Until There Are Nine

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was notorious for her persistent fight to advocate for women, but her legacy goes beyond the work she accomplished as a Supreme Court justice, and she was not always esteemed for her fierce determination. As a student at Harvard Law School, she was criticized for “taking a man’s place,” even though she ended up tying for first in her class. Many women in the US are currently struggling to work from home while managing their children’s schoolwork. The Notorious RBG was no stranger to this dilemma. When her husband was diagnosed with cancer while they were both in law school, she took all of his notes and typed all of his papers in addition to her own, all while taking care of her newborn daughter. She faced discrimination in the workplace and had a hard time finding a job, but once she got started, she was on a roll.

Ginsburg, like most women, was also scrutinized for her personality. She was too serious, too forgiving. Too progressive, not progressive enough. Her appointment was eventually supported by feminists, but some gawked at her close friendship with the late conservative justice Antonin Scalia. Their relationship served as a reminder to the country that relationships can transcend political boundaries. They frequently traveled together, attending operas and riding elephants. However, his views did not bleed into hers, and she went on to become the leading liberal justice on the Supreme Court.

She was an expert of making the most of what she had. As a frequent member of the minority vote in the Supreme Court, she made history for her eloquent dissents, some of which eventually inspired new laws. Some of the highlights of her legacy precede her time in the Supreme Court. She co-founded the Women’s Rights wing of the American Civil Liberties Union, became the first tenured female law professor at Columbia, and co-founded the first women’s rights law journal, all during the 1970s, when most boardrooms had no room for women. In her later years, she became a pop icon, inspiring teens to become politically involved as she demonstrated her workout routine on late night television.

Ginsburg inspired men and women both through her actions and her words. As the second woman to ever be nominated to the US Supreme Court, she knew that it would take serious work for women to be effectively represented.

“When I’m sometimes asked ‘When will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]?’ and I say ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” -Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Although she is no longer with us, her story is not over. Her work continues to inspire efforts toward representation and equal pay. She persisted, and we must continue to persist.

How to Manage Your Mental Health

Not only have businesses taken a hit from the challenges 2020 has brought us, but for many people their mental health has as well. The best thing you can do in order to stay successful in your career, especially in times like this, is to first take care of yourself and focus on the importance of your mental health because the most important asset to your career is you. Here are three tips on how to manage your mental health:

1. Promote Mental Stimulation

Just like your body, your brain needs exercise too! Now is the time to try new things in your spare time like learning a new language or playing an instrument. You can also increase your brainpower with puzzles, books, or playing card games with family. You should always strive to practice lifelong learning in your personal and professional life. The more you challenge your brain and keep it active throughout the day, the healthier it will be.

2. Listen to Yourself

The only person that knows you better than anyone is yourself. While it might be easy to focus on other people, or the tasks you have yet to complete, you need to first listen to yourself to best assess your needs which will help you stay productive. It’s okay to take breaks and step away for a moment when life gets too overwhelming. Remember to take a deep breath. One way you can decompress is by practicing meditation which you can learn more about here.

3. Stay Connected

Our world has never been more connected than it has been in 2020. With mandatory social distancing guidelines, people across the globe have had to place importance on staying connected virtually in order to work or maintain relationships with family members and friends. However, it’s also important to know when you need to unplug. Taking breaks from watching the news or scrolling through countless posts on social media can prevent you from having a mental burnout and allow you to have time to reflect or spend time with your loved ones. Above all else, remember that you are not alone and we will get through these times together.

Want access to more wellness tips? Join us for Wellness Wednesdays every Wednesday at 10 am where we have local experts discuss spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health. You can register for Wellness Wednesdays here.

 

What’s Good

Sick of reading yet another news story about murder hornets and wildfires started by gender reveals gone wrong? We’ve collected some good news about women from around the world to brighten your news feed.

A rare breed of storks in northeast India were on the verge of extinction just 7 years ago. A local woman founded a nonprofit to employ women to change local perception about the native species and help facilitate growth. The women also receive training and education as a part of their work. Now, the population has increased 500% and continues to grow!

The Fortune 500 set an all-time record for women CEOS! In 2000, there were only 2 women represented; now there are 37. There’s certainly room to grow, but we’re on an upward trajectory.

