Women of color want more seats at the “corporate table”

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June 17th, 2011

Omaha, NE – Climbing the corporate ladder is a challenge for many, and can be especially difficult for women of color. In fact, only 15 Fortune 500 companies are led by women, and of those women, only three are women of color.

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Authors Elaine Meryl Brown, Marsha Haygood and Rhonda Joy McLean sign copies of their book at the Women of Color in Leadership Summit on June 17. (Photo by Angel Martin)

“If you always do what you’ve done, you will always get what you’ve gotten.” That was a piece of motherly advice, or a “mama-ism” shared by author Elaine Meryl Brown, to a group of young and old business professionals at the Women of Color in Leadership Summit held in Omaha earlier this month.

Keynote speakers Brown, along with Marsha Haygood and Rhonda Joy McLean, wrote The Little Black Book of Success: Laws of Leadership for Black Women. Thomasina Skipper is the president of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, which hosted the event. As an executive, Skipper said not having many peers in leadership positions is a problem.

“It’s bad enough that women are in the workforce, but not in leadership,” she said. “Well, for women of color it’s literally worse. We have to empower more women to take control of their destiny – to either start businesses or look at promoting themselves. Only when we get to the higher levels, will we be able to bring more people on, and have more folks at the table.”

Legacy in Leadership awardees accepted their honors, received at the June 17 event. (Photo by Angel Martin)

Skipper said African American women aren’t going to make it in competitive corporate leadership, unless they’re willing to raise their hands.

“You have to make yourself available,” Skipper said. She added “power people” in charge of sending people up the corporate ladder tend to promote people like themselves.

“You’ll never be promoted if I’m not for sure if you have the same values I have,” she said. “So if we don’t extend ourselves, and maybe we’ll feel uncomfortable, but that’s the only way we’ll make sure we have a seat at that table.”

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