October 26, 2015
2015 Outstanding Women in Business

2015 Outstanding Women In Business: Linda Cavaioli, YWCA of Central Massachusetts

Matt Volpini
Linda Cavaioli Executive Director YWCA of Central Massachusetts

VIEW: 2015 Outstanding Women In Business: Linda Cavaioli, YWCA of Central Massachusetts

Linda Cavaioli has been executive director of the YWCA of Central Massachusetts in Worcester since 1992, overseeing the daily operations of a $6 million nonprofit organization dedicated to elimination of racism and empowerment of women.

"She believes in people, and she believes in the fact that everyone deserves a chance to be part of a success story," said Gail Carberry, president of Quinsigamond Community College.

In addition to her executive director role, Cavaioli serves on the coordinating committee and as co-chair of membership for the United Way of Central Massachusetts Women's Initiative; the community board of DCF Worcester West Area Office; the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women; and the Quinsigamond Community College Board of Directors.

"She has an incredible head for business," Carberry said. "Until you see how she deals with budgets, deals with numbers, the probing questions she will ask about the organizations she serves, you don't actually know that side of her until you sit on a board with her."

She also serves on the Martin Luther King Community Breakfast Committee, the City Manager's Task Force on Bias and Hate, and United Service Executives.

Before joining the YWCA, Cavaioli was senior vice president of marketing and resource development at the United Way of Central Massachusetts, where she managed annual community campaigns of $7 million.

She received her bachelor's degree from the University of New Hampshire and an MBA from Clark University. She and her husband, John Medbury, have five children and eight grandchildren.

Who is your most influential role model?

The most influential role model in my life was the woman who truly got me started on my life's journey: my mother, Louise Bianchini Cavaioli. As a woman raising her family in the 1940s and 1950s, she faced adversity head-on, yet always managed to remain strong, positive and independent. She was supportive in all I did and was a champion for my sister and me. I admired her tenacity and perseverance and wanted to emulate those qualities.

Other special women who influenced and guided me throughout my career were Lois Green, Joan Sadowsky and Barbara Greenberg, whom I met when I began working for the United Way. Each of these women were strong professionals, dedicated to their careers, but who had raised wonderful families.

What has helped you achieve success in your career?

My success comes from three places. First, I have a strong drive within myself to contribute and add value to whatever task I take on. I'm passionate about what I do. I believe in people, and I believe in the mission of the organizations I have been involved with. Secondly, I have an amazing, strong partner in life. He is my champion; he pushes me, challenges me and encouraged me to go back school to get my MBA, pitching in at home wherever possible as we had teenage twins at the time. Lastly, I attribute my career success to the many mentors and leaders at the YWCA who have guided and challenged me to reach higher.

What's your primary motivation?

My parents were hard-working, middle-class people who valued family and community. They instilled strong values that I have carried forward. My passion has always been for social justice. I believe in equal access, equal pay, equal opportunities and equal power for all. In my capacity as executive director, I have been able to balance my family, my career and my community. I get paid for doing what I love to do, and I am able to bring to others what I have learned and gained.

What role have you played in your organization's efforts to give back to the community?

Most of my involvement has centered on helping women and children, and racial justice. I serve on boards that take an active, hands-on approach to the work. I believe in strong governance and strategic discussions, but I also like to touch the people that are affected or impacted by the work.

When the stress level gets too high, how do you ease the pressure?

This is a tricky question for me. From my perspective, I perform best under pressure, but I'm not sure whether my colleagues would agree. My partner, John, says I don't know how to relax, but some situations that others may call stressful are just part of a regular day in the life of Linda Cavaioli.

Don't get me wrong, though, there are definitely times I just have to check out and play "Words with Friends" or solitaire or just escape and read. All kidding aside, I have good people who surround me, who remind me to slow down and enjoy a peaceful moment.

How have you tried to balance your career and your personal life?

To be frank, I believe the only way I have been able to successfully balance my career and my personal life is to be lucky enough to work for the YWCA and to have John as a strong partner. As the executive director, if I can't model good balance between family and work when we are trying to empower women, the YWCA would not be fulfilling its mission. John and I have partnered for 27 years raising five children and one or two grandchildren at any given time along the way. The balance comes from trusting each other, being organized both at home and work, successful scheduling (my calendar book is always at my side), and having open, clear communication.

Meet the rest of the 2015 Outstanding Women in Business

Roberta Brien, vice president of projects, Worcester Business Development Corp.

Susan Gunnell, executive vice president & COO, Southbridge Savings Bank

Susan Lawrence, co-owner, Pepper's Fine Catering

Naureen Meraj, senior global director, NTT Data

Joyce A. Murphy, executive vice chancellor and chief executive, Commonwealth Medicine

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