MotionMobs, led by Birmingham entrepreneur Taylor Peak, was featured in the New York Times for their work in contact tracing. Businesses in Birmingham like UAB are using their technological services to keep tabs on the spread of COVID-19. “The best part—the app is free and available to all Alabama residents,” reports Bham Now. We love to see local women making history!

 

Rwanda recently set the record for their government being represented by the highest percentage of women in the world at 64%. This exciting news comes after decades of hard work and perseverance following the Rwandan genocide almost 20 years ago. “John Mutamba, an official at the Ministry of Gender and Women in Development, said: ‘Men who grew up in exile know the experience of discrimination. Gender is now part of our political thinking. We appreciate all components of our population across all the social divides, because our country has seen what it means to exclude a group.'”

$100 million dollars was donated to Meharry Medical College, Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, all HBCUs, as an effort to increase opportunities for black doctors and to improve minority health. The donation from former NY mayor Mike Bloomberg was the largest ever received by these universities. Over half of the students attending those 4 schools this year will receive funding from this grant!

Recently, “Birmingham-Hoover ranked #2 among large metros with the most successful women entrepreneurs,” according to Bham Now. Women entrepreneurs like Ashlee Ammons of Mixtroz recently attended our 2020 Vision Conference to network with other leaders in Birmingham. Did you miss the conference? You can watch presentations from some of our speakers through our Intentional Tuesdays recordings, available on Youtube.

 

Working Moms in 2020

2020 has been nothing short of a surprise to everyone. Who would’ve thought we would be starting a new decade with a global pandemic? It has certainly brought on new challenges for everyone as we try to navigate our new “normal.” While it might be difficult to see the good in times like this, what if we made 2020 an opportunity to reset cultural norms and create a more supportive environment specifically in the workplace? Working moms for example, have had to reduce their work hours in order to juggle the sudden responsibility of not only being a mom, but a teacher for their children while many schools are still virtual. An article from The Lily explains how the pandemic could be beneficial, specifically for working moms as they transition back into the office. Here are our top 5 takeaways: 

1. “Talking about our personal lives is now less taboo, and we should keep it up.”

Prior to the pandemic, coworkers might have been more private about the challenges going on in their personal lives. However, with the majority of people working from home, they don’t have much of a choice but to welcome their coworkers into their lives. Dogs barking and children playing in the background of Zoom meetings have become the new soundtrack to their lives. The article stressed the importance of employees and managers being empathetic and maintaining open communication going forward. “Managers can respectfully learn those insights by asking open ended questions, such as, ‘Are there any ways in which I’d be helpful to you as you think about staying at this organization for the long-term?’”

2. “We should re-examine our approach to telecommuting.”

When companies began to make the switch to remote work during the pandemic back in March, many were unsure of how productivity would still be maximized without working together in the office. Months later, there is successful evidence that it might be best for some people to continue working from home going into the future. Allowing employees to work from home when they are not needed to be in the office could come with many benefits like, cutting down on traffic and improving diversity. By having more remote positions available within the company, this is an opportunity for diversity to be maximized as different people could be hired from all over the country or potentially the world if necessary.

3. “We should think about all types of flexibility options.”

Flexibility has become an important mindset for companies within the past few months. This not only applies to working remotely, but could also change the typical workweek and hours. When it comes to shifting work hours, “to better accommodate the difference between office hours and school hours,” working moms would be able to adjust their day based on not only their work priorities but their families as well. 

4.  “Management training should become more of a priority.”

2020 has been a year that has relied heavily on supporting and loving your neighbor. This can translate into the workplace as the roles of managers have changed from just being a leader within the office, to being a leader and support system in the lives of their employees. Lori Nishiura Mackenzie, co-founder of the Stanford VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab and lead strategist for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Stanford Graduate School of Business, said that her and her team “have found that managers are spending more time on employee care, in response to both the pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests.” Moving forward, it might be beneficial for companies to offer more managerial training in how to best support the care of their employees. 

5.  “We should consider how we support workers outside of the office.”

