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Sep 29, 2017

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Mary Kennedy Thompson

Other Hidden Figures

The recent release of Hidden Figures gave some wonderful exposure to the stories of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, three African-American NASA engineers who were fundamental to America’s success in the space race. I’m thrilled these amazing women are getting the recognition they deserve and inspiring new generations of women. I loved how the movie showed how when we, as women, work together, there’s nothing we can’t do.

This movie got me thinking about other “hidden figures” that have influenced my own life and the lives of women everywhere. I know all of us have women that we look up to in our fields - women who paved the way and lifted us up along the way.

A significant “hidden figure” in my life is Dina Dwyer-Owens. I like to refer to her as the “godmother of franchising.” Dina has been a part of the franchising fabric for more than 30 years, having served as the CEO of the Dwyer Group and chair of the International Franchising Association (IFA), the world’s largest advocacy group for franchising. She’s not a household name, but Dina’s tireless work for entrepreneurs has helped thousands of women (and men!) achieve their dreams of franchise ownership and she’s done it in a male-dominated field.

Her work has been hugely influential for me personally. I’m a former Marine, as well as a licensed plumber who ran my own franchise years ago, and Dina spearheaded the reintroduction of the IFA’s VetFran program. The program has about 645 franchisors offering financial incentives to veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. More than 5,600 military veterans now own a franchise thanks to the VetFran program.

Dina isn’t just a powerful woman helping other women achieve their dreams, she’s also a friend. What I most admire about Dina is her everyday, unrelenting commitment to values. She calls it “Living R.I.C.H,” centering around Respect, Integrity, Customer focus, and Having fun in the process.

There are many hidden figures right in front of us.

Leaders who make a difference, care more than people say they should, and transform those around them. Dina is exactly that person. She does it through personal connections. When my Dad passed away, she flew in the wee hours of the night to make it to his funeral to support me. Regularly and for more than 10 years, she goes on runs with me, freely sharing her insights and spirit. Dina has shown me all of us can make a difference in the lives of those around us.

What makes hidden figures so powerful is that they not only empowering us universally, they also support, encourage and uplift on a very personal level. Dina’s example has helped me in my own journey to make a better world.


What “hidden figures” make a difference in your life the way Dina has in mine? And, more importantly, what are you doing today in your everyday actions to be a difference maker for others?

Mary Kennedy Thompson is a HERdacity advisory board member and chief operating officer of the Dwyer Group. Mary served eight years as a U.S. Marine Corps logistics officer, achieving the rank of captain. She is also a member of the 1.5% of female licensed plumbers in the United States.


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