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Sines: ‘I think women can do anything they want, be anything they want’

Posted on Sunday, March 11, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Editor’s note: Donna Sines, executive director and founder of Community Vision, is the second female featured in this month’s Women Today profile series.
Community Vision is an organization focused on bringing local partners and businesses together to solve problems in Osceola County. Sines launched the small nonprofit out of her living room in 1995.
She shared her perspective as a baby boomer on the next generation of female leaders, their role in the workplace, unique challenges facing low-income women and how Community Vision programs are trying to help.
Osceola News Gazette: What challenges have you faced in your career that you hope future generations of women don’t have to face?
Donna Sines: My career goes back 30 years, so there’s been a lot of changes in that time.

Donna Sines

I started at the Chamber (of Commerce), and the boardroom has a lot more women in it now, which I think is good.
The way women feel about themselves has also changed. Thirty years ago I wasn’t as assertive as I am now. I think we just need to be more confident in ourselves, regardless of how old you are. You have a certain wealth of experiences, and each generation has a different set of experiences that gives them a very unique perspective. And I think that really needs to be shared.
This is one of the first times in history that we have so many different generations working together. It really makes sense for us to share where we’ve been and where our insights are in a non-threatening way.
When I was younger, I was afraid to speak out. Sometimes we make a statement in the form of a question instead of just making a statement because it feels easier and safer.
I think women today have a lot more opportunities. There were more traditional roles for women as a baby boomer. Now, I think women can do anything they want, be anything they want. Community Vision has programs where we’re putting women through as welders, construction workers; we’re placing women in all kinds of non-traditional roles. And they’re doing wonderfully.
I think that years ago, for a woman to say she was a welder, it just didn’t happen. Today, the trades are a good option for women that don’t have a lot of resources and a short amount of time to go to school. It works, and it’s a doorway that didn’t exist years ago.
ONG: Do you think women often bring skills to the workplace that aren’t as common with men?
Sines: I do think there are distinct differences between men and women, and I think that women are better at bringing people together and coming up with common ground.
We’ve seen it in the nonprofit world. Many nonprofits are headed by women. I think that’s because they can work with boards and clients and all that.
The government boards now also have much more diversity. There’s just as many women or more in those roles now, and that just wasn’t the case. When I was in high school – I graduated from Osceola High – there was one elected woman in the whole county. She was a school board member. Every other position was a man. It took over 25 years to get here. But I think everybody has a voice, everyone has a role to play in this community.
ONG: Many women in leadership roles say a major challenges is finding a good work-life balance, especially when they have children. As someone who launched this organization out of your living room, what struggles did you face achieving that balance, and what lessons did you learn along the way?
Sines: I still struggle with that. I’ve always been the kind of person who did whatever it took to get the job done. A lot of times it’s not just Monday through Friday, eight to five.
When I first started, the phone would ring at 10 p.m. and I would answer it, because that’s what it took to get a small little organization up and going. It was hard work.
But I still struggle with it, even now that I have grandchildren. My granddaughter’s birthday is today, and they live about an hour away. I have to make sure I’m there by six for dinner, and that’s more important to me than anything else right now.
So I think that as you get older, you start to see that maybe you’ve given too much, that you need to start grooming someone else to step into your shoes. And you need to trust them and give them more and more responsibility along the way. If you’re not doing that, you’re not doing your job.
ONG: Community Vision helps facilitate job training and placement for low-income Osceola County residents, and it even has a couple programs that are targeted almost exclusively to women. What are some challenges facing low-income women in our community?
Sines: I think the two biggest deficits in Osceola County are transportation and childcare. If you don’t have either of those things, if you don’t have anyone to watch your kids, how are you going to get to a job? How are you going to get to school?
It’s really tough. It would be nice if there was a solution for every problem preventing people from being successful. It isn’t fair.
If a low-income woman wanted to become a CNA and complete her training at TECO for example, she has to complete about eight different steps first. You have to get a TB test, a complete physical from a doctor, a background test, drug screening, get a set of scrubs, all of that.
You can imagine that even if you had a promise of daycare, if you had to get on a bus with your kids and go to each one of those stops, each of those steps, it would be impossible.
So through our Project Open program, we bring it all together in one place, and the community has come together to offer those services. The Health Department reads the TB tests, Florida Hospital donates them, Transition House offers the drug tests for free, and we provide the students with the first pair of scrubs for free. It all takes place during orientation so that they can get everything done in one place.
By opening doors like that and removing those kinds of obstacles, they can step through that door to success.