Leadership Lessons From Women of Color

This year I covered the 5th annual National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC) conference at the Hilton Hotel for both NAMIC and Mediabistro. In partnership with Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT) and the Walter Kaitz Foundation, the conference kicked off with a panel titled Lessons on Leadership From Women of Color. The panel consisted of Monica Diaz, VP, Diversity, Inclusion & Wellness for ESPN, Tamara Franklin, EVP, Digital at Scripps Networks Interactive, Susan Jin Davis, SVP, Operations & Compliance for Comcast Cable, Michelle Rice, EVP, Content Distribution & Marketing at TV One & was moderated by Moderated by Dr. Ella Bell, Founder, ASCENT-Leading Multicultural Women to the Top. Saying that this panel was powerful is an understatement. Below are my key takeaways.

Diversity is about who’s on the team. Inclusion is about who gets to play. ~ Monica Diaz, Vice President of ESPN Diversity, Inclusion, & Wellness


Ask for help. You don’t get any extra credit for doing it by yourself. Leverage your network.


Practice self care. Corporate America is stressful. If you’re not healthy you can’t be resilient.


Be an advocate. Believe it or not, some find it hard to accept women who promote their skillsets or accomplishments in the workplace. To counter this, form an alliance with the women you work with by promoting and advocating for each other on the job.


Embrace what makes you different. Your differences are assets and not shortcomings. If you’re bilingual embrace it. I call it “language capital.”  


Express yourself. Showing your emotions is not a shortcoming it’s an asset because it shows that you’re leading with the heart not just with the mind.


Pull up your sleeves. Women of color are less likely to have sponsors. You have to work harder at getting a sponsor for a women of color because it’s less likely to happen naturally. People gravitate towards people who look like them and since we’re under represented …. (you know the rest)


Pick yourself. Don’t self select out. It’s not just about management picking you. You have to pick you. Your daily affirmation should be “I’m worthy, I’m valuable, I’m good, and I should be picked.”


Build your network. Nurture your relationships so you can have varied networks that help you make informed decisions.


Be authentic. Don’t always try to conform. You were hired because of who you are. Make sure you’re being true to yourself.


Challenge the stereotype. As you lead others, pay special attention to the people who aren’t usually chosen to be leaders. Challenge that stereotype by choosing them and helping to develop their potential. Leaders are both born AND made.


Master the formula. Performance + Relationship = Advancement. Too often we’re told to perform, perform, perform but there is no heavy emphasis on relationships. Relationships matter. People do business with those they like. No man is an island.


Fight your way in. Just because you haven’t been given a seat at the table doesn’t mean that you don’t belong there. The things that you think are impediments are actually strengths. We have always been on the outside looking in. Nothing we have has been handed to us. We had to take it.


Raise your hand -- even if you’re not ready. Men do it all the time.


Ask for the raise you deserve. Oftentimes we’re just so happy to have a seat at the table or be in the room that we don’t want to rock the boat. Ask anyway. Closed mouths don’t get fed and don’t even get me started with the gender pay gap.


Believe the hype. You have to show up as someone who believes that you can make a difference. Be the change you wish to see in the world.


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