The pandemic has hit the world hard financially as many people have lost their jobs, have had a cut in their income, or lacked the resources they need to work from home. The article discussed how some companies were able to give their employees a stipend for their “…home office budget–money for a new chair or desktop monitor.” However, if they are able, companies could offer different stipends to their employees in order to help them out more in other aspects of their life. For example, the article suggested “…companies could offer a child-care budget for parents worried about offices opening back up while schools remain closed.” 

To read the entire article and others like it, click here.

A New Way to Network

The term, “Zoom etiquette,” would make no sense just a few months ago, but now, connecting appropriately in virtual meetings is a must. Momentum fortunately got to host its biannual conference just before COVID-19 hit Alabama, but many organizations have had to forgo their usual in-person gatherings. However, Birminghamians are still finding ways to network despite an international pandemic. Here are some upcoming (and fun) events geared toward professionals in our community:

Rebound Bham: created by a host of nonprofit and government organizations, this series shows small business owners how to persevere and grow during this time next event Roadmap Goal Setting Workshop, August 27  at 9 am

Virtual Cocktails & Conversations: Join after work and connect with “social go-getters” in Birmingham, September 1 from 6-8 pm

CTRL + SHIFT: A Virtual Conference for Dreamers and Doers: “take control and shift the paradigm on the outcomes in our community,” August 28 from 12-6 pm 

Connect with Birmingham leaders in marketing, graphic design, and anything artsy through Creative Mornings, an international program with speakers and networking opportunities

Birmingham at the Wine Loft: connect in a casual space and get started on your next great idea! November 10, 6-8 pm

The Women’s Network of Birmingham: get to know a diverse group of women professionals in the city through their networking event on September 10 at 11:45 am through Zoom

Mixtroz: this Birmingham startup expertly features a myriad of opportunities to connect and grow your network. Ashlee Ammons, co-founder, attended our conference in March!

Protecting Your Genius with LaConya Murray

Momentum prides itself on being a resource for empowering women in leadership. Alabama native, Attorney LaConya Murray – also known as the “Brand Attorney” – has been making waves in the legal field by “empowering high achieving professionals and creative masterminds to protect their brand and their own genius.” 

In high school, LaConya knew she wanted to one day practice corporate law, but not in the traditional corporate setting. After graduating from law school, she worked for an attorney for one year before branching out and starting her own practice. 

In the beginning, she did it all — including disability, criminal, and family law. However, her true passion was found helping entrepreneurs. During our interview she said, “I think small business owners are the backbone of our society, and when they are able to operate in their genius and create and provide, then the whole world benefits.” 

She quickly found that these entrepreneurs were faced with two main challenges: first, lawyers were unapproachable, and secondly, many didn’t understand intellectual property or the value it holds. This is when she decided to transition her practice from general law to trademarks, copyright, and business development. 

Overall, she wants to help entrepreneurs package their intellectual property and protect it. Because the work that she does is federal, she is able to help people entrepreneurs not only in Alabama, but all over the United States. 

So what exactly is intellectual property? LaConya describes it as “the product of the mind.” From individual blog posts to the name of a product or company, if it helps people identify the source of a good or a service it is intellectual property, or what she likes to refer to as your “genius.” 

Going forward, she specifically wants to see more women own their genius, which not only includes their intellectual property but encompasses a sense of self. When describing the word “genius,” LaConya went on to say that, “As women we have to own ourselves and stop retreating into what other people think that we should be.” 

LaConya’s overall mission is “always to educate, inspire, and protect.  I want to continue educating people on what it means to create, protect their brands and grow their businesses.” In an effort to take the worry of intellectual property out of launching, she offers business owners flat fee legal services. For those interested in learning more about intellectual property, she’s created a free “Protect Your Brand” mini course. You can access the course here. LaConya also offers consulting services for business owners and entrepreneurs that are ready to defeat their fear, launch legally and confidently build the brands of their dreams. On her site you will also find books, business development tools, contract templates and more to help you launch legally! If you are an entrepreneur looking for a tribe of like-minded geniuses, join her free Facebook group “The Genius Lounge™”. The Genius Lounge™ is where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs come together to support, motivate, and encourage each other to own their genius.

You can also find her on other social media platforms linked below.

Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | Podcast | Linkedin | Twitter

Making Sense of Meditation

When I think of meditation, I picture myself sitting cross-legged on the floor with the sound of wind-chimes and the smell of essential oils. However, meditation doesn’t always look like this. Regardless of your lifestyle, you can find a form of meditation that fits with your personality and schedule. I’ve just started to learn more about other types of meditation, but it can be challenging to navigate the best form of meditation for you.

Sommerville Johnston, Licensed Professional Counselor, Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, wilderness instructor and founder of Aspen Roots Collective, guided us during a Wellness Wednesdays session last week through a unique form of meditation called mindfulness. According to Headspace, a popular meditation app, “Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.” Some mindfulness exercises ask the participant to notice their surroundings and current feelings to engage with the present moment. My mind tends to wander during those exercises, so I was excited to hear that Sommerville had a different approach to mindfulness by using imagery. Visualization meditation asks the participant to imagine a calming image, like a tree or nature scene, and to associate your personal emotions and feelings with that image. The goal is to find peace and stillness as you picture feelings of stress, grief, etc. falling down like leaves from a tree.

If the idea of nature is calming to you, you might also enjoy walking meditation. From the outside, it looks the same as any other jaunt through the woods or neighborhood would. However, there is a specific technique you can use to interact with your emotions and surroundings. Simply shifting your gaze from the ground to the birds in the sky or wildflowers on your trail can also help shift your thoughts. Intentionally breathing, listening carefully to what’s around you, slowing your pace, and adjusting your posture can all create a more positive experience.

Once you find your technique, you can incorporate meditation and mindfulness into any activity, so you don’t have to necessarily schedule it as one more thing to accomplish on your never-ending to-do list. Movement meditation can be done through gardening, taking a quick stroll on your lunch break, doing laundry, or taking up socially-distanced yoga.

Still not convinced? The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reviewed several studies and found that, “A 2013 review of three studies suggests that meditation may slow, stall, or even reverse changes that take place in the brain due to normal aging.” It can also be helpful in dealing with chronic pain, stress, high blood pressure, and headaches. This list only begins to describe the benefits and types of meditation, but it’s a good starting point on your journey of self-care.

Women and the Wealth Gap

 

The wage gap between men and women has been what seems to be a never-ending fight for equal pay, with women earning about 76¢ to a man’s dollar, and minorities earning even less. A problem that has not received the same recognition – but is equally damaging in the fight for equality – is the wealth gap, in which women invest only 32¢ for every dollar invested by men. I sat down with DeLynn Zell, CEO of Bridgeworth Financial, and Alice Womack, Associate Managing Director in Private Banking at Oakworth Capital Bank, to talk about the differences between the wealth and wage gap and how they are affecting women in business. 

DeLynn Zell, Bridgeworth Financial

Why do you think the wealth gap is less talked about than the wage gap? 

DeLynn:

People have not been focused on the wealth gap because it tends to be a stereotypical subject. Some women are uncomfortable talking about wealth and some women tend to be better at saving than investing. In the older generations, most women would depend on their husbands to control their investing, but in recent years, I have seen that women have shown more interest in investing and have had to step up to take on a more active role with their finances. Women are inheriting a tremendous amount of money and the wealth gap will be closing. I don’t know why it is not talked about because it should be. In the next 10 years, I see that women are going to be controlling the majority of the wealth in this country. 

Alice:

They are both important. The wealth gap encompasses the wage gap, it encompasses a lot of things including confidence in investing, risk tolerance, and career gaps. Women tend to have more gaps in their career because they are usually the caregiver of the family regardless of income. The less time women spend working, coupled with the wage gap while they are working, means less money to be put aside for investing. The ability to take on more risk and the confidence in doing so, will reduce the wealth gap. The wealth gap is a broader subject.

Alice Womack, Oakworth Capital

How has the wealth gap affected your performance and desire to climb the corporate ladder?

DeLynn:

Early on in my career, we were on commission. However, I later learned that 2 of the guys that started when I did were being given a stipend for a year and I was not. The head of the firm didn’t think women could make it in our field but thought that by giving me a shot, he was doing me a favor. That only made me work harder to prove myself. Now, I’m fortunate enough to say that things worked out in the end.

