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SERVANT LEADERSHIP: Q&A With Shaila Rao Mistry, NAWBO National Board Member

Shaila Rao Mistry is President of Jayco MMI. Jayco innovates, designs and manufactures hand-held user interfaces for aerospace, medical devices, security and communication applications.

Shaila is also the Founder and President of STEM-Institute, a science, technology, education and management experience straddling the private, academia, government and civil sectors. She educates and mentors girls entering fields of science and technology, encouraging them to break the glass ceiling.

For 20 years, Shaila has also served on multiple United Nations (UN) committees and as an official delegate to various UN Commissions. She has presented papers, seminars and workshops on a variety of topics that are at the forefront of global and domestic women’s issues. Her speaking engagements have taken her to five continents where she has had audience with world leaders who shape the global reform of women’s rights.

We recently spoke to Shaila about NAWBO:

How long have you been a NAWBO member and why did you first join?

Thirteen years ago I attended a meeting where the speaker talked about public speaking. It was going to be a one-off thing. I looked around and could not believe that there were so many women who were “just like me,” with shared goals and purpose.

What’s the one greatest benefit you’ve received from your involvement with NAWBO, and how has it impacted you and your business?

As an entrepreneur, you generally tend to do things alone. At NAWBO, I found the peership, opportunity to learn and grow. I have greater visibility for both my business Jayco and STEM- Institute, which always helps.

Why did you want to serve on the NAWBO National Board and what do you hope to accomplish?

I am passionate about getting our voice heard at the tables where it matters. I wish to influence policies and to create a better business environment for everyone. I hope to:

  • Uphold that torch of respect and dignity for the worth of women
  • Work in the arena of public policy
  • Influence at international levels
  • Bring our chapters together and help them to grow in their involvement at local and state levels

What other women’s or community causes are important to you and what are you doing to support them?

I’m heavily involved in women’s causes. I have been involved all the way from the local level to the United Nations global level! The following are a few examples:

  • Worked on trafficking
  • Worked on human rights and the internet
  • Opened doors for women to succeed at all levels
  • Serving on Small Business Advisory Council for the Department of General Services – State of California
  • Working to get more women on boards
  • Teaching kids values and giving them tools that will serve them throughout their lives

If you could tell every NAWBO member one thing about making the most of their membership, what would it be?

  • Come to meetings.
  • Join a committee.
  • Most importantly, join.

Why do you think every NAWBO member should consider taking on a leadership role with their chapter or at the national level—whether it’s on a committee or board?

  • First off, you will grow in stature for yourself.
  • You are better informed about business issues.
  • You have peership; being a business owner is a solo performance.
  • You are making a contribution to the community…what could be better?

What’s something surprising that most people don’t know about you?

Something even I did not know about myself is that I’m an earth mother. So unlike me!

On weekends, I cook buckets of food to feed my grown kids and pack enough for them to eat at home for several days!

What’s your favorite inspirational quote?

“Be the change you wish to see.” —Mahatma Gandhi

It all starts with you—extend yourself, give of yourself!