Sistahs Are Stronger in The Workplace When We Stand Together
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

The bond between sisters is one that can’t be broken. Especially when they have been raised to support one another unconditionally. And, this notion reigns true for Savannah and Kopper Joi Overton who are the daughters of Jayne Kennedy-Overton, 2018 Woman of Power Legacy Award Honoree. When it comes to sisterhood, mentorship, and the competitive advantage black women have when they help one another build, the Overton sisters both agree that women are stronger in the workforce when they stand undivided.

This year at the Women of Power Summit, Kopper Joi and Savannah will be joining their mother on the main stage for a conversation that counts on the multigenerational dynamics of work and success. We spoke with them about how the support of black women has shaped them as millennial career women and what they look forward to most at the Summit.

Black professional women

Savannah and Kopper Joi Overton

As young professional millennial women, what has your experience been like in the workplace? 

Savannah Overton: Most of the things that I’ve done in my life have been nontraditional. I always get made fun of by my family and sisters because they say you’re so this and so that. Right after college, I was just about to take a job at FOX and the vice president at the time sat me down and said that you are not a part of your parent’s generation. He said if you really want to be a leader, be an advocate and understand change. You’re going to have to understand the world or a company or organization from all of its parts. I have taken that as basically I can do whatever I want and not worry about being in the same place. One thing that I do take very seriously in a professional career is the understanding that in order to bring about change, I always have to look at it from multiple perspectives. I just can’t have one singular vision—it has to be inclusive and it has to be strategic. What’s purposeful to me as an African American woman is to be able to understand all sides of the table.

Kopper Joi Overton: It’s been pretty good. Luckily, I’ve been very blessed. I didn’t work for two months or so and then I got an internship at an agency that turned into a full-time job.

How does being a sister show up in your work and in the way that you support other women?

KJO: My sisters and I are similar but we all have different personalities. Now it’s really cool to see how I engage with other people when it comes to personal and professional relationships. I’m mentoring a lot of the girls who are fresh out of college. It reminds me of my little sisters when I see them. I’m like I want to help them!

SO: It’s everything! My father raised four incredible women and my mother was the forefront for all of us in terms of what and who we should be and what we should look like. Her journey has brought us closer together. We’ve always had each other’s backs. Everything that I do, I do it for them. And it’s because of that power and sisterhood that I share with them I try to show up the same way that I do for them at work whether it’s helping get students abroad, fighting for justice, or trying to find a student ballet shoes on the weekend for their audition. It’s a matter of treating everyone as if they’re family.

What are some of the benefits that black women have when they help one another build?

KJO: I think a benefit is common interest. It’s helpful to help someone build when you have common interest and you can understand where they’re coming from. It can be easier to talk to someone who is in a similar situation as you.

SO: I think that society is structured in such a way that it tries to keep us separate so that what we have strived for as a community as an individual are harder to achieve because of how divided we are. And, what I love seeing right now on social media within the black female community specifically is this sharing of ideas. I’m seeing something that is really exciting to me because what it means is that we are really trying to bridge that divide.

Have other women lent you a hand as you climb and create your career pathway?

KJO: When I think of women who have helped me become the person that I am today I think of Savannah, Karen Lewis, my mom, my godmother Sherry who passed away when I was in college. When I think about who I am as a person and where I am right now… it’s because of them and all for different reasons. My mom because she’s Jayne and nothing can stop her. My sister has the most amazing work ethic—I’m smart but I’m not “Savannah smart!” Karen helped me be the professional woman that I am. And, Sherry was like a second mother to me who didn’t have to be there but she wanted to be there and she always was.

SO: There are three that I really call on: Dr. Jennifer Sandoval, who was an adjunct professor when I was in undergrad; Wenda Fong, who I worked for at FOX; and Dr. Carol M. Liebler who was my professor at Syracuse University for grad school. These women have been my spiritual warriors and confidants.

How important is it for you to have a good relationship with other women in the workplace?

KJO: I think that it is extremely important, especially for black women. We already have it harder being black women in the corporate world where people don’t always take us seriously all of the time. So when I see other black women who have that mentality I’m like ‘oh come on’ let’s all work together and get this done because we’re African queens so why not work together to lift each other up.

SO:  In order to be the best women that we can be we have to be the mirror that reflects to our sisters as they reflect back to us as well and for the mirror to be genuine and authentic

What are some of the keys to success that you would share with other young professionals as they build and climb in their careers?

SO: Don’t take no for an answer. Nobody has it easy and a lot of times we think that everything is easy because of social media. But, everything is worth it if you want it.

KJO: Network – when you network with people you can become unstoppable. You can’t be shy when building your career. Be confident about what your passion is. Don’t be afraid to show it or explore it a little more and practice it so that when you become more confident you’ll excel. And, don’t stop learning—some people think their done when school is over, you can read or take an online class.

What can we look forward to from you your mother and sister at the summit?

SO: The biggest thing is the notion that togetherness really makes it happen. The triangle between my mother, Kopper, and I is one season to the next. I feed into Kopper, Kopper feeds into my mom, and my mom feeds into me. I think that is going to come through the most. So, what I think you’ll see is how we have real human conversations from mother to daughter, daughter to mother, and sister to sister in a time where the threat to communication is at an all-time high.

KJO: I think that we’re so blessed to have the family and connection that we have and we’re all so different. It’ll show people that there are strong successful families out there, let people know what my mom has been up to over the years, and what a family in the media without being in the media looks like.

To hear more from the Overton sisters and their mother Jayne Kennedy-Overton join us at the Women of Power Summit in Orlando, Florida.

 

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Lydia Blanco

Lydia T. Blanco is a proud Afro-Latinx digital-first multimedia journalist with a strong passion for truthful storytelling, photography and creative content strategy.


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