February 20, 2019
Maria Robinson has built her career in the health insurance and pharmacy benefit management industry. As a Women United core team member, Maria is a leader here at United Way and in her community. In honor of Black History Month, we asked her to reflect on the role models in her life and the importance of Black leadership in philanthropy.
Who are some of the Black role models who have been important to you throughout your career?
While I admire so many trailblazers, I have to say for me my role models were a little closer to home. One person in particular was my cousin Bernadette. She was a beautiful soul who, in my selfish opinion, left us way too soon at the age of 40. She represented a real example of beauty and grace. Her voice was soft, but the work she did in the community spoke volumes. There was nothing she wouldn’t do for you. While she was successful in her career the personal qualities about her were equally if not more important to me. She was extremely loving, compassionate and kind. That, to me, is a winning combination I’ll take any day. She is a great example of how I would like to live my life.
How long have you been involved with Women United and why do you choose to invest your time and influence in this way?
I have been involved with Women United since the Grand Rapids chapter began in 2018. I was on board from the moment I heard about it because of what it represents. The mission of Women United, loosely stated, is to empower women and young girls of color so they can believe in themselves and blossom into the women they were destined to be. I was fortunate to have someone in my life that believed in me, challenged, and helped me. Everyone should have that and, if I can play a part in making that happen for anyone, I would be extremely satisfied and proud.
What program, agency, or issue area funded by United Way is most important to you?
You know, when the Women United core team came together to discuss the agencies funded by United Way it was extremely difficult to narrow down which area we wanted to get behind because they are all very important.
United Way believes in the community and is partnering with many agencies to push for a stronger more vibrant community. From housing and homelessness to education and financial security, they are there and the work they do, by and with partnering agencies, is impressive. The women of Women United understand we have to start somewhere, and so as we meet to discuss fundraising efforts and events we always keep in mind that our focus will be to help women and young girls of color in some way, shape or form. The work is happening and I’m excited to be a part of it.
Why is Black leadership in philanthropy important?
Our blessings are not so much for us as they are for others. It is important to give what we can to help bring one another up. We all know how important and impactful true leaders can be to businesses, individuals, and communities. Leadership comes in many forms and it’s vitally important that our youth understand that it’s something attainable and not a fairy tale. Having leaders in the community that look like you who are giving their time, talent, compassion and other God-given gifts allows our youth to see and believe that they can one day be a leader too.