HILTON, N.Y. (WROC) — We continue our Remarkable Women series featuring the four finalists chosen to be recognized for their contributions to our community. We received more than 80 nominations from viewers this year.
Our second finalist is a website tech superstar who’s been called “The busiest woman in WordPress”.
“I feel really strongly that when you have the ability to help other people you should”, said Michelle Frechette.
The 54-year-old mom gets emotional speaking about her purpose. With Wonder Woman in her peripheral, Frechette is taking on the world — the digital world. She’s building websites, writing books and articles, connecting jobseekers to employers, and hosting podcasts. Discrimination and stereotypes are the biggest villains in her life’s story.
“We talk about the hard issues. Performative things that happen for underrepresented people,” explained Frechette. “Nobody wants to be tokenized. I don’t want to be the token woman, the token disabled person. We want to make sure that it isn’t about tokenization it’s about representation.”
In 2013 Frechette left her job in higher education to become a freelance web designer. She says, “I was building websites for other people and charging whatever I thought was appropriate, which by the way was never enough because women are always undervaluing ourselves.” She adds, “We need to absolutely charge what men and others in the industry are charging.”
She quickly noticed she had very few women to look to as role models, so she forged a path. Today, she serves as Director of Community Engagement with StellarWP, a division of WordPress.
A highly regarded leader in the industry–Michelle is often asked to speak at or organize WordPress events around the globe. When we met in February, she was headed to Thailand.
“I have fibromyalgia and arthritis and I am a plus-size woman, which brings on inherent issues of its own,” says Frechette.
But she says she’s never allowed her disability to define her. A recent conference experience prompted her to write an article “5 Days Without a Shower.”
“I use a motor scooter to get around events. I couldn’t get around myself,” she said. “My handicap-accessible room did not have a shower, so I actually spent five days just using a sink to clean up.”
As a result, WordPress executives created a role to ensure that people who have disabilities, food allergies, or specific diets are accommodated at future conferences. Frechette leads that effort too.
Frechette’s advocacy, mentorship, and “superpower of kindness” aren’t reserved for women, people of color, or those with special needs. She helped Jefferey Betancourt find his first job in tech.
“She’s always been a very personal person and caring. The way she leads you don’t feel micromanaged. She empowers you to do better,” said Betancourt.
Now he has a front-row seat as Hilton’s own Wonder Woman wields her powers for good. Frechette said, “It’s something that just inspires I think and I know it’s unrealistic. I don’t have superpowers. It’s not just helping yourself but it’s also helping other people too.”
Frechette is also an avid nature photographer capturing eagles, herons, turtles, hawks, and more. She volunteers her services to help local nonprofits and she provides complimentary photo sessions for families.