Five female leaders paving the way for others
Monica Riggs had what many young college graduates dream of – a fast-paced job at a large accounting firm in New York City, an apartment in Manhattan’s Upper Eastside, and a bright future ahead with her new husband.
“At the firm, the training was phenomenal, and I learned to work with people who have very different personality types from me,” Monica recalls of her experience. But was the work meaningful? “Not at all,” she said. “I really started to struggle – especially working such crazy hours – with the question of if and where I was adding value. Am I doing something that’s purposeful and meaningful for other people?”
When she and her husband moved to Colorado Springs, she thought things might improve, but unfortunately, “It was the same, only I was working even harder,” Monica said. “I was married, trying to be a great wife, trying to be a good friend, but not really finding a lot of purpose.”
The opportunity to make that change presented itself when Monica was contacted by a recruiter from David C Cook, a leading faith-based nonprofit that places a high priority on making an impact in the world and provides opportunities for their staff to grow in faith and career at all levels. It was exactly the environment Monica was looking for.
“I really wanted to do nonprofit work. I wanted to find purpose, and my faith is important to me,” said Monica. “I met with Jana Zachman (who led finance at David C Cook at the time) and she told me about the business behind David C Cook. I immediately felt this was where I want to be. I really want to be a part of an enterprise business. And I was really excited that there was a books division along with music, as well as global work. I just knew this is where God’s called me to for the next season.”
Monica quickly moved up at David C Cook. “I’ve been at Cook seven years, and about every two years I get new responsibilities thrown my way, which is encouraging,” she said. “The opportunity to grow and move up has been one of my favorite things about working here.”
Monica now serves as Senior Director of Operations and Analytics in the publishing side of the business and appreciates the flexibility in her role and her hybrid work schedule that allows her to be fully present to her two children, ages four and one. For David C Cook’s hybrid work schedule, staff are encouraged to be in the office three days a week – whether at the Colorado Springs headquarters, in the operations center in Elgin, Illinois, or at the Integrity Music location in Nashville, where the ministry’s music side of the business is located – with Mondays and Fridays as flexible remote days. There are also nearly 50 fully-remote staff around the country that make up almost a quarter of the staff headcount.
Monica wants to pave the way for other women to incorporate their faith into their work, grow in their vocation, and maintain balance between career and home.
“I have a daughter, and I’m really excited to not have the struggles my mother had trying to balance it all,” she said. “It makes me really hopeful for my daughter when she’s in my shoes.”
Supporting Your Sisters at Work
Susan McPherson found her calling after working in corporate sales and the secular publishing industry, as well as worship and women’s ministry. She now serves as an author acquisitions editor at David C Cook and helped establish their women’s imprint, Esther Press.
“All that experience with ministry and business led me here to where I just feel so called,” she said.
Susan believes women bring important strengths to work and ministry. “Women are multitaskers, and we manage a lot. We wear a lot of hats. I think those are great skills we bring to ministry, to business, to leadership,” she said. “The other gift I think that is such an important reason to have female voices and females influencing decisions is the compassionate, empathetic side of women. I think that balance of compassion versus more directness is important.”
Rather than comparing yourself to other women and risk feelings of jealousy or envy, she encourages women in the workplace and in Christian ministry to support each other. “Cheer on your sisters. Really take a mindset of abundance and not scarcity. Cheer the women on who are in your sphere and be their greatest ally. Don’t be easily offended. There’s so much abundance in God’s economy.”
Creativity and Compassion Merge in Ministry
Q Wood (whose first name, Q, comes from her childhood nickname, “Susie Q”) runs the illustrated graphics department at David C Cook. She agrees that compassion and empathy are important assets women bring to the workplace. As a leader, she leans into these traits regularly in her work, offering to walk through difficult issues alongside team members who are struggling.
“I think that sometimes a boss needs to be more than just aware of what’s happening in the business. They need to be somebody who an employee can rely on, somebody they can come to if they have an issue. And I think this is something women bring to the workplace,” she said.
Q loves working for a faith-based nonprofit that allows her to not only bring her incredible creative talent as an illustrator, artist, and business leader, but that encourages her to use her spiritual and emotional gifts as well.
