The Hot Springs Women's Leadership Alliance, as a newly formed nonprofit organization, hosted its inaugural luncheon on Thursday at the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa.
Matuschka Lindo Briggs, the speaker of the luncheon, is senior vice president and regional executive of the Little Rock branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
In her introduction of Briggs, Mary Zunick, a founding member of the HSWLA, said, "When we were talking about who our first speaker could be for our lunch, we all had some wonderful ideas, and I just feel like we are so very blessed and fortunate to have for our first speaker today, Matuschka Lindo Briggs."
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Briggs focused her presentation on how she got to where she is now with the St. Louis Fed. She has had a key role in community development and public affairs, her bio on the HSWLA's website stated. With a bachelor's degree in journalism and communications from William Woods University, she first found herself reporting on agriculture in Iowa, she said.
"I started in journalism," she said. "That was my passion. And I started in Des Moine, Iowa doing soybean, seed and feed corn reporting and working at the Iowa State Fair. ... So, I was heavily into ag as I got started. Not kind of the dream picture you have when you think of Tom Brokaw. So, that's where I started in ag, and it was fun and I had a great time."
Briggs then moved to St. Louis for another position as a reporter, where she met and fell in love with a sportscaster who later became her husband, she said.
"Once I got there, it was owned by Gannett, and they had nepotism laws so both of us couldn't be married and work there," she said. "So, of course, he was like, 'Girl, take the job and I'll go home,' you know. I was just like 'Well, we're in a day and time where you make more money than I do.' That's just how it was in our industry at that time, so I started freelancing then and doing a lot of health care reporting."
With two children, Briggs later decided she needed to stay closer to home for the time being. Next, she started getting "weird phone calls" asking if she wanted to start working in real estate.
"I know nothing about real estate, but why not?" she said. "I've got kids at home. This is something I could do on my own time, so I started doing a little bit of real estate after that."
After real estate came another passion of hers, she said: retail.
"I worked with someone in college to open a couple stores," Briggs said. "She reached out to me, and I helped her open a couple more stores. So then, I kinda got back into retail and was doing that. And that's really more of an addiction than a true career."
After her children were older, she decided it was time to get back to work full time, and accepted a position as a press secretary. However, the election was lost, and she received a call from the Federal Reserve Bank.
"So, it was really a way for me to go out and work with government entities, large corporations that have part-time workers, individuals that didn't know how to save, didn't know how to set it and forget it and to be impactful," she said. "So, I thought finances are so important to me, I'm into literacy. ... So, I thought, you know what? I'll do it."
As the political climate changed, Briggs assumed she might be let go from her position and decided to go back to graduate school, obtaining her MBA from Washington University in St. Louis.
However, she was not let go by the Fed, putting her in the public affairs department, she said. She thought with she and her two children in college, it would be best for her to keep working, she said.
She was later offered a different position with the Fed in the community department, she said.
"If you just look at a high level at what I do now, I feel like I've come full circle in all these years because I'm like a reporter again," she said. "I'm out there on the field, and what I'm doing is listening to your voices. ... And I take that information and I gather it. And I take that back to the researchers, I take it back to President Bullard. ... So everything that I hear, I share with him so that he can make the decisions that he makes."
In her professional journey, Briggs had never had a female mentor until she got to the Fed, she said. She commended the HSWLA for its mission of building a community of professional women offering relationships and mentorships.
"It wasn't until I got the Fed that I actually had two women mentors, leaders in the community that mentored me," she said. "That was a good part of my life, and I had no mentors at all. Don't get me wrong, my mother, my grandmother, my good girlfriends from high school and college, but they weren't like leaders of a company, they weren't women out there in the workforce, corporate America. ... I did have some great men that guided me, but it's just different."
Briggs then challenged the attendees of the HSWLA's inaugural luncheon to "be the person you wish you would have had," "be the changemaker" and "remember it's never too late to have someone believe in you and push you."