Abha Bowers, CEO of Walk West

Ask the Expert: Leading with Empathy and Centering Diverse Perspectives

Articles Mar 21, 2024

Through our work with hundreds of clients, The Diversity Movement has connected with thousands of fascinating people who are creating more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces and communities. For this “Ask the Expert” series, we invite leaders to talk about their DEI journey, lessons they’ve learned, and what inspires them every day.

Abha Bowers, CEO of Walk West

Abha Bowers, CEO of Walk West

Abha Bowers is CEO of Walk West, a North Carolina-based marketing and branding agency. Abha has led teams through global, national, and regional marketing efforts for organizations such as Tiffany & Co., State Street Global Advisors, Nestle Purina, and American Express. Abha is actively engaged within the Triangle community as Vice Chair of Marketing and Communications for the Raleigh Chamber Executive Committee, as well as via Board Memberships and volunteerism at organizations such as Haven House, Band Together, the Women's International Forum, and the NC Tech Association. Abha is also a Certified Nutrition Coach and Performance Coach at ISI Elite Training, coaching group fitness sessions in her free time.

Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share the story of how you came to your current role?

In summary, it was quite serendipitous. My husband and I were looking to relocate somewhere that would both be a family-friendly environment as well as a place that would provide intellectual stimulation in the workplace. I found Walk West to be a very unique agency, like none I’d worked at before. Donald Thompson, CEO of Walk West, and I kept in touch to find the right role within the company, and my family and I relocated at the end of 2019. The success of The Diversity Movement led Donald to shift into a full-time role as CEO of that organization, providing me the opportunity to lead Walk West. The rest is history.

How are you working to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in your community?

From a personal perspective, I am very passionate about supporting women, people of color, and wellness. I find every opportunity I can whether via a Board, volunteerism, speaking event or community function to provide support, represent varying perspectives, or share my experiences and encouragement to others. We are all better and stronger together.

Can you describe a personal experience that fuels your passion?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on stage to have an audience member follow up and tell me, “It means so much to me to see someone that looks like me succeed.” I’ll never forget the first time that happened, nor those that have followed.

Can you tell us about a DEI win that you are proud of? It doesn’t have to be big, just meaningful for you.

Honestly, becoming CEO in my 30s as a woman and a person of color was a huge milestone for me and my family.

Character is so important today in our professional and personal lives. Which character trait do you think has been most helpful in your journey? Can you please share a story or example of that trait in action?

I believe the most important character trait that has been helpful for me is empathy. You can’t succeed on any journey alone and having the willingness to understand others and put myself in their shoes has led to my growth. Being an empathetic leader, let alone an empathetic CEO, I hear is rare and it’s helped me to build incredibly strong and long-lasting relationships with both my colleagues and clients.

What does inclusive leadership mean to you?

It means being open to many different perspectives and knowing that it’s not just about how I believe something should be thought of or done, even with the best of intentions. It means thinking about how others feel and what would motivate or demotivate them to be their best selves. It means encouraging others to be themselves and feel valued, recognized, supported and safe.

What strategies do you use to maintain your personal well-being and/or professional resilience?

My four core strategies are 1. Family 2. Fitness 3. Food 4. Fun

1. My family always comes first, and they give me life and purpose. They are my why.

2. Fitness is not just exercise to me, but it has provided me with a caring community of inspiring individuals.

3. Food is life. While I certainly enjoy myself often, I do fuel my brain and body well to keep me in peak performance mentally and physically.

4. Fun is a MUST! Finding ways to add love and laughter in my daily life and to others is imperative.

How can people follow you online or connect with you?

You can find me on LinkedIn here.

Check out more expert advice in TDM Library, where you’ll find articles, videos, how-to guides, podcasts, and webinars – all organized by topic so you can quickly find the answers you need about the subjects you care about. When you subscribe to TDM Library, you get access to thousands of award-winning DEI learning resources, so you can start improving your workplace culture right away.

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