Name: Sharon Giovinazzo
Hometown: Little Rock, AR
Title/Position: President and CEO
Briefly describe your role: As the CEO of a residential rehabilitation facility I have to be innovative and a visionary. I am in charge of leveraging the power of relationships and networks across private, public and corporate sectors in order to improve the conditions for the clientele that World Services for the Blind. My primary focus day to day is fulfilling our mission of empowering people who are blind and visually impaired in the United States and around the world to achieve sustainable independence.
Q: Is what you’re doing now what you always pictured you would do?
A: Not at all. After leaving serving in the US Army as a combat medic I found myself working in the medical field as a LPN and decided that in the fall of 2001 that I was going to return to school to become an RN, but that was not in the cards, probably would’ve scared people chasing them with a needle in one hand and a cane in the other. It took me losing my sight to gain a vision. I had no marketable skills as a person who was blind. I receive rehabilitation services and knew that I wasn’t destined to sit on my porch in the rocking chair, motivation drove me forward and dedication to pay it forward ended up helping me focus on the fact that just because I lost my vision that even though that chapter had been written that the book wasn’t complete and that I had the opportunity to not only make my next chapter my best chapter but to give a grain of hope to others that was experiencing those same feelings I felt…..So I guess you could say that being sighted got in the way of me seeing the picture of what I not only wanted to do but what I needed to do.
Q: What do you see as the greatest challenges for women in your chosen industry? What are the greatest opportunities?
A: I think one of the greatest challenges for women in the non profit sector is still a gender gap of understanding that non-profits are a business just like any in corporate America with the same challenges as for profits that without margin there is no business or in our case no mission. As a woman in leadership sometimes you feel that other business leaders do not take your role as seriously as they would if a man sat in the same seat! And on the flip side of that coin I think that also gives the industry the greatest opportunity to contribute to the diversity in leadership in the non profit sector, not just in the C-Suite but also in the board rooms across not only Arkansas but across the nation.
Q: Who has inspired you in your life/career?
A: I would say the people who came before me who was blind and paved the road in the arena of accessibility and possibility. As humans we hold stereotypes and misconceptions about the possibilities of people who are blind or frankly with a differing ability of any kind, but it was the people who proved them wrong and paved their own paths that have inspired me.
Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring professional?
A: The advice I would give to an aspiring professional is to find your WHAT and your WHY….What motivates you and why? At 9 years old my third grade educated daddy said if you enjoy what you do and live your life with a purpose to fulfill a mission, you’ll never work a day in your life, but don’t think that it will be easy, but if you have the heart to work in the non profit sector its not easy you’re looking for its possible and you will be able to give the possibility to others who thought that they could never achieve it.
Q: What’s been your secret to success?
A: Really its not a secret, if you want to be successful you align yourself with others who are successful! I’ve had wonderful mentors and leaders throughout my journey from client to leader who has helped me to find success in order to help others achieve their success, however they define it, because its different for each person.