Alice:

I took time off to be with my children and fully exited the workplace for two years. When I did go back, I spent several years in a part-time role. If I had to do it all again, I would make the same decision today, but it does affect your ability to save for retirement. Not only did I not have income to contribute to my retirement plan, I missed out on the benefit of my employer match of my personal contribution. Investing early on is critical to growing your wealth, and the caregiving years for children are typically fairly early.

 

How in your workplace do you try to combat the wealth gap among employees and clients?

DeLynn:

As a female, I am sensitive to that and have made sure that wages are based on job description and performance. Nothing is based on gender. I’ve heard older people in the past make comments like “He’s got a wife and kids at home, he should make more than a woman who is the second breadwinner in her family.” While that is something that has gone away quickly with the younger generations, I am afraid we still have some of that attitude. 

Alice:

From a client perspective, education and awareness are important. I think women are starting to feel more and more comfortable talking about finances. It is encouraging to see more advisors and financial institutions incorporate programs and make efforts to equip and educate women financially. When advising couples, we make a concerted effort to hear both spouses. Often during financial planning sessions, there is a spouse that is more comfortable talking for the couple. We are mindful to draw out the other individual to ensure that their voice is equally heard as they may have never given thought to options presented to them until they learn what is available. Research has shown that women are very comfortable with saving and bill paying, but far less comfortable than their male counterparts when it comes to investing. Our role is to encourage them to learn more about and be responsible for their individual financial health.

Do you feel like the glass ceiling is still intact or have we broken through?

DeLynn:

I think in many industries it has been broken, but there are some where it still exists. I do think it’s generational as well. I see a difference in attitude between the 30-40 year olds and 50-60 year olds I work with. The younger generation is more progressive and has grown up seeing women at work while the older generations might not be used to seeing women in the workplace. We are seeing tremendous strides as the younger generations take control. While it may not be completely broken through, there are more shatters in it than there has ever been. 

Alice:

The statistics are trending positively. There are more women in the workforce now than ever before. About half of the labor force for females are also in executive management and professional roles. However, women continue to lag pretty substantially behind men in leadership roles that include C-Suite and top management positions, political offices and Board seats.

How do you think corporate America should continue to work towards closing the wealth gap? 

DeLynn:

I think there has to be mindful attention paid to ensuring that compensation has no reflection of gender. When I was in college, it was not uncommon to see women in accounting, but I didn’t see too many in finance. I have heard it said that men seem to talk to their daughters about saving while they talk to their sons about investing. A lot has changed, but we need to make sure we are educating and encouraging women to focus on wealth accumulation. 

Alice:

We need to make it less of a social stigma for men to take on those caregiving roles for children and parents. Employers have to encourage men to know that it’s okay to take the time off either short or long term if it makes financial sense and encourage balance for a family. I have also witnessed the reluctance of employers to hire or promote women due to their expectation that they will leave the workplace even if that is not in their plans to do so. Hopefully over time there will be more cultural acceptance and encouraging workplace policies for those scenarios. 

Financial education among women also continues to be very important as they control more and more of the wealth in the U.S. Women tend to live longer, outliving their spouse, and need additional resources to do so. Unfortunately, fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. It is critical that women understand and take responsibility for their financial health. 

Finding Financial Confidence

As COVID continues and stimulus checks remain unpredictable, it is more important than ever to find financial stability and security. DeLynn Zell, CEO of Bridgeworth Financial, gave a detailed presentation last month on how to control personal finances during the COVID crisis. Some of her suggestions include creating a budget, establishing savings, and making a financial plan. 

Unfortunately, women have historically earned less than men. “Women are three times as likely as men to say they can’t afford to save for retirement and have significantly lower rates of financial literacy. Women also make up the majority of caregivers, and are three times more likely than men to quit their jobs to care for a family member.” Despite men spending more time working from home, women are still bearing the brunt of the labor. According to Forbes, mother’s work hours fell four times as much as father’s in April, widening the already existing gender gap. Most men worked the same amount of hours, but women were expected to take on additional caregiving and homeschooling responsibilities. The future remains uncertain, but women across the country are finding unique ways to support each other. 

