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Creating Women of Color Leaders Through Purposeful Leadership

  • 18th Aug'23

In the current economic landscape, organizations have a significant opportunity due to the unique advantage that women of color bring to leadership development. Our dedication to diversity, equity, inclusion, and employee well-being, as well as our involvement in culture and community, enriches our emotional intelligence profoundly.

However, our representation at the highest leadership levels remains limited, and progress in addressing the diversity gap is slow. Always remember great leadership starts with self-leadership.

Furthermore, women, who are already underrepresented in leadership roles, are leaving these positions at an unprecedented rate, surpassing the departure rate of their male counterparts. Disturbingly, the survey also reveals that the next generation of female leaders are taking notice and are more likely to follow suit.

Women of color in executive roles wield significant influence to drive change. Leadership is cultivated, not innate. By understanding the requisite skills for achieving results, we can devise a personal development strategy that hones these abilities, positioning us at the forefront for esteemed opportunities.

The path to leadership demands a range of essential skills. The following are some of the most crucial abilities that can help your fellow women of color acquire as an employer:


1. Offer the necessary training and development

One strategy to enhance the involvement of women of color within a company is to offer an expedited career trajectory leading to promotion. This involves equipping them with the necessary development and training to excel in their new roles. When women of color progress within an organization, they become examples for others like them, underscoring the company's commitment to diversity and inclusion.


2. Appoint women of color to executive leadership roles

Show your commitment to representation to both your employees and clients. If there are no women of color (WOC) occupying positions that mirror top-tier regional and global leadership, your actions don't align with your words. Having at least one woman or person of color within your executive leadership team is crucial. Ensure diversity among those with the most influential leadership roles, both within your organization and in external interactions.


3. Prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across the board

When employees sense that they are truly listened to, valued, and acknowledged, their dedication to their work increases. Leaders who are dedicated to evolving as allies and advocates for every member of their team play a pivotal role in nurturing inclusivity. To enhance diversity in leadership and perspectives, consider rotating who leads regular meetings. Ensuring inclusion should be a central priority for all executives and staff members. Genuine two-way communication channels are indispensable.


4. Infuse diversity throughout every department and sustain it

Leaders must ensure that every voice is heard and that diversity thrives in every room. I have faced isolation, oversight, and exclusion numerous times in my career. Being a woman of color executive comes with its challenges. It's crucial that all organizations create spaces for diverse perspectives. Every aspect of the work environment, from compensation and access to rewards, recognition, and promotions, should reflect equity, diversity, and inclusion. This applies to every facet of life.


5. Familiarize yourself with intersectionality

Merely recognizing how women or people of color face unfair treatment in the workplace isn't enough. You need to grasp how these various identities interact. This understanding empowers you to recognize and address microaggressions against women of color more effectively. While "calling out" is important, a constructive way to begin could be, "What do you mean by that?" This opens the dialogue by clearly conveying, "That wasn't acceptable."


6. Act intentionally to nurture a diverse work environment

Creating a workplace that benefits from the synergies of a diverse team requires purposeful efforts. Addressing any form of aggression should be part of the company's overall culture, with clear accountability and respectful workplace policies in place to address and rectify such behavior while cultivating an inclusive and supportive atmosphere. Management should proactively raise and discuss these matters, engaging with staff to gain a range of perspectives.


7. Establish mentorship initiatives and collaborative support

Engaging women of color in direct conversations about the most effective ways to offer assistance can guide HR in optimizing mentoring programs. Rather than placing the burden solely on women of color to voice their needs, encourage input from employees of all backgrounds to propose ways to enhance workplace inclusivity and foster a collaborative atmosphere for everyone.


8. Ensure respectful inclusion of all voices

Be purposeful in your approach. One effective tactic is to structure meeting agendas to clearly signal active participation from everyone, ensuring every perspective is acknowledged and valued. Address any displays of disrespect promptly. Holding the offender accountable, instead of the person affected, can be achieved by questioning their intent with statements like, "What was your intention behind that comment?"


9. Lead by example as allies and role models

Forge and uphold an inclusive workplace environment. Mentors can drive change through their behavior. Actively educate yourself on microaggressions, identify biases, offer support as an ally, and speak up for others. Demonstrating these traits is crucial for fostering an environment of inclusion.


10. Invest in employee development and psychological well-being

To cultivate a healthy, diverse, and contented culture, actively support the professional growth and emotional security of your staff. Prioritize women of color and women in general, as it's essential for women from all backgrounds to see themselves represented in leadership roles. As you progress and achieve excellence, aim high, remain focused, and offer support to fellow women.


Shellye is committed to helping people from diverse backgrounds to achieve their aspirations in careers and life. The content published above was made in collaboration with our members.

Shellye Archambeau is determined to help you with all possible strategies to climb the ladder of success. She values your feedback. Do mention them in the comment section below.


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