DeRetta Cole Rhodes, Woman of Excellence

Simply the Best: For more than 10 years, this highly anticipated Women of Excellence awards ceremony has recognized world-class women from the Atlanta area who have displayed the highest level of leadership, whose commitment to excellence is empowering, and whose achievements are unparalleled. This illustrious award has to date been presented to hundreds of Atlanta’s brightest and most accomplished women, CEOs, Presidents, business owners, corporate executives, and entrepreneurs to celebrate their profound influence within their communities. 

DeRetta Cole Rhodes

DeRetta Cole Rhodes, Ph.D., is the chief human resources officer of YMCA of Metro Atlanta where they believe that “all people, especially children, deserve an equal chance to reach their full potential and should prepare themselves to connect to and serve community.” Prior to joining the Y, she was the vice president of Human Resources for First Data and for Turner Broadcasting Systems, Inc., supporting Global Technology Operations.

Her Guiding Principle: I’m working on a TED Talk right now so I had to answer that very question. When I think about my guiding principle, it came from one of my mentors very early on when he talked to me about the importance of showing up. I need to show up with excellence, fairness, equity, unwavering standards and compassion. Those five things have helped me to make some tough decisions like whether to be with an organization or not be with an organization.

On Leaving Corporate America to Work for a Non-Profit Organization: When the opportunity came up to work for the YMCA, which by the way is 160 years old in Atlanta this year, it is probably the largest non-profit in the country although it is operated like a corporation.  But the fact that I was able to come into this organization and still do what I do in my profession but also have a mission behind it was the reason why I made the decision.

On HBCUs vs. PWIs: Going to Clark Atlanta University to get my MBA was a pivotal moment for me that really changed the trajectory of my career because of the relationships that I developed with people who are still dear friends of mine. It was a huge stepping stone even more so than my doctorate.

On Earning a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia: So as a black female, one of the things that was important to me was credibility. My dissertation was on the survival of black women in corporate America. It became very important to me that if I’m one of the few black women sitting in a room and I had something to say, you couldn’t diminish my voice. I believe that education makes you stand apart in so many different situations. That happened to my grandmother who had her degree, my mother had her master’s degree, my great-aunt had her degree so that was important for me.


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