Persistence pays off.
Miss America runner-up Jennifer Davis told about a dozen ABB employees that message during a networking event Wednesday afternoon at ABB's Jefferson City factory.
The St. Charles native and 2017 Miss Missouri winner spoke to a new networking group at ABB and told employees after five years of hard work, she almost reached her dream of becoming Miss America.
Shelly Carver of ABB said the goal of the event was simply to show ABB's female employees they can do anything. Zurich-based ABB recently started a company-wide networking group called the Women's Opportunity Network, designed to encourage, inspire and empower women in the company after realizing women need support in careers in science, technology, math and engineering. The company aims to hire more female engineers.
Davis, 23, began pursuing her Miss America dreams in 2012 when she entered college at Saint Louis University. For those five years, she said, people told her she couldn't become Miss America.
"I was told I wouldn't win because I wouldn't have the right body type. I was told I wouldn't win because of the color of my skin or because I didn't have enough talent every day for five years," Davis said. "That was a hard thing to read every day for five years."
Davis said her dream of being Miss America began when she was 5 years old. As an 18-year-old freshman, she decided to become a role model for other girls by entering regional pageants and put off her career goals.
Davis graduated from Saint Louis University with a bachelor's degree in communication and has a background in broadcasting. After graduating from SLU, she put her plans to pursue pediatric oncology on hold while pursuing Miss America this year.
After years of working her way up through regional pageants, Davis was named Miss Missouri in July. She had just two months to prepare for the Miss America pageant in September.
"That moment, my entire life changed," Davis said.
Ultimately she placed second, but she said the experience changed her.
"I didn't become Miss America, even though that was the goal," Davis said. "But I got to know what it meant to empower not only myself but 50 strangers."
During her 20-minute speech Wednesday, she told ABB employees women need to empower themselves.
"You're an inspiration to me because you're doing something that a lot of women are too afraid to do, and that's to walk into a man-dominated industry and to be connected with women, to empower each other."