HOUSTON - Two local women have published a book to help businesses hire women they call "overcomers," who have overcome troubled pasts in their lives like sex trafficking, poverty, crime, or addiction. They say businesses are tapping into special skills these women develop.
The authors of Business Doing Good say women who overcome these life obstacles often develop skills like determination, resilience, and even creative thinking in order to survive. They point out those are qualities that can benefit a business.
"I was actually a single mom and I had two children that were born into the welfare system," said Chery Miller.
Miller is an overcomer herself, rising from poverty to earn her degree, run a housing program, and open a consulting firm.
"My children never grew up in poverty because of that," she said. "And I have grandchildren and they were not born into poverty because of that."
Miller has joined with Texas A&M professor and researcher Dr. Shannon Deer to write the book, Business Doing Good, helping businesses and organizations tap the skills like resourcefulness and resilience that overcomers have.
"The book outlines six principles that businesses can use to hire women who have overcome challenging pasts, like incarceration, addiction, poverty, and engagement in the sex trade," said co-author Dr. Shannon Deer.
"You have to problem-solve, constantly thinking on your feet 'How am I going to figure this situation out? How am I going to be safe? How am I going to make sure my kids are taken care of?'" said Miller.
They point out it helps to ensure these women's children succeed as well.
"The confidence women gained from working," said Deer. "Women talked about being on the right side of the table, being productive members of society. That gave them so much self-worth."
And they're getting results! PepsiCo says it is working with The Landing and Second Chance Business Coalition to hire overcomers and also letting applicants with criminal records offer explanations and describe their efforts toward rehabilitation on their applications.
And the Office of the Governor's Child Sex Trafficking Team tells us it: "is proud to support the work of Ms. Miller and Dr. Deer. Most recently, CSTT hosted Ms. Miller and Dr. Deer on our monthly webinar series to discuss how they help state agencies and other stakeholders empower and support overcomers as they build successful careers that can protect them from further exploitation."
And to future overcomers, the authors offer advice:
"Don't let anybody tell you you can't do something because of something you've experienced in the past. Go for it. Believe in yourself. It can be done," said Miller.