It’s Sunday evening, 8 pm EST, and I type this as I sit on a crowded Southwest flight from Phoenix, Arizona, to New Jersey. I’m tired and my eyes burn from the lack of sleep over the last week. Not only was it hectic at the office, but over the last four days, I was lucky enough to attend the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit in Phoenix. Though my body feels the effects of all the activities I’ve participated in, my mind, heart, and spirit feel ready.
In May 2016, I was one of 10 mid-management to senior management women honored to win a diversity fellowship by the Ad Club of New York—the first of its kind. This program was designed to give women of diverse backgrounds access to industry leaders and conferences, and other career building opportunities offered by partners like PricewaterhouseCoopers. For the past year, we’ve had a seat at the table at several conferences, but the Women of Power Summit has truly made a difference in my life.
It is evident that women of color are underrepresented in tech, marketing, and advertising fields. This note is not to discuss that which has already been a topic for the past five+ years. This conference was a place for me to be surrounded by approximately 900 black businesswomen in various fields including entrepreneurship, research, marketing, insurance, tech, B2B, and CPG. In this space, we were not minorities. And oh, there was nothing “minor” about these glorious women! It was like looking into a mirror, looking at myself and looking deeply into what my future could be…to aspire to what some of these women had overcome and achieved. I left feeling truly inspired and motivated after hearing from leaders like Ursula Burns, Bozoma Saint John, Ann Fudge, Gale V. King, Cheryl Grace, Elaine Welteroth, and others.
Here are six reasons why the word “ready” comes to mind after this powerful event:
Ready to innovate and be a pioneer
This conference is focused around successful women of color who have become indispensable at many Fortune 500 companies. They are vital assets to the growth and success of their companies. They stood out, they worked hard, they innovated and they led change. Hearing these women’s stories motivated me to think more strategically about how to approach my work and how I can help my team achieve our goals.
Ready to face challenges head on
Everyone faces challenges in their careers and push backs. I am determined not to take no for an answer. If no is the answer, I will adjust, bounce back, and find a way.
Ready to build my personal board of directors
I think mentors are extremely important to everyone at every level of their careers, thus for the past three years, I have made sure to enroll in formal mentorship programs through industry organizations and most recently, at my office. However, I have yet to build my personal Board of Directors. Many of the C-suite and executive-level women featured during the conference mentioned their personal board of directors and how vital that group had been to helping them think through tough business decisions and to making strategic career and business changing introductions. Former VP and Chief Marketing Officer at eBay, Richelle Parham, talked about having 10 people on her board. I was intrigued.
Ready to leverage the power of sisterhood
As mentioned, this fellowship allowed me to become “sisters” with nine other women with diverse careers from creative to product marketing, research to agency account executives. I will continue to build my relationship with these women as we grow in our careers and I will also forge bonds with others who come along the way, to learn and surround myself with smart people. After all, if we can’t be part of the boy’s club, we can give each other a seat at the table.
Ready to adopt a healthier or active lifestyle
As women, some of us often strive to be perfect, putting work demands and other stresses first. A good leader understands when it’s time to rest and recharge. After an invigorating workout at the summit with celebrity fitness coach AJ Johnson, I was motivated to make time for myself in the forms of exercise, meditation, and relaxation. After the workout, AJ encouraged us to think about one thing that we could change or do with regards to our lifestyles that would help to make us more powerful, strong women. I now understand why a healthier mind and body can improve overall performance and influence happiness, which is the ultimate goal.
Ready to commit to leading a way for others
To mentor younger women just starting out in their careers and to be aware of potential opportunities for others, especially immigrant women who face the idiosyncrasies and demands of corporate America.
This article was written by Keisha Stephen-Gittens.
Keisha Stephen-Gittens‘ flair for marketing and diversity stems from her vibrant upbringing in Trinidad and Tobago. She enjoys helping brands tell their stories and her passion for content strategy is seen every day through her work as a Content Marketing Manager at a people-based marketing tech company in New York City.