Mrs. Dorothy Shaw believes all things are possible, a motto she has certainly lived by and exemplified her whole life. Born and raised in Shubuta, Mississippi, her husband, an Air Force veteran, is a native New Yorker but has called Mississippi home for many years. Her roots run deep in Mississippi, and much of her family still resides in the Magnolia State, in areas such as Moss Point, Jackson, and Clinton, while others live in New Orleans, Texas, and Colorado.
No matter where Mrs. Dorothy’s family is, they can certainly all agree that she is a woman who is known for her incredible strength, faith, and dedication to lifting her community and those around her.
She is also known for her long-time career with Ingalls Shipbuilding. Located in Pascagoula, Ingalls is the second largest private employer in Mississippi, as a leading producer of ships for the United States Navy. Ingalls was first established in 1938, but Dorothy Shaw’s first day at Ingalls was February 8, 1972; her first position was as a General Clerk. “The real truth is, I never really wanted to work at Ingall’s because I had this image in my head of not wanting to work where “everyone else” worked. I came here to stay six months until I made enough money to decide what I wanted to do next. I am now celebrating 50 years of employment, and I tell people all the time that I’m still waiting for my six months to end. I work here for several reasons. First, the work we do is vitally important to our nation’s security, and I feel a sense of pride in doing what I do. I have not held a position at Ingalls from which I did not learn and grow. I have benefitted from stable employment and the ability to remain in my home community. I have been offered opportunities to work all over the US, but I have chosen to remain at Ingall’s because it is right for me. I get to come to work each day and work with some of the most skilled people on the planet. I would not trade this experience for any other.”
Over the years, Shaw has worked in Production Control, Engineering, Communications, Community Relations, Government Affairs, and Human Resources.
After Hurricane Katrina, Shaw was assigned to a special project to help find housing for some of Ingalls displaced workers. As an outcome of that project, she began working with a local non-profit organization focused on affordable housing and started an employer-assisted housing program. Through that program, Ingalls assisted approximately 100 employees in becoming first-time home buyers. “That was humbling. I cannot recall the number of dignitaries and notable community leaders I have had the opportunity to meet while working here. And, of course, one of my greatest rewards is having worked with Jerry St. Pe’ during his time as president. He was a great role model and a tremendous supporter of the things we did in the community. His leadership and friendship played an important role in my life. It has also been heartwarming when individuals have come up to me to say thanks for helping me. Most of the time, I have no recall of what I did to assist the individual, but it was gratifying knowing that I was helpful in some unknown way.”
Q&A with Mrs. Dorothy Shaw
Are there any memorable moments that you would like to talk about?
I went on sea trials for the first time on what was scheduled to be an overnight trial. The ship got “fogged” out, and we were out for two days. That was my first experience at sea. I had the honor of meeting the wives of two presidents, Nancy Reagan, and Michelle Obama. I also had the privilege of meeting the late General Colin Powell. He was one of the most humble individuals I have ever met.
Several years ago, I was awarded a national Community Service Award by Women of Color Magazine. The award recognized my years of community service. I remain incredibly proud of that award because I competed on a national level, and the award validated some of the work I did in my efforts to do good for others and make a difference in my community,
It’s Black History Month. Do you have anything to say to young women of color who look up to you and your achievements? I
I say to people often, “You see my glory, but you don’t know my story .”My journey has not been easy, but I’ve had help along the way. We succeed because others have walked the path before us. One must learn to handle failure before they handle success. I have had some failures in my life, but I learned from them and got back up more determined than ever to continue the journey. I would say to young women of color that you, too, can be successful. Do the work. Find a mentor. Read great books. Surround yourself with people who generate positive energy and positive thoughts. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Find your inner voice, your inner strength, and hold fast to your dreams. Don’t be afraid to make mid-course corrections when necessary. The most important thing that I would say is to maintain your dignity at all costs. Your dignity should never be compromised.
Tell us about the “bee” you wear.
I often get this question about the bee on my shoulder. The bee is a symbol that “all things are possible .”Bees aren’t supposed to fly because their bodies appear to be too heavy to be supported by their fragile wings. They defy the theory of aerodynamics. I have always worked hard to accomplish anything that I attempted. So, when I heard the story of the bee, I started wearing it as a symbol of confidence in my ability to succeed and, more importantly, a symbol to others that they, too, can succeed. If bees can fly, I can do anything. Over the years, I have amassed quite a collection, and people often give them to me as gifts. The bee is also a symbol of the positive affirmations I often speak to people – Be positive. Be the best that you can be. Be yourself.
What makes you proud to live here on the coast?
I am proud to live on the coast for many reasons. There is such a diverse population of people and cultures. There is a genuine spirit of community. People care about one another, and they are always willing to extend a helping hand. I don’t like large cities, and I find the coast to be just the right size. You can move from one end of the coast to the other and never run out of things to see and do. The people on the coast are resilient. We have gone through many adverse situations, and yet we have rebounded.
What is it like to work in a place like Ingalls Shipbuilding? (scenery, people, etc.) Ingalls is a place like no other. We are a small city, and whatever you find in the local community, you will find it here. I enjoy the work I do. Some of the most skilled workers on the planet work here. It takes great skill to construct the impressive warships that we build. I feel a sense of pride coming to work each day. My morning drive allows me time to appreciate the beauty of nature as I cross the river and see the sun rising on the horizon and the tall cranes reaching upward.
What would you say to young people today who want to make an impact in their career or community?
Never, ever give up. Always believe in a Power higher than yourself. Be patient. You can’t go from beginner to CEO overnight. Believe in yourself more than others. Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone because your comfort zone may become your failure zone. If you’re asked to take on new assignments, do it. Go beyond the norm. Build a network of supportive people and ask them for advice on the “do’s and don’ts .”Always know that you may have to work a bit harder than others, but the reward comes in the end. Learn from your elders. They have learned many shareable lessons along the way.
What do you think Mississippi’s best traits are as a state?
Mississippi has a storied history, but I do believe there are some good things about this state. That’s why I have chosen to live here all my life. Mississippi is a picturesque state; beauty abounds in almost every corner. The people of the state are generous and caring. They believe in extending a helping hand to neighbors and others in need. There is an abundance of cultural experiences in the state – artists of every kind, music, food, museums. The beauty of nature is visible in the rivers and streams, beaches, nature trails, and I like the weather (most of the time).
What does the future hold for Dorothy Shaw?
I’m approaching a time of retirement from my current career. I have spent most of my adult life in positions of service, not for any reward other than knowing that I have made a positive impact in the life of someone else. Serving others has given me purpose in life. I want to continue to serve. I will remain actively involved in the community. I will visit my daughter and grandchildren in Texas. I want to continue doing what I can to improve the human condition.
Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
I am grateful for the opportunity to rise each day to new possibilities and the chance to make a positive difference in someone’s life. I am reminded each day that “if bees can fly, I can do anything.” I am grateful for those things that have not always worked out the way I wanted them in life. Getting through those things has made me a stronger and more determined individual. I am grateful that God loves me in spite of my faults. I encourage people to live exemplary lives because there are always eyes upon them. You never know who’s watching and whose life may be impacted by what you do and say. Always do what’s right.