A World Where Difference is Valued and Celebrated


Today at RGI we join our global community to celebrate International Women's Day (IWD) and the incredible social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women around the world. IWD is also a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. Today, we put the spotlight on the women fighting every day to #breakthebias. I am honored to share our interview with RGI Board Member, Nichole Heidrick, who shares her hopes for the next generation and how she helps to #breakthebias every day.

Would you please introduce yourself? 

My name is Nichole and I have served on the RGI board for 6 years. I grew up on the East Coast (Maryland) and after living in NYC for 10 years, relocated to the area in 2005. We live in Bellevue with our blended family of 5 teenagers - my 17-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son, and my boyfriend’s 15-year-old daughter and 12-year-old twin daughters. Our oldest three attend Bellevue High School. Professionally, I lead a wealth management team at First Republic and serve many wonderful clients. Outside work, you can usually find me at Grey Coast CrossFit, where I recently began coaching. My primary passion which brought me to RGI is supporting women and girls.

Why do you serve as a board member?  What about the mission spoke to you and how has your work with RGI changed you personally and professionally? 

RGI's mission, to educate and empower girls of Rwanda to reach their highest potential, spoke to my beliefs about the role of women in society. Much is written about the strong correlation between gender equity and a society's economic prosperity and its people's overall health and wellness. Because of this, one dollar spent on educating a girl is a dollar that has an outsized impact on our world. That is the intellectual reason I gladly serve RGI. 

The emotional connection came five years ago when I took my then 12-year-old daughter to Rwanda. Having the opportunity to meet and spend time with the inspirational young women attending Gashora Girls Academy had a powerful impact on my daughter and me. As my daughter spent time with a student, I witnessed humanity's power as two girls with vastly different life experiences shared similar confidence, enthusiasm, and poise.  

I was reminded of the importance of nurturing and protecting the inherent strengths of a teen girl as she grows into an adult. The teen years are a pivotal stage for girls, and I have tried to create an environment for my daughter to hold onto those beautiful parts of her twelve-year-old self. I saw Gashora Girls Academy providing an environment that nurtured and encouraged students in the same way. 

International Women's Day (IWD) is a global event celebrating women's social, economic, cultural, and political achievements. What does this day mean to you, and has it changed since your involvement with RGI?

RGI has given me a more global perspective on the importance of having a day to celebrate women. It has also taught me how connected we are as women and how universal and human it is for us to want to be seen and heard and contribute to the world. Underneath all of the differences in the outward experience of our lives, we are profoundly the same.

Nichole and her daughter at the RGI annual event, She Will Rise.

You work in wealth management, an industry that estimates male counterparts outnumber female advisors by a ratio between 10:1 and 6:1. This year's IWD theme is #BreakTheBias, imagining a world free of bias, a world that celebrates differences. Why is it essential to #Breakthebias within the wealth management industry?  

Like many structures in our society, the wealth management industry was created to serve only a small portion of society. This has been an industry that has leaned on marketing messages of exclusivity to attract clients. As a result, women have too often felt excluded and, as a result, kept from accessing essential and empowering assistance and advice. As women worldwide achieve economic progress, we need to ensure that they are encouraged and welcomed to receive the advice and education that the wealth management industry can provide. To do this, we need advisors who respect, honor, and encourage women who are wealth creators themselves and partners or inheritors of wealth creators. Diversity within our industry is critical to achieving this shift. 

Over 73% of women experience bias at work. Raising a daughter, how does this day inspire you to challenge the norm? 

Bias in the workplace is often quite subtle. And as a result, many women I speak with question themselves and their experiences.  I encourage women to trust their emotions and bravely provide direct feedback to their employers if they feel belittled or dismissed. I believe that our male peers are well-intentioned and welcome this education. I also try to model this for my daughter, encouraging her to speak kindly and firmly when someone's actions are unacceptable. I have been so proud to see her do this at a much younger age than I ever did. 

"My experience at Gashora Girls Academy is what taught me the importance of breaking bias. The empowerment I received at Gashora showed me that bias and stereotypes are only effective if we let them. If you have a dream, and you believe that you can achieve it, it does not necessarily matter what other people think about you and your dream. You rise up! As women, we should not let other people’s biases and stereotypes stand in our way of achieving our dreams."

-Sarah Benimana, GGAST 2016
BA, Sustainable Agriculture, Walla Walla Community College, 2021

What advice would you give women struggling in a male-dominated industry?

First, find your authentic voice and be unapologetic about that voice. The presence of women in any male-dominated industry brings essential perspectives, so don't hide your unique viewpoint or style. 

Second, find women mentors and champions to guide you and support you in your journey, in life, and in work. We all need support, so ask for help and don't think you have to do this alone. 

What progress have you seen on gender equality in your life and work?

I am excited to see the next generation enter the workforce and continue to transform traditional ways of operating. I believe their presence will bring so much positive change to many areas of our society. It won't be without resistance or difficulty, and it is never a smooth path to progress, but I believe that this generation of women is resilient and robust and will take the baton of progress and run with it. 

Who has inspired you? 

My mother taught me the most important thing in my life – the ability to love unconditionally. I have been told that I am particularly good at seeing people for who they are and then accepting their stories and loving them unconditionally. It took me a long time to realize that this is what my mother has been doing for me my whole life. Now, I embrace it and see the true power of her gift to me.

"Women are not less, nor are they more than men. Women, just like men, are who they choose to be and have no limit to what they can accomplish."
-Eliane Wibabara, GGAST 2016 BA, Economic Sciences & Agriculture and Food Systems
Washington State University, 2021
MS Financial Economics, University of Maine, 2023

One of the incredible ways you fight bias, is working tirelessly to support the incredible young women currently studying at Gashora Girls Academy, as well as our alumnae studying and working around the world. You have visited Gashora Girls Academy several times; what about these young women inspire you to #BreaktheBias?

My experience spending time with the young women at Gashora has given me such hope for this next generation. Their confidence in their abilities and fundamental belief in their equality are striking. I think this is what makes Gashora Girls Academy so unique. It is an environment that encourages a feeling of worthiness. These young women inspire each other to be bold and unapologetic. Gashora Girls Academy has encouraged and promoted these gifts. They will need this belief and strength to go forward globally, and it is a true privilege to see how they are changing the world.

Help These girls To change the world.


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