By, Megan LaCreta & Kelly Cwik, Asst. Features Editor & Asst. A&E Editor
The Women in Business club hosted an event titled “How To Lead” with Natasha Hemmings, CEO of the Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey, last Wednesday. Junior marketing and international business major and Women In Business event coordinator Brenna McNamara moderated.
Hemmings is the first Black woman to lead the council in its history. Outside of her work with Girl Scouts, Hemmings is also an entrepreneur, owning her own wedding and event planning company, and has been recognized as one of the top 25 entrepreneurs in New Jersey, as well as landing on the ROI-NJ 2020 Influencers: People of Color list.
Hemmings explained that her path to success in the Girl Scouts organization often comes as a surprise to people.
“Never did I think that I would be a Girl Scout CEO, not because I didn’t think I could do it but because I wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up,” Hemmings said. “So I did not have the benefit of having a team of girls and role models who were my leaders, guiding me through leadership activities.”
Hemmings started out working in New York in news production before moving into sales. Eventually she found herself back in New Jersey working for Kodak. It was one of her interns at Kodak that encouraged her to look into Girl Scouts.
“[My intern told me] ‘The thing that I’ve learned about you over the last couple of months are that you value … honesty and friendship, and service to others. Those are the things that my Girl Scout leader taught me when I was a Girl Scout, and you are like the carbon copy of what my leaders taught me,’” Hemmings said.
For the past 21 years, Hemmings has stuck with Girl Scouts. She has been involved in everything from recruiting group leaders to ad campaigns. Today she is the CEO of the 10 million dollar Heart of New Jersey organization, which over- sees 11 thousand future female leaders.
Recently, the pandemic has added an extra layer of difficulty to Hemmings’ job, limiting her ability to fundraise and to host in person programming, but she emphasized the importance of teamwork and creative problem solving to overcome these obstacles. She also faced difficulties in her historical position as the first Black woman in her position.
“Being the first African-American woman here in the council’s history to run this organization doesn’t come with ease; it comes with its lumps and bumps and doubts,” Hemmings said. “But I think that I’ve won quite a few people over now and them understanding that I wasn’t just placed here because of the color of my skin to check off some diversity box, that I really do care about the movement, and I care about seeing girls thrive.”
Hemmings applied to be CEO twice. The first time she did not get the position because she did not have a Master’s degree. This prompted her to enroll at Rutgers University where she received a Master’s Degree in Public Administration with a concentration in nonprofit leadership. The knowledge Hemmings gained from her coursework made her a better candidate when the position for CEO opened again. This time around, she got the job. Hemmings encourages students to be lifelong learners and to always invest in yourself.
“I’m always looking for opportunities to grow myself. I’m a reader. I take classes I just finished with a course at Cornell online on diversity, equity and inclusion,” Hemmings said. “So I’m always looking for opportunities to deepen my experience both academically as well as civically, and here on the job.”
Danielle McGowan Vetere, a senior finance and economics major and former girl scout of New Jersey, attended the event and wrote about how inspirational Hemmings’ story was.
“I found it inspiring how Natasha didn’t get hired because she didn’t have a master’s degree and how that prompt- ed her to go back to school,” McGowan Vetere wrote in an email to The Quadrangle. “I also found it inspiring how even though some were hesitant about having a woman of color leading, Natasha still wanted her position.”
Itzel Flores, a junior psychology major, gave her biggest takeaway from Natasha’s story.
“Accepting what is to come because she talked about how it was not in her plans to pursue that career but she found a purpose in what she was doing and that is really inspiring,” Flores wrote in an email to The Quadrangle.
Hemmings ended the discussion with one final thought about figuring out what your passion is.
“I encourage you all to find what makes you tick,” Hemmings said. “Find what makes you happy and get the education and the experiences that will carry you through the rest of your lives to have success. In that area and whatever makes you happy.”