Attorney & Small Business Owner (Jelks Law)
University of Tennessee – Chattanooga, University of Memphis School of Law
What is your favorite aspect of being a leader?
The satisfaction that comes along with helping others solve problems that may be too complicated for them to handle. I am a problem-solver by nature (and profession). As a leader, I’m given the privilege of solving some pretty complex issues for other people, businesses, and nonprofits.
What advice do you have for women aspiring to be leaders in their field?
Surround yourself with good people. People that are smarter than you and that have – on some level – done what you desire to accomplish. You have to eliminate the naysayers from your life and not allow anyone to place limits on what you can or cannot do. You absolutely must believe in yourself. And, of course, put on your heels and do the hard work.
Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
There are several, but if I have to pick one, I’ll go with Janice Newman. She was my 10th grade English teacher. Ms. Newman was the first person who ever talked to me about going to college. Neither of my parents graduated from high school, so I always planned on achieving that milestone, but I had honestly not given much thought to going to college. On top of that, I was a teenage mother. Ms. Newman spoke life into me at a very crucial time and made me realize how smart and capable I really was. I went on to graduate high school as the valedictorian (with a 3-year-old child) and proceed to college with a full scholarship. I am proud to call Ms. Newman a friend even to this day.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing female leaders today?
Public perception. There are still a great number of people in society who place limits on what women are capable of doing. I cannot even begin to calculate how many times I have been asked if I was the secretary or the paralegal of my firm as opposed to the attorney or the actual owner.
Approximately how many years have you been involved with CWLI?
I’m starting my second year.
With what other community organizations/activities are you involved?
I serve on the advisory board for The MOMentum Network, which focuses on providing the village needed for single mothers to graduate with a four-year college degree. I am also on the advisory board for the Chamber of Commerce’s Diversity and Inclusion initiative.
What initiatives are you excited to tackle with CWLI?
The leadership gap. We absolutely must cultivate more female leaders who go on to be policymakers and decision makers in government.
What changes do you hope to see in the organization as it grows?
I am looking forward to CWLI’s continued and intentional encouragement of women from all backgrounds when it comes to developing leadership skills that will benefit areas of our community which have been underrepresented at a number of tables.
What strides do you think members can take to make more of a difference in women’s leadership issues in the local community?
Mentorship, mentorship, mentorship. So many women are fighting to climb the corporate ladder or excel as entrepreneurs and few of them have access to other women who have successfully completed such tasks. I strongly believe that with great reward comes great responsibility – we must reach back down, whether we have reached the ultimate level of success or are still in progress, and help lift other women up.
How would you best describe the benefit found in joining this organization?
I love how the women of CWLI are so intentional when it comes to working with one another both inside the organization and outside in their respective professional lives.