Up Close with Rosalyn Durant: Being an Advocate

By WISE National

WISE Women of the Year honoree Rosalyn Durant worked at ESPN for 20 years before making the move to Walt Disney Resort. Here, the senior vice president of operations talks about the importance of remaining a lifelong learner and how advocating for others starts by "seeing them."

Describe a moment in your career that you would say was pivotal to your professional journey.

The first big career pivot for me was around a department change. It seems like a small move now but was big and a bit scary then. I was leaving the nest, if you will. Looking back, it gave me confidence and changed the way I thought about career opportunities and growth, and the benefits of diversified experiences. That moment led to others like that, and it helped me get comfortable outside my comfort zone.

What does success look like for you, and what do you do to work toward that vision?

Success is about being a good person and living an honest life. It's laying your head on the pillow at night at peace knowing that you did something that made someone's day a little better. It's doing work you enjoy with people you enjoy being around and respect.

Who has been your greatest role model, and what did they teach you?

My mom. She is the best person I know. She is light, and she gives light. She's kind — always. She loves everyone. She always tells us to treat people right — and fairly. It's a simple concept with the power to change the world.

How do you keep your ideas and contributions fresh and relevant? Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I never think I know it all or have all the answers. In fact, I never want to. That would be boring. I'm a forever student; an observer. Curiosity leads me to ask lots of questions and constantly look for new connections and possibilities. As my dad used to say, "You can learn something from anyone and everyone." I draw inspiration from everything, especially my nieces and nephews. It's fascinating to observe them navigate this big world.

In your career, what has been a "Pinch me, I'm dreaming" or "This is too good to be true" moment?

I feel that most days. Not "It's too good to be true," but "This is really good." I am blessed and incredibly grateful.

How have you helped break down barriers and create opportunities for other women in the industry, and what advice would you give to others — men and women — looking to do the same?

You have to start by "seeing" them. Be intentional about ensuring women's voices are heard. Seek them out, pull them in. It's important to me that I use my voice to advocate for women, people of color and other underrepresented groups. I like to ask questions. "Have you considered her? Why not? Allow me to tell you about her accomplishments and potential." I also make sure I spend time with women, helping to build their confidence, giving them honest feedback, and sharing my experiences and connections. You asked earlier what "success" looks like. Improving the experience for women (and other underrepresented groups) is part of the thumbprint that I want to leave on the world.

What still challenges you most in your personal or professional life?

Making time for everything that I'm passionate about without sacrificing my peace. If anyone has figured this out, please share!

Fill in the blank …

  • I wish I had known … more about study abroad options when I was in school. Oh, to go back and spend a semester in Europe!
  • Growing up, I wanted to be … the next Oprah Winfrey.
  • When I have downtime, you can find me … hanging out with my family, on a hike, or in a spa.
  • My greatest fear is … not honoring God's will for me. And snakes; I'm not a fan.
  • I can't live without my … sushi nights. Technically, I could live, but I certainly wouldn't be as happy.

Durant will receive her WISE Women of the Year Award at the 26th Annual Awards Luncheon on March 9, 2022, in New York City.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.