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Recognizing 100 CEOs & C-level Executives

Tracy L Williams

President and CEO

YWCA Southeast Wisconsin

Location: Milwaukee, WI

Founded: 1892

Industry: Nonprofit

Authenticity, above all else, is the key to success, says Tracy L. Williams, the president and CEO of YWCA Southeast Wisconsin.

“Authenticity is one main reason I consistently grow and thrive as a leader,” she said. “I can identify times that I’ve made very difficult decisions that were aligned with truth, values and/or accountabilities, but not adopted or endorsed by others. The level of peace, resolve and determination I experienced by staying true to my decisions far outweighed any opposition. Over the years, I learned that this quality is necessary to build strong teams, to pivot in times of change and to spur innovation. Most of all, being authentic in decision making is often followed by great success.”

YWCA Southeast Wisconsin hired Williams to bring a new vision, reverse declining revenue and revitalize the organization’s programs. Williams has embraced the challenge. She envisions forging international partnerships, building staff capacity and launching a capital campaign. A reimagined YWCA Southeast Wisconsin headquarters will host programming to build bridges of understanding between races and cultures. The center will use the power of arts and athletics to engage thousands of youth and community members at the 67,000-square-foot YWCA Southeast Wisconsin facility in the heart of the Bronzeville Cultural and Entertainment District in Milwaukee.

Before her role at YWCA Southeast Wisconsin, Williams served in several senior leadership roles both at University of Wisconsin-Madison and in the private sector, addressing disparities, creating inclusive environments, engaging communities and ensuring that resources are directed to businesses, organizations and communities in need.

Williams has advised hundreds of C-suite leaders, through a DEI lens, on board composition, financials and reporting on behalf of large, complex organizations that include Greater Milwaukee Foundation, WK Kellogg Foundation, Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association and American Family Insurance. She was a senior leader of strategic diversity, equity, and inclusion and external relations at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Williams served as a commissioner on the executive committee of the Dane County Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission and was appointed commissioner of the Sun Prairie Youth and Families Commission of the mayor’s office. She served as a UW Towne Center Advisory Board member and is also a member of the Business Journal Leadership Trust.

Williams earned a B.S. in human development/ psychology and an M.S. in business management. She has been a fellow at Harvard Kennedy School and New York University. Most recently, she was a fellow of the Accelerating Social Transformation program at the University of Washington.

“I believe in lifetime learning and leading holistically to create impact through relationships,” Williams said. “My leadership is defined by putting what I learn to best use and in a purposeful way with and on behalf of others. This means that I must remain open and flexible to grow as I influence others to do the same.”

Presented by:

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Did you know?

Tracy had a Robin couple build a nest outside of her front door on a plant stand. She was able to witness the laying of eggs, baby birds hatch, and even the day they each flew out of the nest for two years in a row!


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