These women say the private part out loud. Their stories from the front lines of today’s changing economy, about advancing (or not) openly explain how they think about choices in the moment, both big and small, from how to land an executive job or board seat, to how to talk, where to sit, when to be remote and when to show up in person, to what to wear, and beyond.
Part motivational summit, part mini-business school, part money management workshop, and very much a career planning download, the 2023 Career Mastered National Diversity Summit and Leadership Awards presented practical advice – and lots of personal stories – from a wide array of high-performing leaders across sectors, including from Walgreens, Mercedes Benz, Lowes, Amazon, New York Life, and many others (several were sponsors), as well as a few motivational speakers.
From healthcare to the law, finance and business to academia and the media, speakers shared how they make decisions in the boardroom, conference room, classroom, operating room, courthouse, and with their financial advisors – thinking of many dimensions at once.
Conceived and produced by Lisa Lindsay Wicker, Ph.D., a former top corporate executive in the auto sector, the Summit in Atlanta last week attracted women from across the country, many of whom were repeat attendees since this was its ninth year. The audience of a few hundred was about 76% African-American and people of color and about 90% female (based on the speakers’ and awardees’ profiles and observation).
Dr. Wicker held another half-day Career Masterclass, sponsored by Volkswagen of America, on the Summit’s heels, with her suggestions for specific, actionable steps to advance their careers and/or businesses.
Here are 10 key insights from a range of speakers at the Summit:
1. Have an entrepreneurial mindset: Having an entrepreneurial mindset is a powerful asset, even when you’re an employee and not an owner. Michele Ghee, of Allen Media Broadcasting and former SVP of BET, CEO of Ebony & Jet, gave the audience her “principle of 5,” of which this was one. I’ve found that an entrepreneurial mindset helps you see creative solutions and focus on finding a way to do them, instead of on obstacles.
2. Prepare your relationships for hiccups: One of the most interesting tips at the Summit came from Jillian Blackwell, Global, Marketing, Communications & Change Management Leader at Amazon, who reminded the audience that you’ll likely offend someone at some point, so prepare for it. She suggested saying, for example, “One day I’m going to offend you…let’s talk about it when it happens.”
3. “Don’t let other people’s opinions of
you define you”: That came from Lisa Brown, Ph.D., Region Marketing Manager, South East Region of Volkswagen of America, on a Summit panel. Brown also suggested women seek out lateral career moves, which was a point she also made on my Electric Ladies Podcast.
4. Describe yourself the ways you want others to describe you: Both Blackwell and Wicker shared and referred back to Carla Harris’s story of how she trained people to describe her as “tough” when she found out she was being passed over for opportunities because people wondered if she was “tough enough,” Harris is now Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley and was Vice Chairman of Wealth Management and Chair of the Morgan Stanley Foundation.
5. “Kick some glass”: Jennifer Martineau, president and founder of Leap & Inspire Global, gave a data-rich presentation, quoting from her book “Kick Some Glass” that she coauthored with Portia Mount, and McKinsey’s studies. She, made a number of points to help women find novel solutions that circumvent obstacles for women in the economy and the corporate workplace, especially for women of color.
6. Show people “the impact of their
work”: Erica Bolden, Head of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & People Analytics at Mercedes-Benz, the top sponsor of the Summit and awards, told a breakout session that, “people need to see the impact of their work.” She also said that understanding the business and strategy of the company you work for, no matter what your job, is key to career advancement.
7. Do something to overcome your fears: Marie R. McLucas, Chief Financial Officer, Primax Properties, told a panel that she deliberately took on a role that would force her to overcome her fear of public speaking. She also deliberately took on a board chair role to force her to learn how to lead.
8. “Be willing to be influenced”: Wykeeta Peel, Corporate Vice President, Head of African American & Women’s Markets at New York Life Insurance Company, made the point in a breakout session that, “to have influence, you have to be willing to be influenced” and open to others’ ideas.
9. “Own all of your experiences”: The Senior Vice President of ESG (environment, social, governance) and Chief DEI Officer (diversity, equity and inclusion) of Walgreens, Alethia Jackson (pictured above), said in her keynote address to the Summit to “Own all of your experiences because they are all part of who you are.” She emphasized that there are no “throwaway” experiences, or ones to dismiss as not valuable.
10. “Do the 20% that matters the most”: In her half-day intensive on career planning, Dr. Wicker demonstrated an 80-20 rule, that 20% of what we spend our time on generates 20% of the money and/or value in our lives and work. Therefore, she said, “do the 20% that matters the most” first.
Several speakers emphasized having a personal board of directors, that is, people you turn to for support across various aspects of your life and career. They might include lawyers, bankers, and other advisors who can tell you what you need to hear and help you make decisions in your career, business and other areas of your life.