Pamela Alexander is Director of Community Development for Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company. Since it was founded, Ford Fund has invested nearly $2.0 billion in nonprofit programs and initiatives that empower people, increase social mobility and build communities.
In this position, Ms. Alexander is responsible for leading Ford Fund’s community engagement and investment with key nonprofit organizations throughout the U.S. With a broad portfolio of programs and partners, she implements programs that provide access and opportunities to help make people’s lives better. Signature programs developed under the leadership of Ms. Alexander include the nationally recognized teen driving program, Driving Skills for life, Freedom’s Sisters which celebrated the women of the civil rights movement, HerImpact, a program that provides grants to emerging female social entrepreneurs, the Men of Courage initiative which promotes positive narrative and recognizes the accomplishments of African-American Men and Ford 1st Gen, an innovative educational initiative aimed at increasing the graduation rates of first-generation college students.
Q. What obstacles have you had to overcome to achieve success?
As an African-American woman, there have of course been obstacles along the way. First and foremost I had to make sure that I was defining success by my own priorities and goals and not those of others. Not allowing others to erase or marginalize my voice or contributions has also been a key to success. Being patient with myself and flexible with my plan for my life was also critical. Contrary to popular belief, you CAN have it all — just maybe not all at the same time. When my kids were young I made a life choice to slow down my career so I could spend time with them and I have never regretted it. Life is about tradeoffs.
Q. Just like success, people define and measure power differently. Some define it by dollar amount, while others measure it on a greater, more personal and internal level. What does Power mean to you?
Power to me has nothing to do with money or material possessions. Power is the ability to control your destiny and to help those around you improve theirs. It is a trait of strong leadership not a result of a position or a title. Power comes with responsibility and obligation.
Q. Long after you retire, what would you like your legacy to be?
I would like for my professional legacy to be that people are living better lives because of opportunities and access that I helped to create. I want kids who didn’t believe in themselves or their ability to achieve their dreams to be living their best life. I want girls and women to know that they are capable of succeeding in whatever they do and to know that hearing a “no” or “not now” in a career situation is not a reflection of their true potential. I want parents and grandparents and others to have access to the services they need. I want those who have fought for justice and equality to be recognized and appreciated. I want to know there is a path behind me to help guide the next generation to succeed in my field. I want to have made a positive difference in communities throughout this country.