“You can’t lead people if you don’t love people.”
Carrie Cook loves people.
She is the founder of Charlotte-based EmpowHERment, Inc. a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to empower a continuous network of girls and women to be community leaders through mentoring, talent development and advocacy. Carrie sums up her work as helping girls and women define, develop, and defend their voices. She helps foster their ability to lead through building supportive relationships, providing access to resources, and creating a platform that intentionally broadens their understanding of, and involvement with community issues.
Carrie describes the mission of EmpowHERment as a personal passion. She was energized by people and service at an early age, and feels a sense of responsibility to cultivate a stronger development pipeline for the next generation of women leaders. She studied interpersonal communication as an undergraduate. Helping people find the power of their voice has been a constant theme throughout her life. After earning her master’s in public administration from UNC Chapel Hill, Carrie continued to pursue this goal.
“The theme of voice continued to emerge, and this time, it was manifested by a desire to help shape public policy issues with our collective voices,” she says.
Carrie says her mother set a strong example of servant-leadership as a wife, mother, attorney, community organizer, professor, volunteer and so much more. Carrie looks to her mother as a reminder of purpose and to keep a healthy work/life balance. She also looks to her dedicated EmpowHERment team of volunteers and mentors.
“We can’t have one woman consistently contributing 20 percent and others contributing 80 percent,” Carrie says. “It’s not fair, and folks get burned out when their giving is constantly imbalanced because others aren’t willing to step up. One of the greatest things I’ve learned about work/life balance is to take on the things you’re passionate about, define the commitment (time, resources, etc.), and really commit to those things. If something doesn’t fit into one of your top three passions, don’t take it on. Don’t just do something for the sake of doing it, do it because it advances your life purpose and nourishes your soul.”
The EmpowHERment mentoring program aims to directly support girls in their transitions to middle and high school, and matches girls in grades 6-12 with one-on-one mentors in their community. The mentors and mentees participate in monthly community partnership and advocacy events. Each summer, the organization holds its Annual Youth EmpowHERment Summit, which brings together hundreds of girls and women in the Charlotte area.
“Did you know that 62% of U.S. girls report having no connection to local women leaders outside of their family? We can bridge that gap,” Carrie says. “Girls shouldn’t have to look beyond their local community to find women who are invested in their success and willing to connect with them as we are all defining, developing and defending our voice as leaders. That’s why EmpowHERment really focuses on a continuum of growth, because no matter if you’re 16 or 60, your leadership journey is still in process and you need the support, resources and relationships to be an empowered advocate for yourself and others.”
In 2013, the YWCA of Central Carolinas named Carrie its Woman of Achievement Emerging Leader.
Carrie believes the most pressing issues for women and girls today center on confidence in their own leadership abilities, a hyper sexualized media, equal pay, health disparities, control of our bodies and global gender role perceptions. Her work with EmpowHERment aims to help equalize economic, political and social parities for the next generation of women.
“EmpowHERment is more than an organization, it’s a philosophy that governs a core belief system that empowers girls and women to lead and dismantle real and perceived gender barriers,” says Carrie.
Carrie encourages women and girls to do something they enjoy, be genuine, and use their passion. She also encourages self-awareness and intentional risk taking. “Be receptive and ready for new opportunities to learn and grow — even when you don’t feel totally sure. Go for it.”
Lastly, Carrie emphasizes leaving a positive impact. “Use your career to do good in the world. The world can always use more goodness.”
To learn more about Carrie Cook’s work with EmpowHERment, please visit their website at www.empowHERment.com .