Why Dorri McWhorter Believes in the Power of Possibility

The CEO of YWCA Chicago shares the values that have shaped her career and why doing good has been part of the plan all along.

by Guerrero Howe

When we first met Dorri McWhorter, she remarked, “I’m not a pessimist or an optimist; I’m a possibilist.” She was quoting the journalist Max Lerner, and it’s an ethos she brings to everything she does. As the CEO of YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, McWhorter has an infectious passion for helping others bring their personal values to their job.

On one hand, McWhorter’s philosophy makes perfect sense. She leads a nonprofit whose mission is to eliminate racism and empower women, so purpose and passion are par for the course. On the other hand, one might ask whether such an approach works outside a mission-driven organization. McWhorter, who came to the YWCA following a lauded career in the private sector, believes that it’s important for anyone to know they can have an impact on their organization, whether it has a 501c3 designation or not. “I didn’t like this whole do-gooder narrative,” she says. “It was less about coming out of the private sector to do good and more about the fact that I was doing good all along.”

When she spoke with our team, McWhorter shared the personal philosophies that have guided her career—from her tenure as a certified public account to today as CEO of what she calls a 140-year-old start-up. “I view work as a place where human beings come together and express themselves to be the best they can be, and hopefully contribute in a way that can continue to advance the rest of us,” she says. “It’s just that simple.”

Check out some of her key ideas below, or watch the entire talk by clicking here.

On Being a Possibilist

Philosophy 1: Everyone Has Value

Philosophy 2: Building New Models for Change

On the Rise of the Purpose Economy

On the Impact of a Single Idea

The Reality is You Can’t Replace People

To watch McWhorter’s speech in its entirety, click here.