Karen Griggsby’s goal as president is to bring diversity to the GFWC Woman’s Club of Plant City.
Karen Griggsby is used to climbing the ranks.
She climbed them at IBM, where she was hired as a gofer after working for years as a flight attendant. Though she didn’t have a college degree, she eventually moved her way up in the company.
Most recently, she’s climbed the leadership ladder at the General Federation of Women’s Clubs Plant City chapter. At the club’s annual spring social, Griggsby was appointed the 2016-18 president of the organization. She is the first African-American woman to lead the chapter.
It’s an honor Griggsby hopes to use to bring diversity to not only the Plant City club chapter, but to the all GFWC chapters in Florida.
Paving the Way
A Pennsylvania native, Griggsby first came to Plant City in May 2011 after retiring from IBM in Texas. She considered returning to her northern roots, taking Minnesota, Washington and Pennsylvania into account, but was encouraged by a longtime friend to come to Florida.
Griggsby found a local church and joined Curves, where another fitness aficionado invited her to a GFWC meeting. After attending a few meetings, she became a regular member.
“I felt a sense of belonging right away in the Woman’s Club,” Griggsby said. “Overall, the women here were very embracing.”
The club opened a number of opportunities for Griggsby in the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World. She became an ambassador at the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce and spearheaded efforts to grow the Plant City Area Democrats Club. Both are organizations she remains involved in.
“The Woman’s Club gave me purpose,” Griggsby said.
In addition to her new role as the GFWC Plant City president, Griggsby also serves as the membership chair for District 8 of the organization, which includes 14 clubs.
The Door to Diversity
At the state level, Griggsby would like to see diversity workshops implemented in the twice-annual meetings held for Florida GFWC chapters.
“Diversity is something I strongly believe in,” Griggsby said. “Diversity is not meant to be harmful. It’s meant to bring harmony. Diversity is power, it’s beauty, it’s soul.”
Prior to leading the GFWC Woman’s Club, Griggsby saw the need for diversity when she worked in the corporate world. While serving as the diversity manager for an oil company, Griggsby faced opposition.
“It was a male-dominated organization,” Griggsby said. “Either you were strong or you were eaten alive. I was treated unfairly. But then I just said, ‘Enough of this, I’m going to play their game, and I’m going to win.’”
Eventually, Griggsby’s coworkers came to respect her.
“I was respected in the community,” Griggsby said. “When I see something that’s not right, I find solutions. Diversity
“Diversity is something I strongly believe in. Diversity is not meant to be harmful. It’s meant to bring harmony. Diversity is power, it’s beauty, it’s soul.” --Karen Griggsby
is just so important to me.”
To create more diversity in the GFWC Woman’s Club, Griggsby wants to encourage younger women and minorities to enroll in the club.
“I want minorities,” she said. “And not just African-Americans. Most club members are older, and we know we’ve got to bring in younger women.”
Another of Griggsby’s primary goals for her term is to partner with other organizations in the community, including local churches.
“The doors will be open,” Griggsby said. “It will be a welcoming club, we want to include everyone.”
Griggsby hopes the club can have more activities too. She would like to see the club host a diverse arts and music festival and a “Women of Substance” forum. The forum would focus on women and success and would have a female leader as a moderator.
“I see a lot of possibilities,” Griggsby said. “And I want to take that to the next level. I’m so looking forward to it.”
Contact Emily Topper at [email protected].