Preparing Black and Brown Girls to Lead
Updated: Nov 26, 2021
Recently on the Being Brown at Work Live podcast, I had the pleasure of speaking to Monica Woodson, the chief executive officer at Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan. We had a wonderful conversation, and these are some of the best nuggets of wisdom that I’ve taken and condensed into a blog. Enjoy!
I'm a career coach, and as a result, much of my focus is on getting more Black and Brown women into their dream jobs. But as important as that work is, I believe that it’s just as important that we invest in the lives of the young women who are coming of age today in America.
I don't have to tell you that it's a difficult world to grow up in, and today's girls need to be equipped with core skills to face the modern workplace. They need help to make it to executive level positions one day, and we can get them there.
Here's how we do it.
Encourage girls to include themselves in the narrative.
A picture's worth a thousand words, right? Well, as far as I’m concerned, being able to see someone who looks like you doing great work and killing it is worth ten thousand words.
All girls need to be exposed to professional women, to see women who are achieving in the executive space, because it's easy for a girl who has never seen a positive representation of a powerful woman (and no, 80's romcoms about harried professional women don't count) to write herself out of the narrative. A lack of representation doesn't tell little girls “you can't do this.” It stops them from even wondering if they could.
Give them real life examples.
Movies and television are great, but it’s even better if they can see a real-life example of a powerful woman they can meet and talk to. Some girls have a close family connection (a mother, sister, cousin, or other close relative) that they can look to for this, but if there’s no immediate family friend who can do that, we need to make opportunities for these girls to connect with women in the field.
This kind of connection is helpful for kids to close the mental bridge between "look at that woman doing that work" to "I can do that too."
Monica Woodson runs programs where little girls can meet with powerful women in business, who spend time with them and answer their questions. This exposure helps the dream seem not only real, but possible.
If you're reading this and you're a woman in business, then I’ve got great news! There’s something you can do to make a difference in the workplace for tomorrow’s women of color: reach back and help others up behind you. If you've been able to get a seat at that professional table, I completely understand that you might not have the bandwidth to get in a touchy-feely place and host a networking group or workshop.
What you can do is volunteer your time to mentor young women and girls, or offer free informational interviews to women and girls considering your field. You can bring up the name of another women on your team and nominate her for a position or a project. When you leave a door open wider than you found it, the result is fresh air and opportunity sweeping in.
The voice you have right now has the power to make things better for other women, which will snowball and make a difference in the lives of the next generations.The more we help each other now, the easier it will be for the girls of tomorrow.
If this topic interests you, you might like my free guide, Workplace Confidence for Black and Brown Women. It’s a hands-on guide for how to act when you’re the only woman of color in the room, and it’s totally free. And don’t forget to check out the Being Brown at Work podcast to hear the rest of my conversation with Monica.