What are your words of advice to young talent?
I would like to take this opportunity to direct this advice to young African American women trying to break into this industry. According to recent studies, we are now the most educated group in the U.S. and the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the country. But in contrast, African American women are paid the least in comparison to our white and Hispanic female counterparts. We are underrepresented in the private-sector, and even more so at the leadership level.
I am fortunate to work for Tierney, an agency that embraces diversity and values the perspective that I bring to the table as a black woman. My employers recently sponsored my attendance at a conference called ColorComm for women of color in communications. One of the presenters made a statement that has stuck in my mind ever since: “Be your whole self”. It’s the “whole” that is particularly profound, because I think a lot of black women hold themselves back in professional settings. We are smart and insightful, and in many cases we’re the CEOs, COOs and CFOs of our households. We bring insights to our companies and clients that are like no other.
I encourage young women to embrace being vibrant and outspoken. Be confident and poised in your beautiful braids and tailored pencil skirts. Get comfortable being the only one. It’s often an opportunity to enlighten others and stand out in a very powerful way.
Have you personally faced a moment of challenging or overcoming discrimination?
Fortunately, I can say that I have not experienced overt discrimination in my career. Although, that’s not to say it hasn’t happened.
What I have faced within professional circles is women not supporting other women. As a young professional in my 20s, there weren’t a lot of women actively nurturing the next generation of female leaders. It was a very competitive and unwelcoming space. In the last decade, I have seen that start to change. There has been a shift—let’s call it a movement of women empowering and uplifting one another. Social media has been a great catalyst for this change, as well. I’ve personally vowed to reach back and pay it forward. Currently, I am mentoring 13 young women, all of whom I know are destined to be sitting where I am today.
Who was your first mentor and what did that mean for your career?
My first mentor was my first boss and the person who hired me here at Tierney, Amy Jackson. Tierney was my first real job out of college. I had decent internship experience, but not the agency experience that we look for from candidates today. Amy, an African American woman, took a risk not just by hiring me, but by seeing my potential and brining me in as an assistant account executive—as opposed to the entry-level position of account coordinator. Along with that vote of confidence, came increased accountability on both of our parts. Amy championed my personal growth and development at the agency, while giving me the confidence and coaching behind-the-scenes to succeed. She always kept it real, in real time, which I have applied to my leadership style today. I would not be where I am in my career without her. Thank you, Amy.