We all know what it feels like to wait for permission – from our parents, our manager, our colleagues, society. To wait for someone to give us the “you’re all clear” sign, granting us the space to express our viewpoints and challenge the ideas put forth.
We doubt ourselves – worrying whether anyone is even interested in what we have to say.
Doubt shows up just as we’re about to make a move that could up level our business/career. As we’re about to position why we deserve that promotion or why a new client should choose you over the competitor.
For many women, the more successful they become, the more anxious, nervous and uncomfortable it makes them feel. Some women try to deflect and downplay their accomplishments hoping not to draw too much attention or take up too much space.
While women are trying to downplay their brilliance, men are unapologetic about their success.
At first, it’s a starts off as a small whisper “Maybe they’ll realize I’m not worthy of this position” and over the course of weeks, months even years that whisper becomes a loud voice that urges us, hell demands that we slow our role, take a back seat and move aside because we are somehow undeserving of the opportunity.
Add salt to the injury, the people around us, some relationships we’ve held onto for far too long, feed into our stories. Some of your friends may question whether your presence truly makes any difference. There comments subtly suggest that you should just be happy that you were invited into the conversation.
Others secretly wait for you the mess things up. They waityou’re your fall from grace and the good luck streak we seem to be having (as though hard work and hustle had nothing to do with it).
We get it from both sides, starting to wonder if wanting a seat at the table is worth the risk as we slowly start to sabotage our own success.
Does this sound like you?
If it does, I want to let you know left untreated your doubt, fear and self-sabotaging behavior can develop into a career limiting position.
My life’s work is to help women move past fears so they can own their truth, own their success and claim their power.
I want to empower women and teach them to see that they are truly the gift. A gift to this world and help them see that their truth has the power to transform so many lives around them.
I recently had the opportunity to share my message of women’s empowerment at Harvard Business School, yes, the Harvard Business School.
I was invited to speak at Women Empowered – the 26th Annual Dynamic Women in Business Conference to talk about my experience in the Entertainment & Media Industry.
The experience was a full circle moment for me.
Four year ago, I was considering my options for my MBA and Harvard was inevitably one of the schools I was thinking about. I had taken my GMAT and was considering my options for business schools in Canada, the US and Abroad when I found out I was going to be a mother.
The news came as a surprise. Hell, surprise is not the word… I was in disbelief. This new life would turn the world as I knew it upside down and ultimately changed the trajectory of everything in my path. I now had another person to think about and shelling out $100k on an Ivey League MBA just didn’t seemed like the right move to make in that moment.
Fast forward 4 years later and I’m being asked to speak to HBS MBA candidates, alumni and women in university’s around the US about my experience producing and hosting my own TV show in Canada #blessed.
I was honored to be given the opportunity and made sure to use my platform as one of few women of color on the panel to share why we need to speak up as women and use our voice, platform and position of power to influence our representation in media and entertainment.
The experience evoked different perspectives from friends and family. Some congratulated me. They were proud of the amazing women and leader I was shaping myself to be. And others shared how intimidated they would be If they were in my shoes, feeling like their were somehow inadequate or because they felt that what they had to say couldn’t possibly interest Harvard grads.
On Friday night, as I sat in The Loeb House on Harvard campus during the invite-only cocktail and dinner, I scanned the room looking for my fellow black women in success who had their seat at this very exclusive table. I saw my fellow women of color – my Latinas, Indian and Middle Eastern sisters, but I realized that my guest and I were the only two black women in the room.
Through this experience, I learned 3 important lessons in creating my own seat at the table:
Lesson #1 “You Can’t Be Who You Can’t See”
Anna-Maria Chavez gave a powerful keynote during dinner that spoke of her experience as often the only Latina or women of color in decision making rooms. She talked about Ursala Burns, who stepped down in December 2016 as CEO of Xerox and highlighted the continued lack of women of color in these types of roles. My voice as the only black woman in the room, whether I knew it or not, could inevitably impact the many women who would come after me. I knew that me being in the room had power. We can’t be who we can’t see and I knew that young black women now had someone, who looked like them, who they knew and could see. They now had permission to seek new and exciting opportunities to use their voice, empower others and have the courage to show up in spaces where their voice and presence speaks volumes to the other women who look like them.
Lesson #2: “Don’t Be Afraid To Bring Your Own Chair”
Sometimes the opportunity we want and know we’re capable of achieving don’t materialize in the ways that we had hoped. Sometimes we don’t get the support of leaders or sponsors. Maybe the vision they have for the company, organization or business isn’t the same one you share. Maybe the value you offer isn’t as clear cut as you think and there inability to see it is in no way a reflection of your inherent worth. Instead of trying to break the existing glass ceiling, maybe it’s time for you to create your own. This fight to be heard, to have a seat at the table won’t always be easy. Don’t be afraid to take a risk on your idea, bring your own chair and create your own path to success – on your terms!
Lesson #3: “We Need Women in Front, Behind AND At The Funding Table”
As the clip of my talk will suggest, true change is going to come when we understand that it’s going to take women in front of the camera, behind the camera and at the table funding the projects to see the diversity and inclusion of our global world reflected in our favorite brands, businesses and shows. We need women of color in every step of the process who not only understand their role but how they have the power to shape the women who will come after them. Who aren’t afraid to push the envelope, to go against the norm of mainstream culture and create new paradigms for the next generation of show runners, executive producers, hosts and media houses.
Our voice matters not only because we are women or black or young. Our voice matters because we are equally as brilliant, equally as talented and equally as qualified for the job.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this first episode. Let me know in comments your thoughts or what it’s going to take for us to create our own seat at the table?