Tampa Bay Business Women Awards 2023: Bemetra Simmons

Bemetra Simmons is the president and chief executive officer of the Tampa Bay Partnership. 

Simmons previously served as the chief strategy and operations officer for United Way Suncoast, where she led core operations functions, including finance and information technology and community investment for a five-county region. 

In this role, she facilitated a COVID-19 emergency response process which resulted in the disbursement of $1.6 million in emergency relief to area nonprofits and participated in the planning of the organization’s new strategic vision. 

A former banking executive, Simmons also worked as the Florida Managing Director at Mutual of Omaha Bank and held leadership roles at Wells Fargo and BB&T. She currently serves on the board of commissioners for the Tampa Housing Authority, the executive committee for the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce and the Community Tampa Bay board.  

WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED IN YOUR CAREER? HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THOSE CHALLENGES? 

Over my career, I experienced a latent expectation that the positions I filled should reflect the traditional archetype of the field. In banking, a predominantly white, male industry, I caught many clients, team members and referral sources by surprise with my youth, my gender and my race. Many people were surprised to find that their banker, or their boss, was a young black female. Overcoming those misconceived first impressions was challenging, especially because it was difficult to discern which attribute was linked to their lack of confidence in my abilities. To overcome these doubts, I became even more determined to go above and beyond to demonstrate my skill set. Adversity has served me well in my career because it ensured that I became a master of my craft. 

HOW DO YOU CONTINUE TO EVOLVE AND GROW AS A LEADER? 

Being open to new perspectives and seeking to be a lifelong learner has helped me to evolve and grow as a leader. I believe strongly in maintaining a coachable spirit. I am constantly learning whether it is from the team that is around me, community members, board members or a stranger on the street. I am also an avid reader and make a point to ask other leaders what they are reading. 

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