by: Minda Harts, Founder, The Memo
I am constantly thinking about how to amplify the voices of women of color in the workplace.
The Memo is the foundation, and my upcoming book, The Memo (which comes out in April 2019), and podcast series, Secure The Seat, are other layers of amplification. I not only get the opportunity to tell my story, but I have the privilege of telling stories of other women of color I’ve met over the years and what it was like for them to “lean in.”
Often, I sit back and think, God must really have a sense of humor, because I never saw myself advocating in this way. I am glad He knew my footsteps before I did. I probably would have shied away from it, because I have always spent my career off center stage. I have been more comfortable setting up the play so someone else could score. And, I guess, with my advocacy, I still get the opportunity to do that.
I am always transparent that I am not a career coach, which people like to call me. I serve in the capacity to help cultivate careers, and I see myself as more a career revolutionary--someone who will stand up and speak on behalf of those who haven’t YET found their voice.
This led me to think about what each of us can do between now and the end of 2018 to advocate for other women. Preparing for our seat at the table or securing it requires us to think outside of ourselves. Yes, you should make yourself a priority, but not at the expense of helping someone else climb. People often use the phrase “Lift while you climb”, but what would it look like if we took it one step further? If we took someone to the top with us and told them to jump so they could fly? It doesn’t mean you get left behind, it means that you did everything in your power to help them become larger than they could have imagined.
In other words, you provided a way to the top for them! We all need good mentors, but phenomenal sponsors are even better. If your mentor never sets you up for a layup, then what position are they playing in your life? Now don’t misunderstand me--there is a time to learn and play our positions, but at some point the people you call mentors should turn into sponsors (in my humble opinion). And if you have mentees, how can you become their sponsor? Some sponsors can be found inside the workplace and outside.
When I transition from this life, I don’t want it to be said that “Yeah that Minda, she had a lot of mentees and she gave some great career advice”. I want them to say, "she gave some great career advice and look at all the women of color who are benefitting because she passed the baton to them."
Part of blazing a trail is how many others alongside you blazed one too. In the words of the Carters “Over here we measure success by how many people successful next to you.”