Empowering Leadership: Yvette Hansen’s Journey from Chicago to the Prospanica Stage

A Journey of discovery, growth

Talent Acquisition Director Yvette Hansen shares her story on becoming a leader

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Yvette Hansen, director of Talent Acquisition and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Baylor Scott & White Health, had the honor of being a panelist at Prospanica’s Texas Leadership, Education and Diversity 2023 conference. Yvette speaks about her experience growing up Hispanic in Chicago and her career journey in the essay below.

If you came up to me as a little girl and you said to me that I could become a leader at my organization, that I would be mentoring ambitious women and men and that I would be speaking about creating a growing Hispanic workforce, I’m not so sure I would have believed you.

Because where I came from, people who looked like me don’t have the life that I have. When I entered the workforce, I didn’t see people who looked like me.

For the first time ever, people who look like me are the majority in Texas. I’m sure a lot of you heard that over the summer. Latinos make up the largest share of the Texas population at 40.2 percent.

But, only 70 percent of Hispanic adults have at least their high school diploma compared to 95 percent of white adults. There are still disparities in our workforce. But that disparity doesn’t have to be our future.

Our obstacles do not determine our lives. That’s what we have to realize and that’s what we have to keep at the back of our minds as we navigate through our careers and lives.

We are more than the situation presented at face value to us.

FINDING MY SPARK

I wanted to be a lawyer when I grew up.

What did my mom think of that? Well, I remember one day, she bought us these little red typewriter toys.

She bought it for us so that we could someday be secretaries, because that was as high as she could aspire for us. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there was something in me that wanted more.

There were little sparks inside of me, pushing me to do better than the circumstances in front of me.

One of the first sparks I could feel was after I got pregnant with my son during my senior year of high school. It never dawned on me that the decisions I was making were, in fact, going to affect my ability to graduate.

I moved out of my mom’s house and went on food stamps. Back then, everyone could tell you were on food stamps. One day when I was pregnant, I used them to buy groceries, and someone happened to look at me weird.

It made me feel so less than.

I remember thinking, this isn’t what I want. What kind of life am I going to give this kid? I didn’t want my son to pay for my decisions. I wanted him to look back and say that he’s proud of his mom.

I found out what it took to get my high school diploma. I had a purpose.

And all it took was that judgmental look from a stranger to make me realize that I wanted a better future for my son and me.

I felt that spark again with my now husband. Being with my husband made me realize that I wanted to match his success.

Right after we started dating, he got promoted. And, I thought that was the coolest thing ever! I was so proud of him.

He showed me that I could achieve more. He believed I was capable of more.
Surround yourself with people who will create that spark in you.

Surround yourself with people who you want to be better for. And build each other up to build a community of your own support system.

That is how we build a new generation of Hispanic leaders.​​​​​​​

FINDING MENTORS

How do you find the people who will build you up and help you see past your own knowledge?

Keep your eyes open.

It sounds so simple, but sometimes, we can’t see what’s in front of us.

For me, I found my mentors organically through work. One of my mentors I reported to. She was one of the toughest people to work for, but boy she made me strong.

At that time, you didn’t need a degree to be a director at our company, but to get promoted beyond that without a bachelor’s degree was nearly impossible. She gave me the example of a similar woman at our company who was a director and didn’t have a bachelor’s degree. But there was a ceiling again. No one beyond that position had risen without a bachelor’s degree.

She laid out that path for me as an example and said, “I know you want a lot for yourself. So, I’m telling you, you’re going to need to get your degree.”

That week, I enrolled in school.

Of course, it wasn’t easy. As an adult, you don’t just go back to school.

At that time, I juggled school with my full-time job and young children. I took every opportunity of spare time to prioritize my bachelor’s degree.

I took that mindset with me when I met another mentor in the DEI space. I met her when she needed volunteers to man the booth at the National Society of Hispanic MBAs in Chicago. I didn’t have my MBA, but I’m Hispanic!

She had the passion and vision and drive that you just can’t find in everyone. It made me realize, I can immerse myself in the DEI world and really understand it, because she’s going to help me get there.

From then on, anytime she needed a volunteer or needed a collaborator, I said yes. Every moment was an opportunity to learn.

I see it now in my own team at Baylor Scott & White. Like I said, I work with a lot of ambitious women and men, and as their leader I want to foster that spark in them to see beyond what they know and help them see what they can achieve.

They keep their eyes open. I keep my eyes open.

Don’t let a fear of rejection or fear of being shut down be what stops you. If you fear failure, you will never have those great wins of learning. Fail big to learn big.

Your voice matters. And your unique perspective is valuable.

FINDING YOUR OWN WAY

Not everyone thinks like you do, with your experiences, with your skills.

I’ll give you an example from being in athletic competitions.

I got into them when I was going through a little midlife crisis. I was 39, I’d had three kids, and I just kept thinking, “Is this it? Every night, am I just going to sit at home and watch TV.”

Luckily that year I was watching TV, because the Spartan competition had a TV show on NBC, and what got me was that there were 40-something-year-olds competing and beating college athletes. I thought if they could do it, I could do it. And I did! Spark ignited. I’ve competed in 100 races since 2016.

Anyway, there’s an obstacle that’s getting over a 6-foot wall. For the life of me, I couldn’t get over that wall, and it’s the shortest wall of the race.

I started doubting if I was capable and started thinking, “Well, if I can’t get over that wall, I might as well not do this.”

But my desire to get over that wall preceded any thought that I had that I couldn’t do it.

Looking back it, the reason I couldn’t get over the wall, was because I was trying to get over it the same way everyone else was trying to get over it. And because I trained primarily with guys, I only saw it being done their way.

They would run at it and hurl themselves over, and that’s exactly how I was doing it. Except, I wasn’t going over.

Then I realized, I could scale the wall, instead, by crawling up the wall sideways. Once I hooked my foot over, I could get over.

I realized, I could do it. I just have to do it my way. I had to realize that getting over an obstacle does not mean doing it the same way everyone else is doing it. I have to find my own way.

If you’re nervous, make sure you have the data to back up your viewpoint.

Practice compassion and help others understand through quantitative and qualitative data that your viewpoint is undeniable.

They will begin to understand your perspective. And that’s when you will start to see change happen.

So, do your research, and back up your opinion with hard data, and there’s no stopping you.

Stand by your work and understand that not everyone is going to like it, and don’t apologize for it.

Remember, keep your eyes open. Open to new opportunities, open to people who will help you grow, and open to purposes that spark something inside of you that will make you want to make a positive impact in our communities.

Don’t bury that spark. Don’t deny it. Once you feel that fire ignited within you, don’t look back.

Read more about our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging efforts.

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