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21 Women Making An Impact: Fowzia Adde, Executive Director, Immigrant Development Center

Fowzi Adde
  • United Way Investor
  • United Way Community Partner

What is one lesson you have learned? How did you learn it?

One lesson I have learned from the work I have done is that you should never be too afraid or too shy to ask a question.

If I don’t understand something, I always ask for explanations, I don’t shy away from talking about uncomfortable or difficult topics. I am not just going to walk away with little knowledge about whatever I am going to be involved in. Being a refugee woman who stayed in a refugee camp for 7 years taught me many things including this.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

I came to the United States in 1997, I’m originally from Somalia. When I came here, I originally started doing what I needed to do to work in the medical field because that is what I did back in Africa. However, I had a horrible accident in 1999 that led to the the nearly complete reconstruction of leg. Because of this, I was no longer able to work the long hours on my feet that were required in the medical field. This facilitated a career change.

Because of my past experiences as a Refugee woman, I started Immigrant Development Center to help the New Americans increase the capacity of their business and economic skills and ultimately lead them to economic self-sufficiency. I believe that everyone should overcome poverty and become self-sufficient. I have struggled a lot, so I had decided that no one should struggle as I did. More info about her organization: idcfm.org.

What do you think is the biggest issue/challenge/ priority for women in the workplace?

Women are simply, still, not taken as seriously as their male counterparts A lot of times men have an easier time selling an idea, and for a woman it is not so easy. This actually makes me more motivated rather than less motivated.

Being a woman of color makes it even more difficult in the workplace sometimes. As a woman of color, I have to face a unique set of challenges due to people’s beliefs, attitudes, and experiences. A lot of time I feel dismissed or ignored and it’s difficult for me to build trust with my clients, just because I am a woman of color.

From your perspective, how is United Way impacting our business community?

United Way opened a new door for us, which is advocating and supporting the BIPOC (black, Indigenous and people of color) community and working with other funders as well. They have truly helped us move forward.

What is one piece of insight you wish our community knew about New Americans in our community?

One thing our community has to understand about New Americans is that they have unique qualities and differences such as their language, religion, culture, etc. Expecting the same from the New Americans as the rest of the community makes it difficult for them to socialize and can cause businesses to miss out on an incredible pool of talent.

What do you think?

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Written by Brady Drake

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