What was the defining reason that made you want to advocate for women of color?
In 2012, I was experiencing some ugly truths in the workplace that were new to me, like negotiating a higher salary, navigating workplace politics, and all those career-related things that can become frustrating. I remember thinking, I wish there was a career platform for women of color; one that addresses our needs in the workplace. I wanted to know what other women of color were experiencing as they climb the ladder; be it good or bad I could learn from them. And that’s what sparked, The Memo. I wanted a space where women of color could hear and share experiences and have access to career tools that would help them move forward. It’s hard to be what you can’t see. I didn’t launch our first career boot camp until a couple years later, but the wheels started turning!
Diversity is such a popular term now, do you think some organizations still have no clue what it really means?
I think they know what it means, yet, they won’t move into diversity being more than an adjective. Diversity has to be a verb within the company. It requires action. Companies have been throwing the word around so long, but the data shows that not much has been done to move the needle forward. The stats for women of color in executive positions are dismal. In order to change the status quo, new processes and procedures have to be a priority top down. Diversity can no longer be a buzzword.
Why is it important for women of color to stick together in corporate America and office settings
The power of a good network can open doors that you aren’t able to open alone. And, you can shape the work culture when you are connected. It sets the tone for the next generation.
What's your advice to a woman of color who may be the only woman of color in her department or whose the only one with the seat at the decision making table?
There was an experience in the workplace that caused me a lot of discomfort. I was the only black woman on our team of over 20 people. I was treated different due to the color of my skin, and not my skill set. Instead of getting bitter, I had to get better. I had to recognize that life sometime provides you expiration dates and you have to honor those and move on to greener pastures. I use that as my mantra… Honor the expiration dates. Everything isn’t always meant to last a lifetime. So if you’re experiencing being “the only one” decide if you have gained what you need from this experience and when you feel it’s time to find another table, make that move. But, if you decide to stay, try and position yourself to bring more women of color to the table with you. It lessens the burden.
What can readers looking forward to in your upcoming book?
After Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg came out I realized we need our own version and decided to step up to the plate and work toward equality for women of color in the workplace. Everything I do comes from four places: balance, generosity, integrity, and resilience. My favorite quote is, “They ask me what I do and who I do it for…” My answer is women of color. They inspire me to keep fighting for us! My book comes out in April 2019 and it tells my story of climbing the ladder and the women of color I have met over the last couple of years--what it’s like for women of color to Lean In.