Her fascinating career took her from film production to merchandising and owning a business, to fulfilling a calling to reach today’s youth through faith-based comic books and graphic novels – something she and her husband, Chris, discovered a mutual passion for and work on side by side at Cook.
“We watched our kids and their friends that were growing up we and were just so heartbroken over what’s happening with this generation. You go to Comic-Cons and there’s a group of people there that you just can feel how destitute they are, how much they need and are craving attention and to have somebody who cares about them,” she said. “We just decided that with what we had, we needed to try to reach a generation that was lost. Especially in that world where there isn’t a lot of good, positive, or faith-based content. In order to reach the younger kids, we had to meet them where they are and with things that they want to have. Graphic novels and comic books are timeless. They love them and these books speak to them.”
Q’s heart and work to reach kids and youth is clearly aligned with David C Cook’s mission to equip the church with Christ-centered resources to transform today’s generations, making it the perfect place for her and others to apply their experience, strengths, and talents toward this mission of discipleship.
Contemplating the Move from Career to Motherhood
McCallie Foley is finding purpose starting out her career at Integrity Music. Following several internships in the music industry after college, she landed a role on the A&R (artists and repertoire) team at Integrity and is excited about the opportunities for growth and to pursue her dreams.
“I’ll be honest, my dream job was to be a mom. It still is,” said McCallie, who entered the working world out of college with the mindset that she would likely only work for a few years, then get married, have kids, and stay at home.
In 2019, she learned about Integrity Music, their mission, and the opportunities to incorporate her faith into work. “I didn’t realize there was a company out there that focused solely on worship music,” she said.
She applied but didn’t get the first job. However, she met a woman on staff at Integrity who became an advocate for her, promising to let McCallie know when another role opened up that might be a good fit for her.
“That was the first instance where a woman outside of my family really encouraged me and told me, ‘You can do anything you want. You can be whatever you want to be. You’ve got these really unique skills and you can do that.’”
McCallie landed a job at Integrity Music in November 2020. “I just love it. It’s the absolute best. It’s such a gift. It’s such a joy. I love going to work,” she said.
She’s not certain yet what the future holds, but she still dreams of being a mom and believes the pandemic, as awful as it was, created more flexibility for working moms. “For all I know, I could fall in love with being at home and not have this strong desire to work that I do right now, but I definitely think that there’s room to do both.”
Making the Move from Corporate Career to Faith-Based Nonprofit Work
Jana Zachman, who hired Monica Riggs at David C Cook, made the leap herself from the corporate world to a faith-based organization early in her career and experienced a bit of culture shock because of the differences between the environments. After her first three years, she left David C Cook and went to work at a public company because “that’s what finance people were supposed to do,” she thought. But after only a few months, she realized she’d made a mistake.
“I took a job as a financial analyst and hated it. The culture, the getting up every day to make money for somebody versus knowing that I was doing something for the kingdom, it sucked the life out of me,” she said. “I only made it there five months and my former boss [from Cook] called me and said, ‘Hey, I have a finance manager position. Would you be interested?’ And I said, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ So, I came back and I’ve been here ever since.”
That was nearly 20 years ago, and Jana has worked her way to one of the highest leadership positions in the organization. In May of this year, she was promoted to Chief Operating Officer, a role she feels combines deep and varied experience and fits her personal strengths perfectly.
Jana has paved the way for other women in ministry. Her advice to younger women is to be true to who they are and not be afraid to use their gifts at work.
“I think the biggest mistake I made early in my career was trying to be what I thought I was supposed to be for others, that person I thought they wanted me to be. God gifted me to be something special, and I should use those gifts and not try to hide those and be something I’m not. I tried so hard to be perfect, very professional, wear a pants suit to work and fit in this box,” she said, encouraging women to be who God called them to be. “It’s your identity in Christ – who you really are – so use those gifts that God gave you and be that woman of faith who is going to stand by your faith and what you believe no matter what.”
In an era where strides are being made for women to lead in business, these Christian female professionals found not only leadership opportunities but the ability to live out their faith at work at David C Cook and Integrity Music. To learn more about the mission and ministry of David C Cook, please visit www.davidccook.org.