Beatryx Epps Washington, General Counsel and Senior Vice President of O.C. Tanner, says she has the “best job you can have and still be a lawyer.” Speaking to BYU Law students and faculty at a forum hosted by the Black Law Student Association (BLSA), Washington addressed how her family’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement impacted her choice of career. She also shared insights on race, authenticity, and taking the long view when it comes to professional goals.
Washington is originally from Natchez, Mississippi, where her grandfather was the leader of the local chapter of the NAACP. He led several of his fellow residents to sign a petition to desegregate the schools—an act which led to his truck being bombed in the family’s driveway and his home being stoned. Despite the racial tension that plagued the school system at the time, Washington’s grandparents and parents had high expectations when it came to education. Washington’s mother and father both earned PhDs at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. “My brother and I were raised in a home where the expectation was that you would graduate from college with a doctorate degree.” she says. “As a child I heard a lot of stories that involved legal cases that changed the country. Law seemed like a great field to go into to make a difference.”
As a member of O.C. Tanner’s senior executive team and an African American woman, Washington recognizes that she is in a unique position to make a difference. “Only 3.2 percent of executives and senior manager-level employees are African American,” she says. “I have the opportunity to make changes, to hire and determine what a team looks like. There can be an attempt to white-wash things. At some companies I have worked for, people have attempted to be color-blind, to never mention race. We need to allow people to show up to work as their authentic selves. I don’t ever try to be something other than what I am.”
Headquartered in Salt Lake City, O.C. Tanner is a technology and services company focused on employee recognition and workplace culture. “I work for a phenomenal organization whose principles are beauty and kindness” says Washington. “I see that in the way we treat our clients and our coworkers. It’s extremely rewarding.” Before stepping into her current role, Washington gained expertise in corporate governance and regulatory compliance for companies such as LifVantage and EnergySolutions. “I took on any assignment and became the go-to person for compliance programs,” she says. “I can look at every job I have had as a lawyer and see how it helps me today. Don’t dismiss any part of your journey, there is a purpose for all of it.”