didn’t have to give up my cat!

4. What’s one thing you would tell your younger self?

What I told students when I was at Yale, where I ate dinner at the undergraduate dining rooms on occasion, and what I have told others throughout my career, is that you have to be open to opportunities that pop up in an unexpected way. While it is useful and important to have some sense of a career and career goals, much of life is serendipitous and one needs to be open to opportunities as they unfold. In terms of something I would tell myself, I really don’t think I would do all that much differently. Even the year I spent working as a waitress was a good learning experience. It gave me insights into how hard that work is and how difficult it is to live on a very limited income. When you are 21 or 22 you often don’t really know what you want to do for a career. For me taking some time to be a waitress was not such a terrible thing.

5. Who is someone you look up to / admire?

The person I admire most is Mrs. Carter. She was born in a small town of 600 where times were very tough. Her father died when she was just thirteen and her mother depended upon her to help with her three younger siblings and take care of the house. There was never any extra money for anything. Yet from an early age she had a tremendous desire to learn more about the world and to be engaged in the world. She is someone who is very empathetic and always looks for ways to help people who are in trouble or in need. She is also an extraordinarily humble person who never seeks credit for all the good things that she does. My mother is also someone whom I admire greatly. In many ways she was a woman ahead of her times though she pursued one of the only careers --- teaching --- available to women at the time, in the 1960s. She influenced generations of students. One of her most significant contributions was teaching them about acceptance and not judging people based on where they lived or how much money they had. She was quite liberal in her views about all sorts of things, including pre-marital sex and people who are gay; and these were pretty radical positions to openly discuss with high school students at that time. Yet she was never afraid to take these positions, and I think that contributed to creating a more tolerant atmosphere in our community.

6. What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

If you don’t ask and you don’t claim what is due you, nobody’s going to give it to you, especially if you are a woman. There is a huge gender difference in terms of the way men and women think about their self worth and their value to an organization. Women are more relationship oriented and don’t want to appear too pushy or too aggressive, so they often won’t make the case that they deserve money or a promotion or a special project. The most important thing you can do as you think about your career is never be afraid to ask for the tough jobs; never be afraid to make the case that you deserve a different opportunity; never be afraid to say “This is what I am worth; and if you don’t pay me, I will look for a better opportunity.” You have to be willing to take risks; because if you are not willing to take risks, you’re not going to have the opportunity to really shine.

7. Who was your best teacher/helper on your journey?

I had a high school English teacher who taught a whole generation of students at our high school to think critically. He was gay at a time when very few people were out, so he understood what it was like to live an alternative life and not be open about it. He challenged all the students around issues of social justice. While in my family these issues were discussed, he brought it to a higher level of consciousness for me in high school.

8. How did your environment/friends shape/support your dreams?

I think that part of what shaped my dream was getting out of the environment in which I was raised, a conservative suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. I knew there was a wider world out there, and I wanted to experience it. I wanted to go to an excellent school where I would be challenged. And both my mother and my dad always supported whatever we wanted to do, so long as it was meaningful and had some social value. I had a very diverse group of friends growing up, and I learned how to relate to people without being judgmental, to listen and to try to understand different points of view, where people are coming from. I think this is the skill that makes great leaders. Leaders know how to listen, how to create trust, how to get people to tell you truthfully what they are worried about or what they need to be successful. This is the key to building successful teams who are able to work together to achieve common goals.

9. Was there ever a time you felt uncertain about your dream?

What was so hard about that decision was that I had been so fortunate to be in a position where I could help Mrs. Carter have a major impact on very relevant issues, whether it was work we were doing on mental health, Cambodian refugees in Thailand or getting more women appointed to federal judgeships. So I had a job where I could go home every night being tired but feeling really good about what I was doing every day. Thinking about “well now what am I going to do with the rest of my life” was a very daunting issue.

10. What is a piece of advice you have for the SEGA girls?

To NEVER give up on their dreams. They’ve made a huge investment in coming to SEGA and getting an education. Although they may hit some bumps in the road, they should never ever give up on their dreams, because they are going to be the leaders of the next generation in Tanzania. I think that it is very well documented that women are the ones who have the greatest potential to really change lives by what they do in their own communities and that education is the best way increase their ability to positively make change. They need to make sure that they continue their education and that they don’t give up on their dreams, because that is how life is going to get better for people in Tanzania.

Kathy Cade is a former White House Project Director for Rosalynn Carter and Investment Banker for the BankBoston Corporation, and current Co-Chairperson at Rosalynn Carter Institute of Giving.

Matthew Plourde