Here are some ways women are gaining strength:

  1. Being vulnerable. “Talking about and sharing more stories about the success of women who took chances, made missteps and still ended up on top are vital to helping more women go after their dreams and not be so focused on seeking perfection,” said Sarah Kauss, Founder & CEO of S’Well. Mentoring relationships are a great way to swap stories and bring encouragement.
  2. Improving emotional intelligence. According to the US Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, “Investors ask men about opportunity and the potential for gains while women are questioned about the potential for losses.” Reframing challenges and gaining confidence can help narrow the gap. Jean Ann Larson, Chief Leadership Development Officer at UAB, gave an insightful presentation on the role of emotions in the workplace.
  3. Speaking up. “College-educated women make about 90% as much as men at age 25, but only 55% as much at age 45.” Of Momentum’s Alumni, 79% agreed or strongly agreed that Momentum had a positive influence on their attitude to negotiate in the workplace. Delphine Carter, Founder of Boulo Solutions, works every day to help women find new careers. Her advice on achieving professional goals is for women to proudly share their accomplishments in a comfortable way, allow themselves to be whomever they want and, as importantly, learn to support each other on that journey.

Meet Mentor/Mentee Pair Joy Carter and Coleysia Chestnut

A mentor is a valuable resource to have in your professional and personal life. I got to sit down and chat with Joy Carter and Coleysia Chestnut on their mentor/mentee relationship that they have developed over the past two years. 

Joy Carter, APR, is Communications Manager for AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company, a Birmingham-based manufacturer of iron and steel pipe, fire hydrants and valves. She is a PR/communications graduate of Auburn University and is Accredited in Public Relations (APR). She serves on the executive boards of Momentum and the Literacy Council of Central Alabama and is active in the Public Relations Society of America and the Public Relations Council of Alabama.

Coleysia Chestnut is on the Engineering Workforce Management team at BBVA. She has a Master’s degree in Strategic Communication from Troy University and BS in Urban Planning from Alabama A&M University. She is a published author of The Exhale Journal and advocates for equity and inclusion of minority groups within corporations. Above all else, her most proud accolade is being the mother of her sweetest 2 year son, Randall.

How did you meet and decide to become a pair?

Coleysia:

I had completed my masters degree in Strategic Communication in 2017 and had just started my communications role shortly after. I decided to attend Birmingham Business Journal’s Mentoring Monday event, which is essentially “speed mentoring.” Individuals have the opportunity to speak with as many mentors as they want within an hour span but only have about 7 minutes with each mentor. I saw that Joy was going to be one of the mentors and I came prepared with a list of questions. I was 8 months pregnant at the time. After meeting, we went to lunch. Joy was actually one of the few who made it to the hospital when my child was born; I thought it was amazing that she came. 

Joy:

I was so impressed with Coleysia at the event. They said, “go,” and I looked up and she was making a beeline for me. She sat down with her notebook and began asking her questions. I was just immediately so impressed with her. I really enjoyed the very short conversation we had. Afterward, she called to follow up to ask“Will you be my mentor?” She was very specific in asking for the relationship. She was the catalyst. Her tenacity and drive impress me. I often tell her it is a co-mentoring relationship; I learn from her, too, in her role as a communications professional. It’s been a wonderful co-mentoring relationship. 

What have you learned from each other throughout your relationship? 

Joy:

She always comes prepared to our meetings with a question or something she wants to talk about, but it often leads to questions that I have for her. As a young professional, she is so very smart and she is so good with technology. Each time we get together it is an opportunity for me to learn from her. At our most recent get together I was most interested to talk with her about a diversity and inclusion project she is a part of at BBVA, and she shared with me some really good resources for that. Every get together is an opportunity to learn from each other. 

Coleysia:

Joy teaches me a lot about navigating the corporate arena. I remember being frustrated because I wasn’t moving up in my role and felt like I should be in a different place in my career–she reminded me that it was okay, because I was still fairly new and if I used this time to soak up as much information as I could and focus on mastering my current role, opportunities for advancement would soon follow.  There are always things that I will run by her, like “something about this does not seem fair to me, what is your opinion on it or how would you handle it?” Given her HR experience, she offers a different professional perspective outside of my network which I really do appreciate. Overall, I rely heavily on Joy for giving me advice about navigating corporate America and how to accomplish professional goals. 

