Women in Business Q&A: Kathy Dicocco, MBA, Executive Director of The H.O.P.E. Foundation for a Better Tomorrow

In addition to being a director of the H.O.P.E. Foundation for a Better Tomorrow, DiCocco served as an Inventory Cost Accounting Manager from the mid 1970s to the early 1980s. Since the 1980s she has served actively in various roles as an accountant. Throughout the 1990s, Kathy taught accounting and finance at two Connecticut colleges. DiCocco has participated in extensive fundraising for a local boys' boarding school and for Boston College. She still involves herself actively with various community service and fundraising for local charities and church organizations.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
My life experiences are varied in business, family, music, and in volunteer work. I am truly blessed and believe that we should give back to our communities to share some of our time and talents with those who are less fortunate. My late son started the H.O.P.E. Foundation for a Better Tomorrow and I am continuing his work of helping young people excel, as I learn how to lead and carry on his mission.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at The H.O.P.E. Foundation for a Better Tomorrow?
I have worked in management positions in accounting for several large international public companies for 40 years, and taught college accounting for many years as well. Managing and teaching adults has taught me how to interact better with people and how to better lead those that I am responsible for. I have also been involved with different types of businesses from manufacturing, to real estate development and have a broad range of experiences to draw from.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at The H.O.P.E. Foundation for a Better Tomorrow?
Our nation right now is being inundated with professional sports figures exhibiting their lack of character in situations where they have caused domestic violence. Today's youth are exposed to role models who leave alot to be desired.

The H.O.P.E. Foundation for a Better Tomorrow offers a solution to this serious problem. It is through the R.E.A.L. Man character development and leadership program. Our greatest challenge is to get our message out and to reach every coach, educator, and counselor in schools around the country to bring them this simple and much needed program. Our youth need to be taught character traits to help them to succeed in life - that is my mission.

The H.O.P.E. Foundation for a Better Tomorrow has been in existence for almost 2 years. In that time we have given 9 scholarships to students in financial need from schools teaching our R.E.A.L. Man character development and leadership program.

We have sponsored 6 campers and awarded grants to after school programs. We continue to bring the R.E.A.L. Man program to middle schools, high schools, and colleges throughout the country.

These have been our greatest highlights, that we are able to help intelligent underprivileged young people to receive a college education.

What advice can you offer women who are looking to establish a non-profit?
Establishing a non-profit is like establishing any business. It takes a lot of work, a lot of time and effort, and a lot of networking. But you have to be passionate about your cause and surround yourself with the right staff who is equally passionate about your mission and willing to work the endless hours to help others.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Having an office in our home means that the work is always there and I often work nights. But, my husband Lou and like to entertain and often have large dinner parties. Staying in touch with family and friends is very important. We need to work hard at our mission; but surrounding ourselves with those we love can brighten our day.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
The biggest issue for women in the workplace today is that we try to have it all and do it all. Women with young children or even teenagers have to work two jobs. Taking care of a family the right way and being really involved with your children's lives is hard work. In addition, having a job within a company that requires a big commitment is a second job. With dedication to both jobs, a woman can be very successful in family and in business.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Most of the mentors in my business life were male supervisors. In my personal life, however, many of the women who I drew strength and wisdom from were those in my prayer groups and Bible Study groups. I always knew they were there for me whenever I needed to call them.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire Melinda Gates who founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which works to expand educational opportunities and to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty. She does this in a way that is unassuming. I believe that we all can help others experience a better life and I truly admire those women who quietly are helping by making a difference in the lives of others and who work hard behind the scenes. There are so many worthwhile organizations that we can all help. But, to do so without the fanfare is truly what I admire.

What do you want the The H.O.P.E. Foundation for a Better Tomorrow to accomplish in the next year?
Our primary goal for the H.O.P.E. Foundation for a Better Tomorrow is to continue to spread and raise the awareness of the R.E.A.L. Man character and leadership program to schools around the country. Another goal is to give the nine schools we work with scholarships annually in addition to expanding our scholarship program to more schools across the country to be able to help more youth gain a higher education. We will raise the needed funds so that we can continue the mission that my late son began.