Women’s History Month: Shana Clarke
"Find something with a purpose that can fuel your soul."
What kind of work do you do?
Tree Care Services
What goals and values motivate your work?
Staying focused on our company’s purpose of caring for and preserving trees, one of our most important natural resources, helps me to stay motivated and keeps me going even when times are tough. Businesses always face challenges but in my 25 years in the workplace, I’ve never personally experienced more challenges than we’ve had over the last two years with Covid, labor shortages and delays throughout the supply chain. Our important mission at Van Yahres Tree Company is my north star and gets me out of bed each day to tackle these challenges.
Tell us about a woman whose work you admire. How does she inspire you?
My biggest inspiration and the person I admire the most is my mom, Peggy Van Yahres. My mom’s two biggest passions are the environment and education. She has donated countless hours dedicated to these two causes from serving on the Charlottesville City School Board for six years to being the current Chair of the Tree Commission. As a single mother raising my brother and me, she earned a Master of Landscape Architecture degree from the University of Virginia. She and my stepfather, Mike Van Yahres, then went on to run a successful business, Van Yahres Associates, for decades while juggling four kids, school lunches, carpooling and a revolving door of sports schedules. She always stressed that there were others less fortunate and the importance of taking care of our planet. My mom made it look easy and still does while she’s “retired” and very active with her non-profit causes. I wish I could bottle her energy.
What’s your advice for young women starting their careers?
One of the biggest joys over my 25-year career has been mentoring younger women. I've been fortunate to have both a family and a successful career. My family has traded places of being in the forefront or being pushed to the back of the line. It’s not always an easy or grateful balance, but I see younger women eager to thrive at both home and at work. I wouldn’t give either up and I’ve always been focused on finding a balance. Work is hard which is why it’s called work. Find something with a purpose that can fuel your soul and it won’t feel so much like “work.” Make sure your employer respects a family-friendly environment and lastly, don’t strive for perfection, progress is more or just as important.
Based on your experiences, what can workplaces do to better support women’s success?
Provide flexibility as long as the job is getting done. It’s very challenging for working moms to be successful in a rigid environment without some flexibility and understanding. There will be doctor appointments and school conferences during the workday. Employers should make accommodations to be as family-friendly as possible as long as the policies aren’t being abused. A happy worker is a much more productive worker.