How have you appreciated being a pair that isn’t exactly alike?

Joy:

Thinking back to our last meeting, and talking about diversity and inclusion, it was knowing I could have that conversation with her, and we were both coming from a place of respect and wanting and needing to talk and share. I wanted to listen and ask for her perspective and insight. It’s extremely beneficial to have the relationship we do, where we can have an open conversation. 

Coleysia:

I think Joy is amazing for me because a lot of times when black people–and black women in particular–when we speak up, it can sometimes come across as whining. With Joy I felt safe to talk about some of my concerns with the racism we’ve been encountering. It may come off as a “vent,” but sometimes it’s important to have someone you can talk to about racism in the workplace. Who better to talk to about that than with someone who has agreed to be your mentor? It creates a safe environment for me to talk. Across the board, Joy is my safe space where I can talk about things that matter to me as it relates to work and even things outside of work. 

Why do you think it’s important to promote diversity within professional environments and relationships?

Coleysia:

It’s important to have different perspectives. When I approached Joy, I didn’t approach her as a white woman. She was the communications manager of a pretty big company and that was something I was interested in. At the beginning of our relationship there had been some discriminatory issues with my previous company. As she helped me navigate that experience, I’m sure she got a lot of insight on roadblocks and challenges experienced by a minority female. Exposure to these injustices are critical, so when someone has the opportunity to have a voice of an organization, they can consider the impact and tone of communications to ALL employees. As we share experiences together, we learn a little bit about some of both of our cultures that may impact the work environment. Just as she may learn from some of my stories, I learn from hers by being a woman navigating through her previous roles. Granted there are injustices for black people as a race, but women are also marginalized in my opinion in the work environment. Getting her insight and guidance through that was very valuable. I can’t thank Joy enough. 

Joy:

We all bring different strengths and talents to our jobs, communities, and families. For that reason, we need to do a much better job in corporate America and in our communities of working towards more inclusion. In what we have seen in the last few months, we have a long way to go, but these conversations, which are perhaps awkward or difficult to have, are so important in moving us forward. Having relationships, like the one Coleysia and I have, provide safe places to share and learn together. We need that in our workplaces and in our communities.

One of the efforts that Coleysia is working with at BBVA, Team Talks, allows people to have these conversations. It’s really sad that decades after the Civil Rights movement we are still struggling to make more progress, as Coleysia said, for our black communities, for women in the workplace, and other groups as well. Relationships, like ours, are the basis for the conversations that we have to have to accelerate progress. It’s not enough to say, “We’re making progress.” We’ve got to move faster towards diversity in our companies and diversity at upper levels of management. There needs to be change, and it needs to happen faster. 

Do you have any advice for someone looking to get into a mentor/mentee relationship?

Coleysia:

If I could, offer advice as a mentee, because I do feel as though it is primarily the role of the mentee to promote this relationship. You need to assess yourself so you know what skills you lack and will know what to look for in a mentor. If there is an opportunity, I would first acknowledge that you realize who they are and have done your research on that person. When you do approach them, you need to be direct and communicate what you want to get out of your relationship. Be open to the answer being no. When you have someone that is in the position that you would like to be in one day, you need to understand that they are probably very busy. When I approached Joy I wasn’t arrogant in asking her to drag me along on her career journey it was more, “If you have time, I would like for you to share some of your knowledge with me.” Be prepared and be very intentional. Set expectations for yourself and know what you want from that person before you approach them. 

Joy:

The word intentional is great. And, yes, it is the responsibility of the mentee to reach out. As I said, when Coleysia and I met she was very direct in asking me to be her mentor. She is always prepared with something specific she wants to talk about. Again, that always leads to me asking questions and learning from her as well. Identify what you need from the relationship and the professional, and then identify who could best help you achieve that. I was very flattered to be asked to be her mentor. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional and to make that ask, because they should be extremely flattered they are being asked to serve in that role. With that comes the responsibility of making and sharing time, and appreciating the co-mentoring relationship that is a win-win for both of you. 

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