Years before she was known as R. Jai Gillum, wife to former Tallahassee mayor and 2018 gubernatorial Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum, she was R. Jai Howard.
The triumphs and trials that made the Montgomery, Alabama native into the woman she is today were discussed at Wednesday’s “Finding Me – A Conversation with R. Jai Gillum” event at The Yard at Railroad Square. The event was part of the Women Wednesdays initiative hosted by Domi Station.
For Gillum, Florida A&M University is where she said her destiny was beginning to write itself. She graduated with degrees in biology and public health, met her husband, became a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and enjoyed memorable experiences. Gillum credited the university in developing skills she still uses today.
“I think Andrew and I talk all the time about all the things you learn outside of the classroom at FAMU in addition to inside the classroom,” Gillum said. “I think that’s just a product of being from a historically black college and university, they prepare you for the world at FAMU. So many wonderful lessons from public speaking, to making sure you represent yourself well, to being excellent with caring. All those things we learned in and outside the classroom.”
During the conversation, Gillum spoke on the challenges that come with balancing a busy life while married to a public figure. Juggling being a mother, wife and director of Foundation Affairs for the Florida Dental Association are all tasks which can be hard for any person to manage without losing a sense of who they are. For Gillum, she noted she has started to develop a balance which maintains her overall wellbeing.
Earlier this year, Gillum declared this would be the “Year of R. Jai” where she planned to carve out more time for herself. Through it all, Gillum said the biggest lesson she learned was how to be more self-compassionate.
“Giving yourself a little grace and to forgive yourself. I think most people are their worst critic and if we expect other people to forgive us when we make mistakes and expect other people to give us a little grace, we need to do the same.”
“If you’re like me, you may not be like me, but then you don’t forgive yourself. I have to learn how to give myself some grace, and learn to forgive myself. Let it go and move forward,” Gillum said.
One topic Gillum was candid about was the struggles she had with her fertility. Gillum said since opening up about her experiences with miscarriages, women have reached out to her to share their stories.
Sharing stories and being relatable are important traits many of the speakers at Women Wednesdays seem to have. From up and coming entrepreneurs to established business owners, all women are welcome to participate in the incubator, co-working space.
CEO and founder of Swellcoin, and co-founder of Women Wednesdays, Barbara Wescott saw a need to highlight the talented women who are impacting the community.
“Well, originally when Domi Station was created, it was heavily focused on students, whether at FAMU, FSU and TCC and that was incredible but the average age of a woman entrepreneur is actually about 40,” Wescott said. “So one of the things that was missing was the amazing plethora of woman entrepreneurs in the community.”
At the event, guests were able to purchase snacks from Bourne Brilliant and drinks from The Yard. After a Q&A session, guests were able to grab pictures and network. For many at the event, this was a great tone to set for Women’s History Month.
Speaker Series coordinator Tarsha Davis hoped guests left the event inspired and eager to know more about the upcoming speakers. She said her goal was to showcase influential, high-profile women who the community of women would identify with and would come out and see.
“Women Wednesdays for me has given me a lot of great insight to who I am as a person and in my business,” said Davis. “Definitely without coming to Women Wednesdays, I would not have been privy to or made aware of some topics and even some feelings inside myself that I would not have explored had I not come here."
"So, this has really been an eye opening experience for me personally and professionally and I think it’s worth anybody’s hour to come out on a Wednesday and see what we got going on,” said Davis.
For more information on Women Wednesdays and upcoming speakers, visit https://womenwednesdays.co/