MILWAUKEE — Every year our partners over at the Milwaukee Business Journal recognize a group of women who use their influence to make an impact on our community. One of those women is May yer Thao. In her 14 years in Milwaukee, she has worked to make a difference in economic development and visibility for our Asian community in the state of Wisconsin.
When it comes to leadership, May yer Thao leads with insight and humility.
"For me anyways, it's very much a calling to continue to serve and to serve as impactful as possible," said Thao.
After five years as the executive director of the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce, in 2019 Gov. Tony Evers tapped her to become the assistant deputy director of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, or WHEDA. She became the first Asian American to be appointed to an executive position.
"You know, it was truly pounding on doors, getting people to recognize me individually. But also the work that I was doing in economic development. And that was not an easy task, when you look at the field of economic development, you know you're talking about financial institutions, traditionally older white males," recalls Thao.
A Hmong refugee and the middle child of nine, May yer Thao knows first hand what it means to struggle and strive towards the American dream of homeownership.
"I bring to WHEDA not just in economic development, but in housing, because I've gone through the whole cycle of housing and now, of course, being a homeowner myself."
On Thursday, she received the honor of being inducted into the Milwaukee Business Journal's Women of Influence Class of 2021.
"It's very humbling and it is indeed an honor," said Thao.
When asked who she admired as a woman of influence, Thao did not hesitate to say her mother.
"She has gone through so much, as a single mom you know. It was in the spirit of resiliency that she taught us how to be resourceful."
Thao joins an elite group of women who continue to carry the torch for the next generation of female leaders.