How This HR Technology Executive Became a Champion for Disadvantaged Teens Through Her Disruptive Actions

Brenda Reid left one business to channel her inner entrepreneur and lead the global HR technology landscape at PwC.
How This HR Technology Executive Became a Champion for Disadvantaged Teens Through Her Disruptive Actions
Image credit: Brenda Reid

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Leadership Futurist and Gender Equity Advocate
7 min read
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Brenda Reid is someone who provides us with a profile of a disrupter working inside a corporate technology-intensive company, in pursuit of a culture of business transformation, where talent can thrive. The entire operation is no easy task, since leading change from a cost center can be difficult. A kind of "Wonder Woman Next Door," Reid shows us that driving true transformation from a cost center is not only possible but necessary.

It’s been a year since Disrupters introduced you. What have you been up to since the book hit the shelves?

As Disrupters hit the shelves, I had just lost my dad and found myself in a well of physical and emotional pain. I took some time off and used it to really decide where and how I needed to disrupt my own life, challenging myself to really dig deep. This led to a job change, becoming more involved in philanthropic efforts, and several lifestyle changes for me -- all of which I’m happy to say have made a tremendous impact on my inner and outward joy for everything I’m doing!

Related: Catching up With Supply Chain Expert and Disrupter Lisa Morales-Hellebo

I am so sorry for the loss of your father. It’s a sad coincidence that you, our fellow disrupter Tanya Odom and I all lost our dads during a similar time period. It seems notable that such a startling disruption can lead toward positive life changes. So, as you continue down your own path of personal disruption, tell us more about how the disruption has manifested over the last year.

After nearly a decade as a volunteer and financial supporter of Hope House of Colorado, I accepted a position on their board of directors. Lisa Steven, executive director of Hope House, and her team are changing lives every day, having served over 227 teen moms and 340 children, in 2018. These girls are working their way out of cycles of abuse and poverty and into self-sufficiency through hard work and determination in our parenting, financial independence, GED and college and career programs. The work the Hope House staff does is literally changing lives every day, and I am proud to be a part of it.  We are building a new resource center where we will double and triple our reach and I’m working with Lisa to design the board of the future, ensuring we are recruiting the right professionals for our board to help fuel our impact.

Related: How This Luxury Sleepwear Business Found Its Footing Amid a Revolution

I was awestruck and inspired by the passion, grit and determination at Hope House. How are you integrating your disruptions at Hope House with your work in the business world?

I am passionate about disrupting and elevating women in the workplace. My work in HR Technology continues in my new position at PwC, where diversity is not only a focus for the organization but is demonstrated every day in how we recruit, retain and develop our workforce. As a former teen mom myself, I use my platform for Hope House to help these amazing young ladies see just how far they can take their lives once they are self-sufficient. I want them to see that they have a bright and amazing future ahead of them.

Your answer makes me so happy because one of the most common questions and comments I get from people who see my keynote is about women who purposely sabotage other women. With examples like yours, we have the opportunity and responsibility to change that conversation to show women supporting and lifting other women as they learn and rise. Why did you start your disruption to elevate women where you did?

Honestly, this round of disruption for me started with reading your book, Patti. It helped me see where I needed additional disruption in all areas of my own life. I am continuing my work to disrupt how HR tech can disrupt culture to create a truly inclusive and high performing, bias-aware workforce.

It is so incredibly hard to drive disruption when you are a cost center [business]. Think about what the term “cost center” means: an expense that takes away versus an investment that contributes needed impact. In my day job, we are changing that definition as we work closely with our incredible stakeholders across the business to demonstrate real value.

My voice at Hope House will continue to help disrupt a world stacked against these amazing young women looking to break the cycle of poverty and build a life for their children. To many, government support for these incredible young women may also be deemed to be “at a cost” to the rest of the community. That is simply not so. We all want to make an impact, and it’s my responsibility to do my part to invest in the future of these young female-led families and to engage others to do the same.

I know you are nowhere close to finished with the impacts you want to make on the world: What’s next for you?

I remember you telling me that no one gets to the finish line alone, especially those of us called to lead disruptive change. I took the advice from Disrupters and found my tribe! I joined the inaugural launch of Tiffany Dufu’s The Cru and have an amazing group of women in the Denver area who are supporting each other to achieve our personal and professional goals. 

I spent a lot of time in 2018 working on owning my own power; the year concluded with a full circle moment: a new hire on my team divulged she had been following my career for three years and felt so connected to my work in using technology to detect unconscious bias that she was determined to work for me. It was a surreal and truly awe-inspiring moment to know that I’d resonated so deeply with someone, a complete stranger, that they’d put their career in a path with mine.  

Related: How You Can Be Part of the 30 Percent of Disrupters Who Find True Success

Disrupters: Success Strategies From Women Who Break The Mold has been a bestseller for Entrepreneur Press since the day it launched in January 2018.  In 2019, I will catch up with many of the disrupters from the book to find out what’s happened since we last caught up and how they are continuing to redefine what success looks like and how it can be achieved.

Rather than telling women that they need to lean in more in order to achieve someone else’s definition of success, the women profiled in Disrupters: Success Strategies From Women Who Break The Mold help us see why women do not need to be fixed and why men do not need to be blamed and shamed in order to achieve gender equity in the workplace. Rather, true success for both genders requires a deep understanding of the embedded biases inherent in a system designed for one population to have all the power and all the glory. So much so that in order for someone to succeed, someone must fail. Disrupters know this is a flawed and dangerous status quo, one that stunts innovation and leaves trillions of dollars on the table every year.

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