This weekend, I was thinking a lot about how far I've come along my career path. The person I was at the start of my career almost wouldn't recognize the stronger, more resilient professional that I am becoming. I thought about those situations in my life (personal and professional alike) that, while in them, felt impossible to get through or to let go of. But each of those situations helped to clear a path forward to where I am today.
It wasn’t until I was older that I understood the power I had as a woman, and more specifically, the power found in being a black woman. The power I found happened through the words of those before me: Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Audre Lorde, and Ntozake Shange all articulated a power I had yet to tap into.
Now, I hope that I don’t have to put together a full-on powerpoint presentation on why you should vote in the upcoming election on November 6th: if Kanye West alone hasn’t swayed you, then I don’t know what else to say. The good news about voting is that we get the opportunity to decide what side of history we want to be on, and we get to have a voice in what issues matter to us.
by: Minda Harts, Founder, The Memo
What would it look like if the rooms we walked into or the tables we sat at were diverse? What about in terms of board membership? Imagine sitting in a boardroom that was representative of the communities you live in and the customers you serve. I believe that is exactly what California is striving for in trying to pass a bill that would require publicly held companies to have women on their boards. Which is great news for women of color: we are not equally represented on corporate boards, so there is lots of opportunity and board seats to secure.
So what does it take to join and be on a board? Below are a few tips, some of which I shared at one of our monthly #memocareerchats on Slack. There are skills you can gain and ways to level up before you get to your future board seat. Many of these tips are for non-profit board membership, which can be a good starting point before you move to a corporate board.
I want us to be ready to execute when we do sit down--that is what you call Securing Your Seat!
How I Got Involved in Board Membership: “I knew at some point in my career I would want to sit on a major board so I had to start somewhere. My first experience was [with] a non-profit arts organization. With my [previous] fundraising experience, I could lend a hand and provide guidance. It’s nice when you have a skillset that a board needs. So this was a win win for both parties.”
How To Find Boards That Are Looking for Members: Sometimes a non-profit board is a good place to start, and resources like Guidestar.org and Idealist.org can get you started on the search. Additionally, consider organizations that you are interested in, and ask how you might be able to help. Volunteering at an organization may be a good way to get your feet wet, and allow others in the organization to get acquainted with you and your work. Being tapped to be on a board sometimes comes down to your network. If people know you as a reliable and accomplished professional, they are more likely to think of you when an opportunity arises.
What Boards Are Looking For: This answer depends on the organization, but some skills that can help are: strategic thinking, problem solving, understanding specific industry trends and techniques, and an ability to read and understand financial documents. I also found the New York Junior League to have a great resource for picking up some of those skills.
Considerations Before Accepting a Seat: “The requirements and expectations. I said yes to one board and it was like working a full-time job. Understand what you are saying yes to and what they expect from you.” Ask if the organization has a board member description. Make sure you understand things like: the time requirements, how often the board meets, what fundraising expectations there are, who else is on the board, conflicts of interest that might arise, the population served, and the direction the company may be headed. Do your homework ahead of time, as board membership can be a huge commitment, and doing well on one board can help you secure your seat on others.
And, shout out to the black and brown women who came before us, and ran so we could walk in the room! Women like Delores D. Wharton, who, in the 1970s, was one of the first black women on a corporate board.
As Assata Shakur once said, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
What else would you add to the list of tips? Let me know in the comments.
Most women have dealt with a “mean girl” or two starting from their first day of school. Unfortunately, some of those mean girls grow up to become mean women – and some of those mean women become mean co-workers. In my career thus far, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of amazing women, some of the most caring and intelligent women on the planet. Up until a few years ago, I couldn’t relate to the “mean girl” stories I heard about happening in the workplace… but then it happened to me.
My dad played tennis in the Marines, and growing up he took me and my brothers to the park and taught us how to play. This was one of the ways we spent quality time together. Years later, The Williams sisters hit the tennis scene and I remember how excited I was to see two black girls with beads in their hair disrupting the game.
I don’t know if my dad had the same intentions as their father Richard, but one of my brothers did go on to play collegiate tennis. When my youngest brother became the break out star of the Harts kids; he started to invest in his success and planned on going pro.
Working in groups doesn’t end in school. Depending on the industry you're in, collaborating and working well with others is a prerequisite for being successful.
We all know what a bad teammate looks like, but what qualities make you a good team member?
Here are four tips to make you a better teammate:
Step Up: Have you ever been in a group or committee and someone had to be the “leader…”
Did you know that our CEO, Minda Harts, has a podcast? It's called Secure The Seat, and is in its second season. Secure the Seat is about women of color in the workplace — what does it take to secure a seat at the table, and once you do, how can you bring others along with you?
We know many of you are like, “Hold up, wait a minute. I am still trying to get my last bit of summer out, don’t rush me.”
On, the other hand, we know you are ambitious women who like to plan ahead. For you, we've got four things you might want to start incorporating into your end of summer schedule to make the transition into fall a little easier.
Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is Tuesday, August 7th.
The day represents the number of extra days a black woman would have to work to earn what the average white man makes.
While black women are obtaining degrees at higher rates than other demographics, their take home pay doesn't match their ambition -- making only 63 cents for every dollar made by the average white male (all women make 80 cents on average).
In early July, we hosted our monthly Slack chat and talked about office best friends. It was a good conversation where we talked about the highs and lows of having friends in the office. (If you aren't in our private Slack group, send us an email and we'll add you so you can access that conversation and participate in the next one!)
As a follow up to our conversation in Slack, we asked others about their office best friends, both past and present…
We're more than halfway through the year, and it's the perfect time to start thinking about ways to level up in the second half of the year. Below we've included five new tools to add to your career toolkit.
1) For The Aspiring Entrepreneur: As some of us are preparing for our seat at the table or securing our seat, many might be thinking how to create their own empire…
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 a HUGE fan of my local public library. It’s a treasure trove of information and entertainment: there are books, movies, storytimes for kids, language classes, passes to visit local attractions, access to language learning, info for small business owners, author talks, technology classes, and more. I cannot say enough nice things about the library.
Almost three years ago, I decided I needed something more out of life.
I wanted to lend support to other women striving to obtain their career goals, and I felt like my experiences up to that point would be able to lend a diverse voice to the career development conversation.
I have to be honest, I wasn’t 100 percent sure how I would do this, or what it would look like.
In 1959, Peter Drucker, famed management consultant, coined the term knowledge worker. A knowledge worker is a professional who "creates, modifies, [...] simplifies," and amplifies knowledge to meet the goals of their office. Madame C.J. Walker, knowledge worker. Indra Nooyi, knowledge worker. Corvida Raven, knowledge worker. Olivia Pope, knowledge worker.
Recognizing the well-documented reasons why women often fail to negotiate – after having been guilty of a few myself – I continue to seek resources to mitigate my fear of negotiating. The best resource I have found to date: female mentors. Due in no small part to my mentors, I have been able to embrace my role in correcting these negotiation-failure trends early in my career. I’d like to share the following story with you as an example of how you, too, can empower and support your fellow female professionals.