A ‘community champion,’ North Dakota’s Christy Dauer has been giving back since she was 6

Christy Dauer is one of USA TODAY’s Women of the Year, a recognition of women who have made a significant impact in their communities and across the country. The program launched in 2022 as a continuation of Women of the Century, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. Meet this year’s honorees at womenoftheyear.Usatoday.Com.

Christy Dauer has been helping her community since she was 6. Her first job as a volunteer in her North Dakota hometown of West Fargo was with the Veterans of Foreign War’s “Junior Girls,” where she listened to war veterans’ stories while playing bingo with them.

Women of the Year wordmark

Today, Dauer is the executive director of the North Dakota Women’s Business Center and a member of the five-person North Dakota Commission on the Status of Women, where she works to promote women’s economic empowerment in the state.

“I like to be the community champion,” she said.

Dauer left the corporate world to help women find the skills and resources they need to be successful business owners. From free leadership training to financial literacy and equitable access to capital, Dauer helps the women of North Dakota access the tools to run their businesses successfully. For her work empowering other women, Dauer is USA TODAY’s Women of the Year honoree from North Dakota.

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This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Who paved the way for you?

As leaders, once you climb your way to the top, you often feel like, “OK, I got here, that’s it for me.” But I think about how can I assist others to also get there, so reaching my hand out and offering assistance. I think I think that’s why I jumped from corporate America into the nonprofit world.

I found myself listening to my grandma on her deathbed, and she gave me some advice. She said, “You know, Christy, you don’t have to be everything to everyone.” And it took me a year for the words to really sink in what she was trying to say there.

Christy Dauer, on the advice her grandma gave her
‘You don’t have to be everything to everyone.’ And it took me a year for the words to really sink in what she was trying to say there.

What is your proudest moment?

I really like to see the positive. I have two young boys. And I’ve often been asked, “you work so hard in the community; you work so hard for everybody else; why aren’t you at home with your kids?” And that’s really hard – that mom shame, that mom guilt is so real.

And so I think in the face of negativity, just pushing my 8 and 10-year-old … My proudest moment is through the eyes of my boys as they try to grow and navigate a very different world than we grew up in.

Christy Dauer sits down with a business owner at a local woman-owned salon in North Dakota. Dauer is USA TODAY's Women of the Year honoree for North Dakota.
Christy Dauer sits down with a business owner at a local woman-owned salon in North Dakota. Dauer is USA TODAY’s Women of the Year honoree for North Dakota. Rachel Neva

What is your definition of courage?

I think my courage can be found during my journey with cancer. I was the community champion; I was the one that helped plan the meal trains or the benefits or raised money or spoke out about health, etc. And when I was diagnosed – it takes courage.

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Courage is the ability to face and overcome adversity and the pursuit of goals.

I wanted to live.

Is there a guiding principle or mantra you tell yourself?

It’s important to recognize that we all have limits. It’s impossible to please everyone. I think that each season of our lives, we sit at different tables. And we have opportunities and challenges at both.

Again, I’ll go back to, you know what I referenced earlier, my grandma dying. I was sitting with her while she faced her own battle and she said, “Christy, you don’t have to be everything to everyone.” It changed my life but it took a year for me to recognize that I was spread thin – I was almost to burnout. And I didn’t have to be everything to everyone.

And so that guiding principle has helped me laser-focus on what my goals are and the impact that I can leave. The work that I do in the community perpetuates impact and helps others reach their goals.

Who did or do you look up to?

Every woman that’s been there. That’s so cliche, but it’s true. I feed off the energy of women supporting women in a room.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Take the extra mile – it’s never crowded. Write your plans in pencil. You never know what’s around the corner. Invest in the human capital: your friends and family. Know when to leave. Sometimes “no” means saying “yes” to something else.

Published 9:14 am UTC Mar. 19, 2023 Updated 9:14 am UTC Mar. 19, 2023.