June 22, 2021
Typically, what defines us is not always what people see on the surface. And when you peel back the layers to Vicki Smith’s life, you’ll first find a doting mother.
Vicki and her partner, Janet, have been together for almost 30 years. They have two children: Sam who is 16, adopted from Guatemala, and Mattie who is 15, adopted from Nepal.
“They’re great,” Vicki said gushing. “I would say hands down the best thing I’ve ever done in my whole life is being a parent. I would do it over again a hundred times.”
On the surface, Vicki is gay, and her children are adopted. For Vicki, however, that’s not what defines her. It’s just more layers to who she is.
Her family is just like any other family. When you peel back the layer that is her professional career, you find someone who’s an advocate for being your authentic self. Vicki, Vice President and General Counsel for Sam’s Club, credits the leaders she’s had during her 21-year career between Walmart and Sam’s who have always been supportive of her.
She never felt like she stood out, like she wasn’t valued, or that she was somehow at a disadvantage because of who she is.
“I would say, when I first started, I wasn’t running around telling everyone ‘hey I’m gay and I have a girlfriend,’” Vicki said. “But I do think that a lot of people knew as they got to know me. I never tried to hide it.”
Vicki has had supervisors that have always made her feel supported. Unfortunately, this may not be everyone’s experience.
What I’m most proud of is how I feel supported. What makes me sad is when I hear stories where that doesn’t happen, even today...That’s not our culture. That’s not our policy. That’s somebody acting outside of our culture or outside of our policy. And that’s not ok, and it should be addressed.
Something that has helped Vicki navigate not just her career but also her life in general is to always remind herself that it’s not about her or what people think about her lifestyle. And even if it is, she can’t do anything about it. People will have their opinion. But Vicki strives to treat everyone with respect and kindness, regardless.
“I think a lot of people want to make people like them,” Vicki said. “They want to say, ‘We want you to like us.’”
If you ask Vicki what advice she would give to someone who wants people to like them—who fears rejection if they choose to be themselves—you’ll uncover another layer to her if you haven’t already found it. Great advisor. She gives great advice to anyone who feels they don’t fit into a certain mold.
She would tell someone who wants people to like them and fears rejection that sometimes the fear is valid. Being fearful of physical violence is a valid fear that you should act on. However, she challenges those who fear that people wouldn’t still like them or still be their friend to consider whether those people are true friends to begin with. “Chances are, they’re not,” said Vicki. So, you have to ask yourself if you really need friends like that.
But as Vicki explains, “There are times you’d say, ‘yeah I do [need friends like that] because I really need this job and I need to take care of myself and my family.’ And so, it’s unfortunate that people still have to hide sometimes who they are in order just to survive. But if it’s not that— if you’re not doing it just to survive, I think it will make you happier and the people around you happier if you can live like your true self.”
Doting mother, champion of being your authentic self, and a great advisor to those who feel like they cannot be their authentic self. These are just a few layers to Vicki beyond the surface-level identities we all carry. And if you need any more of that great advice, she has your back like her leaders have had hers.
“I will be willing at any time to talk to anybody and support anybody and try to help them think through a particular situation that they’re in,” she said. “I guess anyone that wanted my opinion, I’m more than happy to support.”