Three Inspiring Leaders Share Their Experiences and Insights

“Bring your authentic self.” “Be relentless.” “Understand intent and impact.” This is a sampling of the excellent advice given by three executive women of color during Propeller’s virtual panel, held on August 26. The event coincided with Women’s Equality Day, an annual event marking the formal signing into law of women’s’ right to vote. Recent social and political events have highlighted the structural inequalities present in our society, and the workplace is no different. 

The professional journey is not the same for all women 

The path to career success is uniquely challenging for women, and especially women of color, who have dealt with difficult and unequal journeys to success. As these inequities are now gaining long overdue attention, Propeller wanted to elevate the voices of those who have previously been muted. 

Panelists Michele “MJ” Jordan (Nike), Tonya Adams (Cambia), and Sharee Adriazola (MyGroove Designs), generously shared their personal stories, challenges, and advice to help guide others in their careers—and in life—during an informative 60-minute session. We can all continue to work towards equality, regardless of our gender or race, by following the lead of these brilliant women. Here are some highlights. 

1. MAKE BOLD MOVES 

It can be scary to move beyond your comfort zone or to challenge norms, but it can also put you in control. Find the right place and the right way to empower and express your authentic self within your life. For a woman of color, a bold move might be something as simple as a hair style, but it can also be a career move out of your comfort zone that forces growth. 

Women of color are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from work because of their hair. The Crown Act was enacted in California in 2019 to help curb discrimination based on one’s natural hair in the workplace and in schools. Since then, seven other states have adopted this legislation.

2. BE RELENTLESS AND RESILIENT 

Don’t take no for an answer: ask tough questions and be persistent. Don’t give up on yourself or your career goals when you encounter setbacks, and remain confident even when the cards are stacked against you. Find a good mentor and a supportive work environment, and provide mentorship and support to others. Don’t settle. Eventually, your good work will result in people reaching out to you. 

Of the total U.S. workforce, Black women account for 7% of the population, but make up 12% of minimum wage earners, according to data from Lean In. Of C-suite leaders today, 21% are women and just 1% are Black women. source: CNBC

3. MAINTAIN A POSITIVE MINDSET 

A positive mindset allows you to grow, reframe difficulties, and strive towards your goals despite any external and internal messages working to hold you back. Putting your energy and discipline into building a mindset that embraces your strengths and abilities will stave off negative reactions, and enable you to be confident and authentic. 

It’s not going to be an easy task to create equity in the workplace. It will require some heavy lifting from everyone—but you can, and should, start with yourself. 


45% of Black women say the place they most often experience racism in their lives is, in fact, the workplace. source: Fortune

For more information and help in how to navigate an often challenging landscape, we invite you to watch the full Propel Her event here

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About Propel Her 

In 2017, three women founded our first gender diversity initiative, Propel Her. The mission of Propel Her is to help women and non-binary folks increase their presence, influence, and professional partnerships in their communities and workplaces. Through its events and partnerships, Propel Her aims to provide guidance and tools that support gender-diverse leaders, including mentorship, negotiations, conflict resolution, and leadership. 

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