Geisha Williams was only 5 years old when her family was finally allowed to leave Cuba and move to the U.S. Now, 50 years later, Williams is the first Latina CEO to be included in the Fortune 500 list as the CEO of the Pacific Gas & Electric Company. As a woman in a male-dominated field, Williams has risen through the ranks with hard work and determination and spends her time traveling around the country from panel to panel to give young Latinas advice on how to make it big in their own careers.
Geisha Williams is the first Latina CEO on the Fortune 500 list and she doesn’t want to be the last.
— Voto Latino (@votolatino) September 22, 2017
“You always hear people talking about what it means to be the first,” Williams wrote for TIME Magazine. “But I think it’s important that we focus on making sure there are others. While I may be the first, I certainly don’t want to be the last. I would encourage young women to go for the tough jobs.”
The way Williams suggests women, particularly Latinas, rise in their industry is to just go for it by putting in the hard work.
CREDIT: @RandallMartine6 / Twitter
“The confidence you’re going to develop as a result of doing a good job in those difficult positions is the confidence that you’ll take with you to the next job and the one after that,” Williams wrote for TIME Magazine. “It’s like a muscle you develop where you start believing in yourself and your ability to do just about anything.”
And Williams knows what it means to put in the hard work.
CREDIT: @RandallMartine6 / Twitter
According to Fortune Magazine, Williams got involved with engineering because of a high school math teacher who encouraged her to follow her passion. One summer while studying engineering at the University of Miami, Williams saw an advertisement for an engineering job and she made a call and was hired for the job. The job happened to be a marketing service representative position for Florida Power & Light.
“I would get home at the end of the day and be all sweaty and have fiberglass in my hair, and my mom would ask, ‘Why are you a technician?'” Williams told Fortune Magazine. “But I loved it.”
It is also important to realize that your own work ethic will dictate what people think of you.
— Yadira Sanchez (@missyadi87) June 15, 2017
“I know that there were times when people felt that maybe I didn’t belong there. And they might say something to make me feel uncomfortable. But I didn’t let them bully me,” Williams wrote in TIME Magazine about her own path through the engineering industry. “I just took it in and decided to respond very professionally and respectfully. I just thought, I’m going to do what’s right, I’m going to serve my customers, I’m going to work harder, and I’m going to overcome any adversity. I think I developed a certain level of confidence that I could do anything.”
Williams wants her own immigrant experience to encourage other young Latinas and immigrants to follow their dreams.
— StacySim620 (@StacySim620) October 10, 2017
“I feel incredibly honored and really humbled that my story is resonating with so many people that are foreign-born, that are immigrants like me where English is their second language,” the PG&E CEO told Voice Of America News. “My message to them is, anything’s possible in this country.”
She is a firm believer the immigrants are America’s secret weapon and vitalize the country.
“More than just being receptive to new thinking, today’s business leaders actively encourage new ideas.”
— NYSE (@NYSE) October 10, 2017
During Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit 2017, Williams spoke about the importance of continuing to be a country that accepts immigrants as they make their way to the United States because of the importance of their presence to the U.S. economy. That same sentiment is extended to the recent debate about DACA and undocumented youths living in the U.S.
“I understand that there are national security concerns but we also must find a way of continuing to have immigration be the lifeblood of this country. Immigrants bring creativity, innovation, hard work, and perseverance,” Williams said at the conference. “Why in the world wouldn’t we want to continue to have that? So, I believe firmly that there’s a way and we’ve got to have that mindset of figuring it out. There’s got to be a way to make it happen.”
Most importantly, Williams wants all women to remember her motto, “If someone else can do it, why not you?”
— Girls Inc of Holyoke (@GirlsIncHolyoke) September 27, 2017