Meet Maureen Alphonse-Charles, 2019 Academy of Women Achievers Awardee
On June 4th, 2019 we will join together and celebrate the achievements of five unstoppable women who demonstrate YW Boston’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women at our 24th Academy of Women Achievers Luncheon.
Since 1995, as part of our mission to promote and celebrate the achievements of women, YW Boston has held the Academy of Women Achievers luncheon. Through this event we recognize and honor some of Boston’s brightest, boldest, bravest and most influential women. Leading up to the event, we are sitting down with each of the 2019 awardees for interviews and releasing one each month.
YW Boston is thrilled to be inducting Maureen Alphonse-Charles, Managing Director at Koya Leadership Partners, into the Academy of Women Achievers. Learn more about Maureen by reading our interview with her below:
1. Please share a bit about your background with YW Boston and LeadBoston. How did you come to be involved with the organization and what drew you in?
As a Jamaican/Panamanian native, I came to the Boston as an internationalist seeking a solid educational experience. My original plan was to study in the US and return to my home country to be a diplomat. As it turned out, after corporate finance training, I ended up in Boston and was ultimately recruited to the executive search business. At the time, my then boss was concerned that I was getting into the “people business” and I did not have a network in Boston. Luckily, his squash partner was a very well regarded executive who was Board Chair of the NCCJ Dinner and a member of The Partnership’s board. He highly recommended both leadership programs and I joined both programs in same year. I was particularly struck by amazing classmates and the breadth/depth of the exposure to many facets of life in Boston. I began to develop an appreciation for Boston’s rich history, a sense of context and an understanding of the backgrounds of the groups represented in Boston. It is through the LeadBoston program that I found “my voice” and place in the Boston environment.
2. Our LeadBoston program kicked off earlier this month. What were your biggest takeaways from participating in the program?
My biggest takeaway was that I developed a social justice framework and anchor for my career. While the network was phenomenal, I had many “epiphany moments” during the year. One that I still remember was the day that we focused on the lives of those who are physically challenged and we heard their stories and I remember thinking about how difficult this “ism” must be. It provided greater context and understanding about all the biases that we have to face. It was evident that it was ongoing work. Another “aha moment” was being a part of the “Privilege Line” and seeing multiple challenges/barriers that we all face but may not understand without having the “dialogue” and sharing. I also recognized that thinking about change was not good enough but I needed to work on actively making a difference every day. My LeadBoston experience led me to initiate the first race dialogues in Milton, my hometown. I ran these dialogues with the Chief of Police, Editor of the local newspaper and many community leaders for a year. My LeadBoston experience provided me with the courage and lifelong commitment to social justice issues.
3. What led you to a career in recruitment?
I realized that recruitment could be an effective tool to create social change, make a difference and provide purpose/fulfillment. I was chagrined by the constant refrain that there were “no people of color” to recruit in the corporate sector. I made it a point of duty to recruit people of color to executive roles. Additionally, I enjoyed utilizing presentation skills, assessment tools, psychology, diplomacy skills, marketing/sales and tools of persuasion. Beyond that, search is a unique discipline with many facets, I found that you are “constantly learning” as you are dealing with human nature on multiple levels.
4. You have recently assumed the role of Managing Director at Koya Leadership Partners, can you share a bit more about Koya’s mission and work?
Koya Leadership Partners is a leading executive search firm dedicated to placing exceptionally talented leaders at mission-driven organizations and institutions of higher education. It is an outstanding woman’s owned firm that has been ranked by Forbes as one of America’s Best Executive Recruiting Firms, climbing to a rank of 14 out of 250 firms in 2018 and the highest-ranking boutique firm serving mission driven clients. Koya’s belief is that “the right person in the right place can change the world.” Koya’s Founder and CEO, Katie Bouton, has received numerous awards for her roles as a high-impact female business leader. I am also super excited that Molly Delano Brennnan, Founding Partner at Koya Leadership Partners, is in the LeadBoston Class of 2019!
Additionally, Koya Leadership Partners has an explicit commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). The attention to diversity goes beyond rhetoric and diversity and is tracked both internally and externally as a measurement of performance for recruiters. In the 15 years that Koya has been serving clients, one-third of the leaders placed are people of color and two-thirds are women. Internally, the national staff is approximately 40% of color. I am proud that Koya is committed to increasing diversity metrics to even more accurately reflect national demographics and the communities that we serve. The firm’s core values include not only DEI, but also impact, respect, innovation and joy. Koya Leadership Partners is a dynamic search firm that is committed to making a difference.
5. As a top recruitment expert with a deep understanding of work place culture what are the areas that you are seeing success in among organizations, and where areas do you think need more growth?
We are seeing some success with the hiring of women and people of color. A recent survey by the Boston Club states “women now hold 21 percent of board positions at the 100 largest public companies in Massachusetts, up from 19.2 percent in 2017, while the number of all-male boards continues to decline. Of the 100 companies studied, 89 have at least one woman on their board, an increase from 84 companies a year ago”. Nevertheless, there are still “many glass ceilings” that persist; we still have to be more deliberate about women/people of color joining corporate boards, supporting women/people of color at the C-Suite levels (and at all levels) and we are still working on the integration of people of color in corporate cultures.
6. One of the many reasons you were selected as an AWA recipient this year is because you are an unstoppable woman changing Boston. Who is an unstoppable woman who has inspired you?
I have been inspired by many “unstoppable women” but one who comes to mind immediately is Helen Chin Schlichte who was on the board of NCCJ/BCCJ when I was in my LeadBoston program. She has been a longstanding advocate and sponsor for many years. She shepherded me to my first not-for-profit board experience. Helen is known for her generosity, resilience and her championship of social justice issues, public service and community efforts. She is the founder and past president of the South Cove Manor Nursing Home and Chair Emeritus of the Kwong Kow Chinese School. She serves on numerous boards and is a tenacious servant/leader who consistently promotes diversity and inclusion.
7. YW is looking to promote more women and people of color owned businesses. Is there a particular place that you love and want to share with us?
While I love many people of color/woman owned restaurants and boutiques, I have a deep passion for music and the Boston Children’s Chorus is one of those that always inspires me. I think of them as the New Year takes off and they recently performed for MLK Day. There is no better way to celebrate MLK Day in Boston than attending their annual evening event.
2019 Academy of Women Achievers Luncheon
June 4th, 2019
The Westin Copley Place