Executive Director, Louisiana Governor’s Office of Women’s Policy
Black women have been leading in accomplishments across multiple sectors for many generations. Many of their leading projects, entrepreneur advancements, and corporate contributions have been overlooked by mainstream society due to bias, lack of access to media platforms and mainstream networks. A vast majority of women have been considered unsung heroes in their respective fields while they continuously provide expertise to the foundations of health, technology, business, education, science, and other fields.
Our national roots were founded on Black women’s creativity, innovation, and adaptability when it came to family and community survival during slavery, the Jim Crow era, and even today. In recent years, following the path of generations of elders striving to be seen, heard, and acknowledged for our gifts to society, we are now seeing a slow, but progressive shift to being acknowledged and spotlighted.
In the past decade, there has been a passion ignited within Black women to thrive and not just survive. Depending on a traditional 9-5 job with one stream of income, waiting in line for promotions, or only seeking jobs in “traditional women’s fields” are no longer our status quo. With the opportunity to contribute to sectors from a virtual setting, options for growth and advancement have been expanded for those seeking leadership opportunities, recognition or employment diversity. What situations have placed Black women into leadership positions in businesses, coveted c-suites, and board rooms? Every woman has a different journey, but there are common underlying factors that are helpful to the broader population.
Proactive health and physical wellness: We have heard time and time again that mind, body, and spirit are connected. This continues to be true for our greatest female leaders. Having a mandatory regimen for nutrition, exercise, and self-care has been an enhancement for leaders since the beginning of time, and that continues to ring true for so many Black women. Unfortunately, many women of color continue to wear multiple hats and put the needs of others and outside priorities before their own. Setting aside dedicated time for annual assessments, screenings, and mental health breaks can be crucial for success in professional roles. For example, stress levels impact cognitive brain function and can reduce work productivity levels if hormones are not regulated properly.
Economic Security: “More money, more problems” is not the slogan we embrace when trying to build a business, brand or expand to new roles. Anything from asking for small business loans to negotiating higher salaries during interviews, Black women are getting louder, forceful, and bolder when advertising their value and not accepting the lowest or first offer provided. Economic security is one of the most predictable measurements of initial success. Creating strategic plans for savings, business investments, and salary allocations are occurring more often within Black women circles of success. Grit is an important attribute to embrace when the financial road poses unexpected barriers to success.
Mentors, Sponsors and Coaches: “Each One, Teach One”. This African proverb still carries value for black women today. Finding a coach, mentor and/or sponsor can be a key to success, especially in the business world. Coaches train and provide guidance. Mentors share their success stories and strategies. Sponsors place people in positions where they can be noticed. Connections in multiple sectors are leading to partnerships for Black women who would otherwise be left out of conversations for investment and advancement. Creating relationships, building rapport, and sustaining long-term lists of persons who will support, empower, and open doors continues to change the playing field for Black women. These relationships are valuable as diversity, equity, and inclusion expectations continue to become more mainstreamed.