Did you know that by 2060, women of color will make up the majority of all women in the US (Catalyst, 2023)? It’s time that leadership roles reflect this amazing diversity–especially because women of color are killing it, and redefining what leadership looks like across so many different sectors. Collectively we need to recognize that women of color can redefine power in corporate America, and WHO holds it.
As a business and career coach specializing in empowering millennial women of color, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing the incredible journeys of my clients—badass high-achieving entrepreneurs and corporate powerhouses that don’t view leadership in the same old ways, but lead through empathy and self-trust! It’s incredible to see suite leaders who are women of color—breaking barriers and knocking down walls. My favorite part of coaching is when I meet fellow women of color who are on the other side of my screen or room and say, “It’s so nice to see someone who looks like me. It gives me hope that anything is possible.” And then to see my clients create that type of empowerment with their own colleagues who are also women of color.
We’re changing the game by driving positive change in the world of leadership, and honestly, we can ALL learn something from the innovation that’s happening because of women of color.
Here are six of my favorite ways women of color are changing the way we view leadership:
Embracing Intersectionality: A Multidimensional Approach to Leadership
Women of color bring a whole range of cultures, identities, and experiences to the table. It’s like this beautiful soup of diversity and strength that makes them stand out in the world of leadership. Their leadership encompasses different cultures’ identities, enriching their approach with unique perspectives and understanding.
Imagine being a black woman who’s also a first-generation immigrant—talk about having a unique perspective in spaces typically dominated by white men! These inspiring female leaders have this incredible ability to see things from different angles, and that’s a game-changer in leadership. See, when we approach problem-solving or decision-making, we’re not just looking at it through one lens. It’s like women of color leaders have this superpower to take into account all the layers of their identity and understand how those layers impact the way they navigate the world.
The impressions about what a leader should be? Well, they’re rewriting the entire script!
Fostering Inclusive Environments: Collaborative Decision-Making
Women of color lead with inclusivity at the forefront. Actively seeking input and valuing diverse viewpoints, they tend to create an atmosphere where every voice feels heard and appreciated–something that has been historically difficult to achieve in most typical workplaces.
Female leaders of color also tend to listen actively, engage with ideas, and recognize the unique strengths of team members, empowering them to contribute their best. In meetings with female-identifying facilitators, inclusivity and collaboration thrive because marginalized voices are highlighted more often, leading to innovative solutions and motivated teams.
Pro tip: I often hear from my clients that they feel their ideas get co-opted by ‘stronger’ voices in meetings. I share with them to speak up when this happens by saying something like, “Kevin, I’m so glad that you agree with the idea I brought up 5 minutes ago.”
As a woman of color in leadership, you can truly make a difference with your inclusive and empowering approach to decision-making, ridding workplaces of the silos that traditionally have plagued less diverse organizations.
Cultural Competence: Bridging Gaps and Building Trust
Say hello to cultural competence—aka, knowing and respecting each other’s backgrounds. Women of color are experts at navigating cultural complexities, cultures, identities, and experiences, especially given our own experiences with overcoming barriers in professional environments. Female leaders of color have this innate ability to bridge gaps and foster understanding among team members from diverse backgrounds.
This cultural competence plays a crucial role in how women of color are changing leadership. We know that diversity, equity, and inclusion is not just a buzzword; it’s a powerhouse of strengths waiting to be tapped into. Making sure different perspectives are represented is where you start, but it goes far beyond that to make real headway with cultural competence. By recognizing and appreciating the cultural differences within their team, women of color create an environment where every individual feels seen and understood. We understand that acknowledging and embracing each other’s uniqueness leads to stronger connections, more open communication, and a truly inclusive workplace. As these leaders continue to bridge gaps and foster understanding, women of color shape a future of leadership that is not only diverse but also deeply empathetic and united.
Championing Community Well-being: A Socially Responsible Approach
Inspiring women of color lead with a strong sense of social responsibility, giving back to their communities and advocating for those in need. Their prioritization of inclusion goes beyond their immediate team and colleagues and often extends to those in their broader communities. By involving affected communities directly, female leaders of color drive real change from within, setting an example of compassionate and equitable leadership. Knowing that stakes are high for those experiencing enormous barriers, their impact goes beyond financial success, touching lives and making a positive difference in the world.
Aimee Allison, founder and President of She The People gave a great statement about this and has shared:
“Black women have the experience, acumen, ability and heart to fight to make economic and racial justice real—and we must have executive leadership, access to deep resources and vocal support from every race and gender to get our country out of the mess we are in.”
Resilience and Empathy: Navigating Challenges with Compassion
Life’s challenges may throw curveballs, but women of color are not ones to back down. The remarkable resilience and empathy of women of color is rooted in our personal struggles, making female leaders of color a beacon of support for others facing difficult times.
Having overcome their own adversities, these leaders approach challenges with a compassionate outlook. They don’t just sympathize; they actively empathize with the experiences of individuals and communities, ensuring that no one feels alone in their struggles. This empathetic approach guides our decision-making, as we seek solutions that not only solve problems but also uplift and empower those affected.
Women of color foster a culture where individuals feel valued and understood, promoting mental well-being and overall team morale. Their resilience and empathy are the pillars that hold their teams together during tough times, and they inspire others to embrace the same spirit of compassion in their own lives.
Mentorship and Empowerment: Investing in Future Leaders
As a coach, I have the privilege of witnessing the transformative magic of mentorship and empowerment through the over 500 women of color in 24 different countries I have worked with. These incredible women of color that I have had the honor of coaching are on a mission to pay it forward, nurturing the next generation of leaders and ensuring that more women of color get the opportunities they deserve to make their mark in the world of leadership.
They take the role of mentorship seriously, guiding and supporting young women, sharing their experiences and information in a professional space, and helping them navigate the challenges that come with leadership roles. They understand the power of representation and actively work to break down barriers, providing a guiding light for aspiring leaders who may have once felt discouraged or overlooked.
Moreover, these leaders are not just empowering others within their immediate circles; they’re also passionate about diversifying leadership pipelines across industries. By actively advocating for equal opportunities and promoting inclusivity, they’re paving the way for a more diverse and dynamic future of leadership. Their commitment to investing in future leaders doesn’t just make an impact today; it creates a ripple effect that will shape the landscape of leadership for generations to come.
These trailblazing women of color who are reshaping the leadership landscape, making it more inclusive and extraordinary, deserve a standing ovation! Their journey is a testament to the power of diverse perspectives in driving positive change.
Embracing diverse leadership perspectives is not just a choice; it’s a necessity in creating a more equitable and compassionate world. Together, we can learn from the leadership experiences of female leaders of color and stand in solidarity to build a future where every voice is heard and valued.
Are you ready to join this community of fierce female leaders? Together, we can create an unstoppable force that will redefine leadership and impact the world positively. Check out our upcoming retreat to be part of this empowering journey. And if you can’t make it to the retreat, let’s talk! Get ready to create this world of diverse leadership, together!