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‘Bridge Builder’ Henri Baskins adds depth and community vision to Columbia Chamber team

Henri E. Baskins has built a career being ‘the only one’ in board rooms, office buildings and closed-door meetings. Whether she was the only female, the only minority or often times both, Henri has spent decades standing out – and for that, she is grateful.

Henri was born and raised in Charleston, completed her undergraduate degree at Liberty University after three years at the College of Charleston and went on to the Georgia Institute of Technology through an AT&T, then BellSouth, funded graduate program. At the time, BellSouth was sending 25 emerging leaders within the organization through the program – Henri was the only female and the only African American. Until that point there had been only four women prior to be selected for the program.

Over the next four decades with the company, Henri became accustomed to feeling unwelcome by some but was fortunate to have incredibly supportive administration. Encouraged by her managers, Henri continued to stand out and stand up within the company.

Today, Henri considers herself a ‘bridge builder’ – building bridges across racial, political, economic and gender divides providing others with the opportunities her superiors gave her.

While it is now rare for Henri to walk into a board room and be the only female or African American, she knows there are still glass ceilings to shatter. When asked to give advice to the younger generations she suggests those who follow in her footsteps find mentors, never stop learning, get out of your comfort zone and diversify your sphere of influence.

While she had to overcome a number of hurdles, she believes she has been fortunate to be the outlier.

Earlier this month, the Columbia Chamber announced Henri as the new Executive Vice President, hired to provide internal and external leadership through public policy. The Chamber is no stranger to building bridges within the community, and in her new role Henri looks forward to bringing more voices to the table.

In order for the Midlands to progress, she believes the business community must be willing to expand its network of influencers. To kick off the year, the Chamber is hosting a two-day strategic foresight session to evaluate the role the Chamber will play in the community in the future. The Chamber has invited over 150 local leaders, business owners and elected officials to participate in the forecasting and provide valuable input during the process. The goal is to create a strategic work plan that ensures focus, impact and sustainability for the Columbia Chamber for years to come.

The Columbia Chamber is looking forward to the new year with the addition of Henri’s leadership and experience. 

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