5 Questions: Patricia Shea, President and CEO, YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee

BW HeadshotPat Shea said when she was a little girl she wanted to be independent and able to take care of those she loved.  Well, she has done that and more.  She deftly handles working with Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and the Tennessee Titans to raise awareness of domestic violence, opens a new upscale thrift boutique, hosts the annual AWA event, and stops by Brand Wise to answer a few questions.  All in just one week.  And all in the name of “moving women from safety to self-sufficiency” at the best YWCA in the country.

Here a little insight into her world and why Domestic Violence Awareness Month is more than a date on the calendar for Pat.

1. How have recent NFL domestic violence situations elevated your ability to advocate for women on the issue of domestic violence?  

The conversation has been turned up…and the outrage that has come from the Ray Rice incident is intense; it’s palpable.  What usually happens behind closed doors was put out there for the whole world to see in all its brutality and ugliness.  And now, the conversation we have been having in Nashville these last few years is finally spreading.

One in four women will be victims of domestic violence in her lifetime.  Three women are killed each day in the United States by men who say they love them.  In fact, Tennessee is still ranked in the top ten worst states in the nation for the rate at which women are killed by men.  And yet, our country’s attention hadn’t really been focused on domestic violence until the Ray Rice video hit national news.

2.  What is the role of men in changing behavior towards women and championing appropriate male role models?

I am hopeful that our country’s collective outrage will be channeled into prevention and ongoing education of men and boys on healthy, respectful manhood.  Our dream is to change the current culture that supports violence against women.  We need men and boys to join us – join the women who have been shouldering  the message of violence against women for years –  and become part of the solution.

I continue to be excited about the YWCA’s Engaging Men Initiative.  We have strong male leaders in our community who are standing up and speaking out – people like our Mayor, our Chief of Police and District Attorney,  our YWCA male board members, local college and high school coaches and most recently, the Tennessee Titans.  Because as sportscaster James Brown recently said “Men’s silence around the issue of domestic violence has been deafening and deadly.”

3.  How do you describe the purpose of the YWCA to those who don’t know the organization?

The mission of the YWCA is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.  For 116 years, the YWCA has provided services aimed at empowering women and girls, keeping them safe and helping them become self-sufficient.  We want to help women create a better quality of life for themselves and/or their families.  We want to help them increase their financial strength and independence through better jobs and more education.  We also aspire to be a voice for women who have no voice in our current society.

4.  How are you different from other YWCA’s in the country?

Although all YWCAs share the same mission, each YWCA is afforded the opportunity to develop their own strategic and tactical plans.  Our YWCA is the largest provider of domestic violence prevention and intervention services in Tennessee.  We remain the local affiliate for Girls Inc. (a separate national non-profit focused on girls helping girls to grow up strong, smart and bold).  We have opened four neighborhood literacy centers where we provide GED/HiSET preparation classes and other literacy services. We have recently been awarded the affiliation to re-launch Dress for Success Nashville and their much needed services in our community.  And our most recent news…we have opened 2616 – our very own resale boutique located at 2616 Gallatin Pike.  2616 is a revenue generating business started to help us fund all of this great work.

5.  If you had a magic wand, how would you use it?

I would create a world where everyone had the opportunity to become all they could be; a world where education and employment were available to everyone equally.  A world described as compassionate, creative and competitive with everyone, striving to be their best.

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