by Nori Gale
“I just love bossy women. I could be around them all day. To me, bossy is not a pejorative term at all. It means somebody’s passionate and engaged and ambitious and doesn’t mind leading.” — Amy Poehler
I can clearly remember the first time my daughter used the word “bossy” to describe someone. She came home from kindergarten one day and told me, Savannah, a girl in her class, was “bossy.” I’d met the girl and I got the sense that this term was being used as double-speak for smart and unafraid to speak her mind. (Of course this is anecdotal, but it does seem worth mentioning that Savannah went on to study medicine and is now in her second year of residency – not too shabby, what bossy can do for you.)
When I think about the women of WEX, I’d be willing to bet a lot of them were “bossy” girls in kindergarten. It’s a cultural thing within our walls. Maybe we are a self-selecting group, or maybe we’ve learned to be more assertive through each other, and through Melissa Smith’s leadership. Working at WEX makes it abundantly clear—when you get enough bossy women in a room, look out, boys, we’ve got something to say and a whole lot of action to take.
Celebrating Women’s History Month at WEX: Fabulous Female WEXers
Congress initiated Women’s History Week in 1981 and it was first celebrated the following year. In 1987, President Reagan issued Presidential Proclamation 5619 proclaiming March was designated Women’s History Month. Over the course of the month, we have the opportunity to think about and pay homage to the great women all around us. Here at WEX, we have a lot of fabulous women to be thankful for and for the next few weeks we’re going to share a few stories of who they are with you.
Melissa Dudley: Queen of WEX Philanthropy
Melissa Dudley is one of WEX’s many passionate women. She’s been with WEX for almost six years and manages WEX’s philanthropic giving and community engagement from our Portland office. Dudley works with local non-profits who desire funds, time and talent from WEX; and serves as a conduit between these organizations and WEX. Dudley says, “This can include dollars contributed to a particular initiative and/or engaging volunteers. We are also working to globalize our philanthropy and community processes, so part of my role is dedicated to managing this work outside of Maine as needed and also includes management of our national community efforts such as our United Way campaign and relationship.”
Learning How to Say “No” With Grace
In her job, Dudley has to say “no” a lot. There are many organizations looking for help and as with every corporation, WEX is generous but by necessity can’t support every single cause. Over the years, Dudley has developed expertise in selecting the most worthy causes that also relate to WEX’s mission. As she tells it, “I’ve had so much practice saying no in this job! But, at first, it was definitely hard. I just wasn’t used to saying no a lot. Some of that comes from being a woman, and what society has set up, and some of that is me – I personally don’t like disappointing people. As WEX grows, we’re asked for more and more from our communities, and sometimes, we have to say no. In the community space, we have to say no in a way that still makes the person inquiring feel heard and valued, and that can be really hard. Saying “no” without making someone feel slighted is an art form.”
Championing Causes for WEX
In her work at WEX, Dudley also manages our internal employee disaster-relief program, the WEX Compassion Fund and the entity in which it resides, the WEX Cares Foundation, which is a separate 501c3 organization.
Dudley also co-chairs our Women@WEX Employee Resource Group along with her colleague, Claire Clonan. Dudley’s work with Women@WEX is particularly gratifying to her, “I feel like Women@WEX creates the opportunities to have the conversations that we all need and want to have as professional women. It gives us the space to address tough issues and create community. Being involved with this employee resource group has taught me a lot. I’ve learned so much from all of the women who attend and speak. Women@WEX has given me a stronger voice!”
Passion for Work and for Play
When asked what makes her look forward to going to work in the morning, Dudley replied with genuine enthusiasm, “Everything! I am so fortunate to have a job that I truly love. The mission-focused nature of my work, the wonderful people that I work with, and the ability to have an impact every day makes my work at WEX challenging and rewarding.”
Outside of work, Dudley enjoys staying active. Dudley’s experience as a gymnast has made her a lifelong athlete. “I’ve retained a love for working out and rely on regular gym time to help keep me sane.” She also finds joy in reading and spending time with her husband, a fellow WEXer, and her daughter, who is five. Of her daughter, she says, “It’s really fun to experience all the kid things through her again. Endless games of Candyland!”
Women Inspired by Their Fathers
In my conversations with WEXers for Women’s History Month, I was floored by the number of women who spoke about their fathers as the biggest inspiration in their lives, and Dudley is one of them. She describes her feelings about her father this way: “I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer when I was 12, and he managed to raise my sister and myself with as much normalcy as possible during an incredibly trying period of several years as she fought the disease and afterward. The fact that he managed to excel at work, care for my mother and give us such a normal childhood is something that I am in absolute awe of now as a parent. He inspires me to remember to cherish every moment that you have been given. It’s so important, even during the tough times.”
Words of Wisdom to Her Younger Self
When Dudley thinks back on her life and her younger self she reflects that if she could have a conversation with her 18-year-old self, she’d offer the following: “Trust yourself. When I was younger, I didn’t trust my inner voice to help guide me with decisions. Now that I’m a little bit older, I realize the importance of trusting your gut, both in your personal life and your professional life. You often know the right answer, you just have to believe that you do know.”
