“We must be willing to set aside our preconceived notions of right and wrong, our individual behaviors, our tendencies to gravitate toward tribalism, our avoidance and discomfort of disagreement, our inability to connect with one another, and our need for victory and competition. These will be our most challenging obstacles facing our mission in the years to come.” – Amber Gentry Oetting
Amber Gentry Oetting
YWCA Board of Directors
#ONAMISSION for 2 years.
How did you first get involved at the YWCA?
I honestly cannot remember!
Who is the woman you look up to the most and why?
My mom. She is the toughest woman I know. She married at a young age and left everything she knew back east to start over in Colorado with my dad. Shortly thereafter, my Dad left for two years in Korea in the Army. Mom knew no one, and had no one. Before she was even 19 years old, she found her independence. She became fierce and tough as nails, traits that remain to this day. When faced with unnecessary criticism, like, “you’re being emotional, too abrasive, or too rash,” she isn’t afraid to set you straight!
What are you most proud of in your work with the YWCA?
I am most proud to support an organization that does the work necessary to provide a voice for those whose voices have been silenced.
What is one thing you’ve learned in your time on the board?
You must show up and give 100%. This isn’t about the prestige of a board room. This is about getting to work and building up our community. Roll up your sleeves if you really want to do the right thing and lead forward together.
I’ve also learned that you need to learn your organization. What you see on the outside isn’t the whole picture–it’s just a fraction of what there is to uncover. Organizations that provide services to those in our community are providing more than what you may be familiar with–services that are vital to someone’s daily life.
What drives you to do this work?
I’ve done a lot of work this past year on the gender and opportunity gap. When I see young women treated equally with dignity, and when all colors, genders, creed, religions, are worthy without judgement–that’s what drives me to do this.
For years, I thought I was motivated by a fear of failure. If I dropped the ball, I’d blame myself for not being the steady force keeping the balance. I realize that it’s not failure that I fear, it’s a disdain for the lack of respect for one another. Divisiveness, competition, bitterness, the inability to connect–the overall lack of respect that continues to surface, even in my own life. Since joining the board, I’ve had to confront my own privilege, racial bias, cultural norms, and uncomfortable prejudices that remain from the civil rights movement, affirmative action, #MeToo, and Black Lives Matter.
We must be willing to set aside our preconceived notions of right and wrong, our individual behaviors, our tendencies to gravitate toward tribalism, our avoidance and discomfort of disagreement, our inability to connect with one another, and our need for victory and competition. These will be our most challenging obstacles facing our mission in the years to come.
What do you like to do for fun?
I love to travel the world and learn from others.
Who do you look up to or feel inspired by within the YWCA?
Every person that walks through that door that gives their time, treasure, and passion inspires me. Every time.
Any other words of wisdom?
Topeka is where we change for the better. Topeka is all about social innovation – we always have been. And if you didn’t know that – check your ego at the door. This is where positive change continues to evolve in our community today.
Thank you, Amber!
Like Amber said, what you see on the outside isn’t the whole picture–it’s just a fraction of what there is to uncover. You can find out more about the vital services we provide by becoming a volunteer or donating to our mission.