The Cooke Foundation Celebrates Women's History Month 2021

In March, the nation honors the vital role women play in our society every day by celebrating Women’s History Month. At the Cooke Foundation, we not only recognize the amazing women in our scholarship programs, but also the ones on staff. In this Q & A, the women of the Foundation’s leadership team reflect on their experiences. 

Q: What advice would you give to women about persevering in the face of challenges in the workplace? 


June Folliard: Director, Scholarship Programs –

“Prioritize. Prioritize what you can each day and week based on what is important and necessary for those moments. Sometimes you can control what this is and sometimes you can’t, but you can prioritize the time that you put into tasks. I find that spinning your wheels over everything just feels like a lot of wasted energy. Be done with something; come back to it if you need to do so, but move it along as soon as you can. 

And, seek out other women who you find motivating and inspiring. It allows you to do that prioritizing!” 





Denise Holmes: Chief Counsel – 

“Find mentors within and outside of your organization. If you ask for their advice, listen closely. Perspective is crucial in tough times: Remember that others have faced worse (see Harriet Tubman, below) and know that you can and will make it through.” 





Natalie Jansorn: Vice President –

“Throughout my career, whenever I’ve been “mansplained” or told I’m strong-willed or intimidating, I’ve taken in a deep breath of compassion and embraced the opportunity to help the person learn to work with strong women.” 





Drema McCoy: Human Resources & Operations – 

“Develop and nurture your professional networks. Discussing common challenges and opportunities with other professionals can open the door to valuable suggestions, guidance, and new perspectives.” 





Dana O’Neill: Vice President – 

“When I think back to challenges I’ve faced in my career, I try to reframe them to regard them as growth experiences. I know that I’ve always come out on the other side having learned something from those experiences and if nothing else I benefit from the knowledge of what not to do the next time I face a similar challenge.” 



Ricshawn Adkins Roane: Vice President, Philanthropy & Chief of Staff 

“I have kept a 2005 article from O Magazine about women in the workplace near me since I read it; I live by the ‘5 questions’ professionally. Here’s an excerpt: 

“Does this job allow me to be myself? Does it make me smarter? Does it open doors? Does it  represent a compromise I accept? Does it touch my inner being?

If you listen closely enough, with time, patience, and the courage to act, the answers will lead  you to the very place you were always meant to be—when you finally grow up.”

Q: If you could have lunch with just one woman from history, who would it be and why? 

June Folliard: 

“RBG. I really didn’t know much about her life until the last couple of years before she passed away. She is so impressive, authentic, and fascinating. I’d love to talk with her about how it felt to be a woman on the Supreme Court and to make so many life-altering decisions in her professional life. More importantly, though, I have loved reading about how she balanced law school, her work, and having children, really focusing on her time that she had with them, and how it made her a better lawyer. During our lunch, I’d just find it wonderful to listen to her talk about those times in her life.” 


Denise Holmes:

“I have heard Harriet Tubman described more than once as “the original badass.” How did this tiny (5’ tall) woman manage to endure 25 years of daily hard work, beatings and torture as a slave, escape to freedom (a death-defying feat in itself), and then become known as the “Moses of Her People” for returning south 13 times to lead hundreds more enslaved people north to freedom?  

I want to learn more about the inner reserves that propelled Ms. Tubman to return south again and again. I am curious what she would think about her country today, not much more than 100 years since her passing. I would thank Ms. Tubman for her incredible inner strength and bravery.” 


Natalie Jansorn:

“I would like to have lunch with Junko Tabei, the first woman to climb Mt. Everest in 1975. I admire her courage to define a goal that mattered to her and persevere even after being buried by an avalanche.” 


Drema McCoy: 

“Jane Goodall. Her life and career story are a compelling combination of passion, hard work, and acting upon opportunities; and she was seemingly fearless in the path that she took. I greatly respect her work and her continued activism on conservation and environmental issues; and I would love to have a conversation with her.” 


Dana O’Neill:

“I would love to talk with Nellie Bly, the investigative journalist – I find her curiosity, courage, and persistent nature fascinating. Although she died fairly young at the age of 57, she filled her life with adventure.” 


Q: If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say? 

June Folliard: 

“Be confident in your abilities! Don’t second guess yourself – get the opinions of those you trust, but be confident as you seek those opinions and feedback.” 


Denise Holmes: 

“Travel this amazing planet every chance you can get. One day you will realize that changing airport routing is just like an unexpected bus transfer. 

Save ten percent of every paycheck from day one and distinguish a need from a want. 

Be the change you wish to see in the world. 

Make haste to be kind.” 


Natalie Jansorn: 

“Eat the ice cream, go on the trip, enjoy the moment. Work is but one slice of your life’s pie. Dig in and be happy.” 


Drema McCoy: 

“Don’t be quite so afraid to take a few more chances and try new things. You won’t succeed at everything you try, but you’ll learn from the mistakes, grow a little, and come away with a different perspective.” 


Dana O’Neill: 

“There are a few occasions I can point to from my early 20s where I wish I had made a different decision than the one I did. They were times that would have required me to step out of my comfort zone, but instead of doing that, I chose not to take the step and to play it safe. If I could talk to my younger self, I would have told her to take the chance and go for it. I did end up stepping out of my comfort zone when opportunities arose later and the things I learned, the people I met, and the experiences I had were always worth overcoming the initial fears.” 


Ricshawn Adkins Roane: 

“It’s not who you are that holds you back. It’s who you think you’re not.”


“Let go of what you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are.” –Brené Brown