Women's History Month Spotlight — Tia Henry, MBA
As Women's History Month continues, today we're featuring Tia Henry, MBA — Clinical Chief of Staff for ERC and Pathlight. Tia has been a part of the ERC Pathlight community for over 12 years and has taken on a leadership role in the organization's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative that launched in 2020.
Tia shares about how her childhood gave her a unique perspective that has led her toward a 20-year career in mental health and helping others.
What does Women's History Month mean to you?
Women’s History Month is a wonderful time to recognize all the trailblazing women who are shattering glass ceilings and cultural norms. This is the time to reflect, recognize and challenge expectations placed on women. For the women whose voices are oppressed, we see you; you are not forgotten. Advancing women and girls starts with influencers who represent that it is okay to have a voice, it is okay to stand up for what you believe, it is simple okay to be you...you are enough!
Tell us about the women who have inspired you and continue to inspire you.
The women who are most inspirational to me are the women who are faced with adversity and still maintain a positive outlook on life. My list could go on and on but my mother, grandmother, Stacey Abrams, Audra Day, Allyson Felix, Maya Angelo, Ruby Bridges and Katherine Johnson just to name a few. One that especially stands out to me is Katherine Johnson. She had such a remarkable life, despite the systematic injustices and racism that was prevalent early in her career.
Why did you feel called to work for a mental health and eating disorder treatment organization?
As a young girl I knew I wanted to help others. Growing up poor, in a single-parent home, you learn many lessons at an early age. I was the child who made friends with everyone and the child who stood up to bullies. The child who was determined to succeed, no questions asked. Fast forward, I’ve always had compassion for mental health due to it being present in my family. Now that I have worked with mental health for 20+ years, every experience still holds value and has helped shaped my perspective on this world.
Being a witness to someone’s journey during some of their most vulnerable times has helped me to slow down, not judge and seek to understand. Although this takes patience, true connection is built when others feel seen and understood. The ability to connect with others and help move them along in their journey is what brings me joy. This work is bigger than me, and I feel blessed for every opportunity I have to be a part of someone’s life.
How has being a woman influenced you as a leader and your thoughts on leadership?
I remind myself that painful moments don’t define me but help build resiliency. Despite being a woman, you will get knocked down and have to know who and what to lean into. Taking a risk is a part of leadership, and if I fail, I’m failing forward, meaning I use failure as a learning opportunity. I learned at an early age that you will not succeed if your fear is greater than your ability to push forward. Find your voice and lead by example.
What is a belief about womanhood that you have had to challenge and overcome?
Misconceptions of what it means to be a Black woman, and it is okay to not live my life solely based on others' perceptions and expectations... I am strong, I am gentle, I am compassionate, and at the end of the day I want the freedom to just be me, minus the expectations of others. I hold high expectations for myself and know that women are capable of so much. I take pride in being a wife, mother, daughter, sister, niece, aunt, friend, co-worker, etc. It is my life to create. I believe that if you work hard, stay humble, stay grateful and work with good intentions, success will follow. Success being defined as happiness.
How do you support your own mental health and unwind after a long week?
After a long week, I breathe and separate myself from the work I do. I love to dance and can easily lose myself in music, especially when it comes to Motown. I like to say I’m an old soul. The Temptations, Smokie Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Martha and The Vandellas and The Supremes are just a few of the artists that worked hard to break down racial prejudice, with the goal of trying to unite our country in the '60s. Motown changed America. The perfect end to a long week for me is a nice long, hot soak — listening to my favorite artist (vinyl preferred).
What have you learned in the past year about yourself while experiencing the Covid-19 pandemic?
2020 brought many challenges that helped me to realize how fragile life can be. I have never been one to see the value in slowing down, and I learned just how hard that was for me. It was amazing, the times I was able to slow down and appreciate the small things. The sound of hearing my children laugh, reading for fun, playing games with the family...it was great to reconnect with myself and allow time to just breathe and be present. Sometimes it is necessary to do absolutely nothing and reconnect with the things that bring you joy. Through my Faith, I know God will not give me more than I can handle; it’s up to me to be intentional and do my best.
What’s one personal goal you have for 2021 that you’re able to share with us?
For 2021, I am determined to find balance and do more of what I truly enjoy. I’m looking forward to spending time in the mountains with my family, laughing and creating memories. Sometimes you must slow down to speed up and get ahead. It’s just that simple.
What is one thing not many people know about you that may surprise them?
My husband and I have been together for 20 years and married for 14 years.
What would you tell your 18-year-old self that would have better prepared you for your life today?
I would tell my 18-year-old self that energy is power, and it is up to you to create it. Change is the only constant; embrace it and don’t be afraid to go big. As Paul Brandt said, “Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon.”
What advice would you give to the next generation of women leaders?
I love the quote, “Be the woman who fixes another woman’s crown, without telling the world it was crooked.” You are only in competition with yourself; invest in yourself and be coachable. Know your purpose and the impact you have on others. Forgive often; this includes forgiving yourself. You got this!