- A conversation with CFC Board Non-Stockholder Director, Sharleen Walkoviak
Women have fought to etch their names in history and today it is no surprise that they surround great discovery, passionate missions, and inspirational change. March is International Women’s History Month, and the role women have in agriculture is infinite and significant.
Sharleen Walkoviak was appointed to the Capital Farm Credit Board of Directors as a non-stockholder director in 2018. In addition to her work with the CFC board, she has devoted countless hours to numerous non-profit organizations and directed lifelong support for youth education through the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (HLSR), earning the title HLSR Lifetime Vice President. As the sixth woman to serve in this role since the rodeo’s inception in 1932, her volunteerism is a true testament that leadership is often established through sincere service.
“The most important thing we can do is serve. You never know what will lead to your next opportunity. You never know when a conversation can have a lasting impact.” – Sharleen Walkoviak
Great opportunities are frequently unplanned. The most rewarding seasons will arrive one stumble, one coincidence, one unexplained “yes” at a time.
“My life involvement with HLSR started later in life. About 28 years ago. I had changed jobs and was looking for something new and social. My previous job had been very outward facing. As the controller of a good-sized company, I now needed to find an outlet. I had heard about the rodeo and the great work they do in education. It was my husband, Ron, who had me talk with one of his work buddies that served on the lamb and goat auction committee,” says Sharleen.
“Back then it was largely men who were on committees. At that point, women had only been allowed on committees for a short time. I think he decided I had stamina.”
This energy would continue to favor Sharleen as she organized hundreds of volunteers on six rodeo committees. In 2012, Sharleen was awarded the HLSR Trailblazer Award, honoring female volunteers who serve on multiple committees for at least 10 years.
“My passion has always been education. The rodeo has a great mission. It is a fabulous thing to see 35,000 people working towards the same goal—scholarships and grants for students who have earned them. The concept is far reaching. You make friends for a lifetime.”
Bridging gaps through collaboration, Sharleen harnessed her network to address other needs and create solutions in the local community. The partnership between Books Between Kids, a non-profit organization providing Houston’s at-risk children with books, and the HLSR Trailblazer Committee’s ROPES (Reading Opens the Path to Education Success) created lasting success for youth education. Together, a collection of thousands of books from rodeo volunteers continue to meet local community needs.
“We needed 30,000 books. I knew 30,000 volunteers. My mother was a great believer in volunteering and helping others. She participated. She made sure that when something needed to be done, she would volunteer to help get it done. I think I got my servant spirit from her.”
Sharleen representing HLSR at the FBI / Crime Stoppers High School Public Service first place award, which was funded by a grant from HLSR.
A moment with Sharleen will have you rethinking your free time, rearranging your schedule, and making a conscious effort to find a way to contribute to the world around you.
“I feel like if we’re going to effect change, we must work at it. I admire anybody, men and women, who dedicate some, or all of their life to serving. That is how change happens.”
Creating change may not always be the result of an outlandish and audacious goal. Impacting others can happen at any moment in ways we don’t expect.
“You never know when you are making a difference. Certainly, there are times when you think, this is great! But then there is a casual conversation you have with someone who is really listening or paying attention. You can have an impact no matter what you are doing.”
We tend to remember individuals who encourage our next steps. They leave a lasting impression and the role they play in developing our history is essential.
“People come in and out of your life in seasons. I truly believe there is a plan and a purpose. We just have to be open to explore the opportunity.”
Her involvement with Capital Farm Credit came from that very notion.
“I was fortunate to have been asked to serve on the board. My background is not in ag, yet agriculture has touched my life. My background is in accounting, and there was a need for that type of knowledge on the board. Interestingly, my involvement with CFC started through a rodeo connection. The board had recognized their desire to diversify and bring in outside expertise. I was fortunate to have that opportunity.”
Farm Credit Fly-In, Washington D.C. November 2021.
(L-R: Sharleen; Joe Patranella, CFC AVP Attorney; and Jennifer Thompson, CFC SVP Compliance).
Women in Agriculture
The agriculture industry touches every component of our livelihood. It is the pillar of the economic system and the driving force of rural America.
“If you eat, you’re involved in ag. If you drive a car, you’re involved in ag. If you wear clothes you’re involved in ag,” says Sharleen.
With the complexity surrounding the world’s status, the need for agricultural education and awareness has increased tremendously.
“Folks need to understand where things come from. They come from agriculture. The rodeo’s mission is so aligned with the focus of Farm Credit. Agriculture touches every aspect of our lives. People often don’t think about it in those terms. Agriculture makes everything possible.”
Women play an integral role in agriculture and rural communities. According to the 2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture, more than 36% of American farmers and ranchers are women. In Texas, there is estimated to be more than 156,000 female farmers and ranchers. The influence and voice women have continues to grow.
Roy West and Sharleen at HLSR Cowboy Church.
“Women bring a whole different perspective to any issue. When you are trying to solve problems, you want as many perspectives as possible to arrive at an informed decision. Together, we can figure out solutions to complex problems with perspectives coming from all directions.”
Sharleen’s leadership style encourages you to believe in purpose, volunteer before there is a need, and serve in hopes of bettering those around you. A conversation with her will leave you motivated to do more. Take opportunities. Take initiative. And serve wholeheartedly without hesitation. The people she has impacted over the years are grateful for her contribution to community. At CFC we are grateful for her spirit and the leadership she invokes in us all. - RL
More about Sharleen
Sharleen Walkoviak is a co-owner and CFO of Covenant Technology Services LLC, a provider of information technology services to small and medium-sized businesses. She is a financial executive and certified public accountant having received her degree in accounting from Texas A&M University, class of 1977. She's been a member of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo since 1995 and became the 6th female lifetime VP in 2016. She is a member of the Greater Houston Women's Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame and was selected as one of Houston's 50 Most Influential Women. She and her husband, Ron, live in Houston, Texas.