Teresa White's expectations of herself have always exceeded what others envisioned for her. When she joined Aflac in 1998, her ability to write computer code – a skill that was very uncommon for African American women around that time – made her stand out. Nineteen years later and she now oversees the company's entire technology group. In 2015, she became the first African American and the first woman to serve as president in the company's 61-year history.

This role is a far reach from the career track she was encouraged to pursue. "I had plenty of people who told me since I was a female that I should stay on the beautician side," White said. "Because I was African American, the stats say you're not going to make it here. But I said to myself that I'll prove them wrong. That was the tingling in my fire to say 'That's what you think, but that's not what I think.'" 

Raised by a single mother in the public housing projects of Dallas, White recalls witnessing people around her making a lot of "bad decisions." Mentorship was key in helping her to develop a higher vision for herself. Now, the insurance executive spends her time being that example for other young girls in similar situations.

 Photo: Aflac U.S.


In 2015, White created a summer program to inspire African American girls ages 13 to 17 in Columbus, GA, where the company is headquartered. Backed by Aflac, Bold Moves is an eight-week program that brings together nearly 30 women community and business leaders to mentor and teach students various lessons about personal finance, entrepreneurship, business etiquette, resume writing and more.

Seychelle Hercules is one of those young women. After hearing White share her personal testimonial of overcoming stereotypes to rise through the corporate ranks of a $130 billion brand, Hercules was moved.

"She inspired me that day," she said in an AP interview. "She spoke with so much confidence and grace. One thing I love about Mrs. Teresa is that she looks like me. She gives me hope. I can soar to greater heights. She's a pioneer in so many ways."

After hearing the trailblazing speaker, Hercules went on to compete in scholarship pageants, winning the title of Georgia's Miss Columbus. This is exactly the kind of outcome that White had in mind. "I want to be a lighthouse," she said. "This is an opportunity to show a different picture of what success looks like."

Kudos to Teresa White, out here changing lives and making a difference.