2018 Honoree

Nicole Wescoe

President, Northeast Region, Whole Foods Market

In your opinion, what qualities make a “Power Woman”?

Integrity – do the right thing, even when it’s hard.
Empathy – we are all different and we all deserve a seat at the table.
Be Fierce – have the courage to do the “tough stuff.”
Confidence and to lead with Emotional Intelligence.
Determination – never take “no” for an answer.
In business, with decisions that directly impact thousands of working women it’s important to do so with humility, thoughtfulness, and grace.

With all the different issues one could focus on, how do you balance your efforts in pursuit of gender equality? Is it a global approach or a specific issue that you are passionate about?

One of the biggest challenges women face in achieving gender equality is having equal access to advancement in traditionally male-dominated fields. I make a conscious effort, as a female leader, to focus on what I can do to address gender equality issues within my own industry and to ensure women have equal access to a variety of positions that are predominately attained by men. I am consciously working to nurture an environment where everyone is equally engaged, enlightened, and empowered. As a leader, it is my responsibility to encourage other women to find their voices and bring them up alongside other powerful women. I strive to add value to every dialogue, demonstrate confidence, and lead by example. It’s important that I pay it forward and provide the same opportunities I have been awarded. I see myself as a tough leader with high expectations, but I am always an advocate for female leaders to step forward with confidence and drive to be the best in the industry.

If you could have someone else’s job for a day, who and what would it be? Why?

Goat farmer! My dream is to have a goat farm; to provide fresh milk and cheese that are free of antibiotics and hormones. The opportunity to farm and have fresh food along with the experience of raising goats–who are very social, curious, gentle, independent, and intelligent creatures–to me is the meaning of a simple, hard-working life! My long-term future goal is to provide a beautiful farm for a city of children to visit and learn about farming and the positive benefits of growing fresh food.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Maya Angelou. She doesn’t make excuses; she just gets it done! She lived during a time when most women, faced with her adversities, would just throw in the towel. Instead, she persevered and went on to accomplish great things in her life. Each day, I try to live my life intentionally and not let obstacles hinder me from achieving the goals I set for myself. I don’t believe in letting setbacks define me. In fact, many of the challenges I’ve experienced in my life have led me to work harder and be where I am today. “I am grateful to be a woman. I must have done something great in another life.” – Maya Angelou

In what way do you work for women’s power and equality? What do you think is the number one action we as a society can take (e.g. affirmative action)?

It’s always important to take an active role in political issues, both nationally and locally, which impact women’s power and equality. I would like to increase my involvement in the coming months by encouraging the exercise of our voting power. In recent times, there have been heightened political threats to varied issues of gender inequality. As powerful female leaders, it’s critical to ensure that our voices are heard.

Can you tell us a short story in which you encountered a block in the work place and what you did about it?

I have always chosen to approach situations where I felt blocked, for whatever reason, by pushing through–whether that is around, aside, over, or under–to navigate delicately and thoughtfully is key! My advice is to continue moving forward with a determination to be heard and to attain a win-win for all! I have often been called relentless!

Have you seen any changes in the political landscape for women over the past few years? If so, what are they?

Absolutely. There’s a recent shift in the political momentum that’s allowed new female elected officials to upset traditionally favored male candidates. New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who just, this June, became the youngest woman to ever be elected to Congress, is an example of this changing landscape. And, we still have a significant amount of work ahead of us.

Was there a defining moment or experience in your life that led you to where you are today? What was it?

Having the courage to be a young single mother, I quickly learned that this would change the course of my life in every way. I needed to be strong, to not fear failure, to chart my own path and to make difficult decisions. Like many other powerful women, having a child shifts your focus toward making a difference and actively working to improve our environment. Raising a strong daughter to achieve her own dreams and purpose provides me with an anchor when making tough life decisions.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Ask for forgiveness, not permission. Surround yourself with great people that balance your leadership. Be confident, be bold, be you! Think BIG and don’t be afraid to take risks.

Who do you most admire? Why?

My parents! I grew up with a lot of love, support, family, and of course, coming around the table to celebrate food and each other. They gave me the gift of confidence. I always have their unwavering support in all that I want to do, be, and become. I have learned through them the importance of meaningful connection and communication, and to leave people feeling like they are the most important person in the room. It’s a life skill that I have carried with me every day.

What is your favorite book (fiction or non-fiction)?

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. And at the moment, plant-based cookbooks!

What do you most value in your friends?

Loyalty, honesty, and support. Strong friendships and connections with other women allows us to draw from our shared experiences. We should support each other in our efforts to create lasting change. I most value the people who can debate, keep me grounded, push back, and challenge me.

Which trait do you most deplore in yourself? In others?

In everything I do, I try to be intentional, but thoughtful. I want to make sure I’m doing the right thing that is beneficial for all. So, in some instances, I tend to overthink my decisions. I have to remind myself to trust my instincts. I’m not a fan of martyrs or people who play the victim. We all have a story. We can either choose to move on and learn from them, or be defeated by them.

What do you consider to be the most over rated virtue?

Patience. Although, certainly necessary and valuable at times, the only constant in life is change and a certain level of impatience is necessary in order to drive toward progress.

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