Business

Be bold, be brave: Triangle woman wants little girls to break glass ceiling

Posted December 5, 2017 2:37 p.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 1:40 p.m. EDT

— While Kacie Fore describes herself as a planner, she admits that sometimes her best opportunities were never part of the plan.

Born at Fort Bragg, Fore was the child of two military parents and shuttled between Europe and Fayetteville while growing up.

After earning a degree in computer information systems from St. Augustine's University in Raleigh, she worked in information technology at what was then known as Progress Energy while also studying for a Master’s degree in business administration from Meredith College.

“I was really happy in the IT space, but I didn’t know much about the company because I was heads down, coding,” Fore said.

After learning about community relations through a mentor, she wanted to make a leap to that discipline, but was stymied by the lack of available jobs. A pregnancy added to her doubts, she says.

“I was six months pregnant with twins, and a job opened up,” Fore said. “I thought ‘Who is going to hire me right now?’ But it ended up working out, and the position was put on hold while I was put on maternity leave,”

Fore now works as a community relations manager for Duke Energy, something she describes as her “dream job.” She oversees community relations, philanthropic work and company programs in 46 counties in eastern North Carolina.

The parent of 2-year-old twin boys, Fore said life can be chaotic, but a good support system and organization help her manage motherhood and life as a female professional.

She said while things have improved, there is still room for companies to improve on diversifying leadership roles and opening opportunities to women.

“If you can be bold and have that diverse group, you get so much more. If everybody thinks like you, you have an ‘Amen corner’ versus people challenging and playing devil’s advocate and bringing in a different perspective,’” she said.

“Women have so much to offer. And companies need that diversity.”

WRAL sat down with Fore to discuss her career, diversity in the workplace and the current climate of sexual misconduct.

This conversation with Fore was edited for clarity:

WRAL: When you were applying for your first job, did you think about how the company supported women in the workforce?

KF: Shame on me for not thinking about it, but at the time I just wanted a job that I liked. But I did jump into building my own network, relationships and mentorships. Then I found those women who guided me through how things work in the corporate world.

You want a mentor who is going to tell you how they messed up so you can learn from it. And mentors outside your company are just as important as those within your company.

WRAL: What would you say to your younger self launching your career?

KF: First of all, I hope that she would listen to me. I’m a planner, so I have a five-year plan that I update every five years. It has compartments -- education, family, work, religion, financial. But very rarely does it happen how I plan, and sometimes it’s for the better. It’s okay to have a plan, but living and dying by it is not helpful. If a new opportunity comes, jump on it.

So I would tell myself to chill out a little bit, and be okay with where change takes me.

WRAL: Have you ever felt discriminated against in the workplace as a woman?

KF: I started in IT as a 21-year-old woman of color in a male-dominated industry. The age gap on the team was more than 20 years. So I was a lot different than everyone else. I wouldn’t use the word discrimination, but the inclusion piece was tough for a while. When everyone was going out to lunch, I wasn’t always invited.

For a while, I worked so hard to prove that acceptance, but no matter how hard I worked, I was still different. It’s about being comfortable in your own skin. I had to accept that and appreciate that I have a unique perspective. When I had something to say, I needed to say it.

WRAL: How did your plans for motherhood fit into your career?

KF: Several factors played into when I wanted to have kids. First, I wanted to be married, and you don’t know when that’s going to happen. And there were some things I wanted to do before I had children. Career was factored in, but I think building a strong foundation in my marriage was even more of a focus. Children are hard work, and sometimes people need those fun times to lean on when things get tough.

As far as a partner, you need to support them in their goals and dreams, and they need to support you. And you need to constantly be re-evaluating where you are both at because the different ladders you are each climbing could look different. It’s about support and communication.

WRAL: How can women balance being liked at work while not losing their voice or strength in decisions?

KF: I think whether people are willing to accept it or not, women are bred to please and to apologize. There’s this expectation of being polite and keeping the peace. Sometimes you want to say something, but you’re afraid of coming across as too assertive or emotional, where a man doesn’t have to deal with that.

It’s really hard, but I have found if I try to be my authentic self and not try to conform to any expectation, it helps. Always say what you need to say because regret is the worst feeling.

Men are able to say things all time, and if someone disagrees with it, they go to lunch and then it’s fine. But unfortunately, it’s more complicated for women.

Take that seat at the table and speak up. You're going to regret it if you don’t.

WRAL: You earned your MBA. How important is education for women launching their careers?

KF: Education means a lot of things. There’s formal education, but that’s not the only way to learn. I think before you jump back in, you have to know what you want to do. Maybe not exactly, but you don’t want to go 100 miles in the wrong direction. And you don’t want to go into debt if it’s not something you’ve thought through.

Timing and priorities are going to be different for everyone. But you should always be a lifelong learner, whatever that means for you. The world is constantly changing, and you’ll be left behind if you’re not learning.

WRAL: You mentioned your boys are 2 years old. What do you hope for the girls of their generation?

KF: With this current climate of sexual misconduct, I hope that’s something they never have to deal with. It’s something women have dealt with for a long time and worked around, but I hope they can just focus on what they’re passionate about.

I hope that they aren't scared to work in fields that aren't female-dominated. I want them to be brave because there has to be glass ceiling breakers.

I hope that by the time the little girls, who are my sons’ ages, are in the workplace, the ceilings will be broken. But if not, I hope they are bold enough to break them.