In celebration of Black History Month, The Source highlights Debra McGee, Senior Vice President & Director of Minority Business Development at BankPlus. She has shown unwavering support for our program since its inception, and we are honored to have the opportunity to work with her every day.
How did you get started at BankPlus?
I started working for BankPlus in 2001 as a Vice President and was hired to manage the Adkins location, which was in the process of being built. BankPlus was just expanding into the metro Jackson area, and I was excited to have the opportunity to work for a true community bank. I had previously been employed with a larger financial institution for over 18 years.
Tell us a little about your role as Director of Minority Business Development.
As Director of Minority Business Development, I work to connect the bank with the community while also creating and developing programs that benefit minority-owned businesses. I am responsible for developing and implementing programs, products and initiatives geared toward minority-owned businesses in all the communities where BankPlus offers banking services. We are committed to helping build strong communities throughout Mississippi, by improving quality of life and making a positive difference where we live and work. I take that commitment to heart.
What part of your job particularly resonates with you?
I enjoy my job, and it has given me the opportunity to help others achieve their dreams. This position also allows me to give back to Mississippi and my local community by volunteering to serve on non-profit boards and help others understand banking and finance. I particularly enjoy helping entrepreneurs realize the dream of owning their own businesses and helping established companies reach the next level.
What do you think about when you reflect on Black History Month?
I think of leaders like Fannie Lou Hamer, who was a sharecropper who went on to become one of the greatest grassroots leaders in our state. I think of Victoria Gray, my neighbor in Palmers Crossing, where I grew up, who played a key role in organizing voter registration drives, striving to create equal access and opportunities for black people. I think of Vernon Dahmer, who was a friend of my family, and president of the Forrest County chapter of the NAACP in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. When I reflect on Black History Month, it is bitter-sweet; I remember all the pain and suffering endured just to have a better life.
Why is Black History Month important to you?
We celebrate Black History Month to recognize the contributions and sacrifices our forefathers made to pave the way for a better way of life for all. One month cannot begin to tell the full story of the struggles and sacrifices that were made so that I was afforded the opportunity to attend integrated schools, eat at public restaurants, shop at white-owned stores, vote without fear of persecution and work here at BankPlus. I would hope that all people would take advantage of the opportunity to study the history and many contributions made by black people to the nation and world.
What are some accomplishments that you are most proud of, both professional and personal?
I am proud to have been able to use my own success to help others achieve their dreams of becoming business owners and home owners, and teaching financial classes to help students learn the importance of credit and financial management. I am most proud of my family, my children and grandchildren. I am proud to be from a small community where I learned the importance of being thankful for the small things in life, and for knowing that I was loved by a village of family and neighbors.
What advice would you give young black women today?
My advice to other women is to treat others with respect, and as you would want to be treated. Strive to always have a positive attitude and help someone else along the way. Be a mentor to others, and be secure in the knowledge that women have the opportunity to change the world. We are CEOs of businesses, even our own households. We are leaders in our community, and we are the fabric that holds our family and community together. If we stand together we are stronger, and we are winners.
Thanks to Debra, the leaders before her, and the ones who will follow her, women of color are reaching professional and personal goals every day. If you’d like to learn more about how women like Debra are empowering others through The Source, join our growing network today!
Senior Vice President & Director of Minority Business Development