By Michelle Sokol
The Elkhart Truth, Ind.
Early in her career as an executive with IBM, Donna Belusar remembers being told she could not attend an important meeting in Argentina because she was a young female.
And then she was told the same thing years later when negotiating a business deal with Japan.
But Belusar, now the chief executive officer of ADEC, was not offended — she understood it was a matter of respecting cultural differences, and that she would not have much decision-making power.
“It’s not negative,” she said. “You have to know your demographics and work with it and you can be incredibly successful.”
Within her own organizations, she has been entrusted with positions of prevalent power and leadership.
But she said it could be because she learned early that individuals have a significant say in how much they are held back by their gender or their appearance.
“The inequities are only there if you look for them,” Belusar said.
Belusar grew up with tremendous physical disabilities, but she was expected to be just as productive as everyone else while she was growing up in the small farming community of Posen, Mich.
Born with a predisposition for skeletal issues that show up during infancy and preteens, Belusar wore various leg contraptions to help her walk. She was treated for Blount’s disease that would progressively lead to severe bowlegs and deformities in leg and spinal structures.
She remembered dragging herself around as a child rather than running, but she still got where she needed to be.
Eventually, she was diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis, which had caused significant issues with her gait and breathing. Her case was instrumental in making scoliosis checks mandatory in Michigan schools.
Belusar underwent several surgeries to implant rods and other appliances to strengthen and straighten her body, and her classmates and teachers adjusted desks so she could attend class.