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Limitless determination

Dorothy Shaw reflects on legacy of service, leadership

Sometimes, the best paths in life are the ones we don’t plan to take.

That’s the lesson Dorothy DuBose Shaw, director, ethics, EEO/DE&I, Ingalls Shipbuilding, learned when she began her 51-year shipyard career fresh out of college.

“I have been in human resources for more than 40 years,” Shaw says. “I did not choose this field. It chose me, and I am grateful that it did.”

Shaw was born in Shubuta, Mississippi, and at age 8, she moved to Moss Point with her family. After graduating from Magnolia High School, she attended Jackson State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration. A few years later, Shaw returned home to Moss Point and accepted a job at Ingalls in the lowest-paying clerical position available at the time.

“I only planned to be at Ingalls for six months until I decided what would be next for me,” she recalls. “The six months morphed into many years. I worked in various positions in engineering for four years. I was offered a position in human resources and decided that this presented a new challenge for me, so I took the job. That was perhaps one of the best decisions of my career.”

Shaw now understands her decisions led her to the perfect niche.

“I can deal with people in a way that I never imagined,” she says. “I have the opportunity to help others by offering them employment, helping them solve work-related problems and guiding them through career decisions.”

However, that career choice was not without its challenges.

“These things were occurring during a time when career opportunities for women, especially women of color, were somewhat limited,” Shaw says. “I was determined that these things would not be limiting factors for me.” Although she often felt like giving up, Shaw stayed focused.

“Especially when I was told by a male that he would make sure I would never succeed in
a leadership position to which I had just been promoted,” she says. “I proved him wrong, and he later acknowledged that I mastered the position.”

That determination and passion for helping others feel important and part of the team remains strong today. “As an African- American female, I have experienced various forms of discrimination in the professional arena,” Shaw says. “It was always my desire to ensure that others did not experience some of the issues that I did. I wanted to work hard and show others that success was attainable no matter your race or gender. I knew what it was like to be the invisible person in the room, and my goal was to ensure that everyone in the room was visible.”

One of her fondest career memories was teaching Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, how to pronounce Pascagoula.

“I was on a national board where Bill and his father were members,” Shaw recalls. “When I started telling him about my employer in Pascagoula, he had difficulty pronouncing the name. We worked on it until he got it right.”

She still serves on numerous boards and organizations throughout the Gulf Coast because she believes communities thrive and grow when residents take an active role.

“I have been a community activist my entire life,” Shaw says. “Giving back is in my DNA. My desire is always to leave a place better than I found it.”

She attributes that desire and her work ethic to the strong mentors
in her life—her mother, the late Dr. Dorothy I. Height, and George Canaga. She recommends finding a wonderful mentor to help uncover your greatest success tools.

“And never ever give up,” she adds.

Now, 51 years after she accepted that first low-paying clerical post that she only planned to stay in for six months, Shaw will retire from the shipyard on Feb. 28.

“My goal is to leave a lasting legacy, and I want people to know that a good work ethic is important,” she says. “I want people to know that they can succeed and should not let things like race or gender stand in their way.”

Her plans include spending more time with her husband of 23 years, Kevin, and their blended family of three children and seven grandchildren. There are also theater and symphony plans to make, leadership books and biographies to read and surprising passions to pursue.

“The next chapter in my life then begins,” she said. “I will remain actively engaged in the community and perhaps find time to host more tea parties.”

“I have been a community activist my entire life,” Shaw says. “Giving back is in my DNA. My desire is always to leave a place better than I found it.”

Written by Cherie Ward

Cherie Ward is an award-winning writer and journalist from Ocean Springs, Miss.
Connect with her by email at or find her @cherieward on Instagram.

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