What About That Word, “Bossy”
As far as her proclivity for “bossiness,” Dudley is as insightful as ever: “When I was younger, “bossy” definitely did have a negative connotation, but in hindsight, it often had nothing to do with the person to whom it was being applied, rather it was a reflection of how our society expects girls to behave.” Amy Poehler’s reclamation of the term fits right in with Dudley’s analysis. Bossiness is just another word for assertiveness.
For Dudley personally, assertiveness does not come naturally, as she puts it: “It’s not always been hardwired into me, and being assertive in all aspects in my life is something that I’ve really had to consciously practice. It’s really easy to sacrifice your feelings or opinions to keep things level and cordial.” As women, we are expected to maintain that cordiality above all else, in order to avoid appearing aggressive, even when it’s not to our benefit or to the benefit of our work. The expectation that we maintain a veneer of cordiality can make our work trickier as women, and it is a pressure that can, at times, intrude in our efforts to express our ideas, to make bold creative choices, and to innovate. At WEX, we are continuing to learn how to navigate these concerns.
It’s people like Melissa Dudley who make working at WEX truly special. Thank you, Melissa, for being a Fabulous Female WEXer!
Rebecca Blaesing Has Got it Going On Both Inside and Outside of WEX
No matter who you talk to, Rebecca Blaesing is one of those unique people who get this review: “She’s the greatest!” She is a special WEXer who works in two offices, toggling her time between our South Portland office in Marketing and Communications and at our HQ in Portland with the Shell Fleet Marketing Team. She’s a seven-year veteran of the company and serves us well as a talented art director and graphic designer.
Rebecca says this of working at WEX: “I am so fortunate to work with two groups of clutch teammates. Both the MarCom team and the Shell Fleet Marketing team are comprised of people who work hard, collaborate well, support each other — and are just all-around great people to spend time with. In fact, I can say the same about the Fleet Marketing team as a whole, and WEX as an organization. I’m also very proud of the philanthropic work and outreach that we do as a company, and participating in that is a big plus for me.”
Keeping Busy With Family and Friends
In her free time, Rebecca is busy! She has two kids (George, 18 and Fritz, 16) who she says are her greatest source of happiness, “Spending time with them is priceless.”
Amongst her hobbies/interests outside of work, Rebecca joined forces with a few friends in her hometown of Cumberland, Maine to co-found an annual event called BarnSwallow. It’s a gathering of around 40 people in a classic Maine barn who spend the evening in the creative and entertaining pursuits of storytelling and music-making while also enjoying a big feast. Rebecca also serves as MC of the event which is a job she relishes. Of BarnSwallow, Rebecca says “The most rewarding part of organizing BarnSwallow events is the community-building aspect, and seeing people form connections during this shared experience.
Projects Outside of WEX
Rebecca recently made the news locally here in Maine for a design project she did on her own, separate from her work at WEX. If you aren’t familiar with the term, Emojis are the small icons and pictures we use to express ourselves via text and online, providing us with some extra attitude and spirit when we’re communicating with friends and family. Rebecca saw an opportunity in the emoji catalog where she felt some demographics were not being well-represented. She decided to take action and create artwork that would fill the need she’d discovered. She took her idea all the way from a speck of a notion to a completely new and approved emoji for all of us to use: a piñata emoji. Her work on the piñata emoji gave Rebecca’s work as a designer deeper meaning and fulfillment, and she says of this project that it “made me happy, since it is a small way to support diversity and representation in a dynamic global visual language.”
A True Hero Who Did a Lot of Good in the World
Rebecca shared that an important role model in her life was her friend, an epidemiologist and public health/human rights advocate and activist, Dr. Julie Stachowiak: “Among many other achievements, she co-founded AIDS InfoShare Russia in 1993 and Xenex Disinfection Systems in 2008 (yes, the germ-zapping robots!). I miss her tenacity and fierce dedication to improving the lives of people, regardless of their social position, and I hang onto the fact that all the work she did is having ongoing positive effects and will always inspire me to get involved in causes I believe in, anyway I can. It all matters.”
Words of Wisdom to Her Younger Self
When Rebecca thinks of the advice she would give her younger self if she could, she’d say, “Don’t worry — your meandering path will lead you to some wonderful places!”
What Does “Bossy” Mean to You?
When asked about what “bossy” means to her, Rebecca had some things to say! “The current usage of the word “bossy” raises my hackles a bit — the connotation is of a woman exerting authority where it isn’t warranted. If “bossy” can evolve to describe an outspoken woman who is inspired by and engaged in her work and wants to raise other people up, and generally carries herself “Like a Boss,” then I’m all for it!”
As a kid, Rebecca was the classic middle child. She was independent and pursued creative projects and probably would not have been characterized as “bossy.” As she describes it, “It took a while, but I grew into a person who enjoyed being a leader, exerting authority, sharing opinions and expertise, upholding high standards, and collaborating with a wide range of talented people. I have definitely recognized a need to strike a balance between being direct and being “likable,” but being a conscientious communicator means that one doesn’t have to sacrifice the other. So yes — I aspire to embody the new definition of “bossy.” (Thanks, Amy Poehler. I think you’re great!)”
Rebecca captures the spirit of women at WEX: being likable and being assertive are not mutually exclusive. Thank you, Rebecca, and thank you, Amy Poehler!
Join WEX and Be a Part of It
If you’re interested in working for a growing and global organization that puts employees first and employs some bossy women who are passionate about what they do, please visit WEX’s career page.