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  • Writer's pictureCharlotte B. Tillman

Forging Your Path to Leadership in the Face of Adversity

“A woman is free if she lives by her own standards and creates her own destiny, if she prizes her individuality and puts no boundaries on her hopes for tomorrow.”

— Mary McLeod Bethune

Greetings fellow WIELDers! Welcome to the Women's Institute for Equity in Leadership Development's first blog post. We are elated to have you here with us as we take this new and exciting journey to help empower women to maximize their leadership potential. Leadership involves forging your own path through life experiences, self discovery, and perseverance. Establishing yourself as a leader is not a simple feat; it takes courage, goal setting, and strategic planning. For women from marginalized communities, especially women of color, the opportunities to garner a leadership position in a chosen career field can be limited and extremely challenging. This may be due to the practice of systematic social exclusion in the workforce. According to the article, Women in the Workplace 2021 by McKinsey & Company and, only 13 percent of women of color held C-suite roles. Although the data from the study is disheartening, all hope is not lost.

Despite the endless obstacles, there are actions that women from marginalized populations can take in order to blaze their own trail. However, it's important to note that these actions require a great deal of tenacity and resilience. When a woman desires to ascend to a top tier position, she must be willing to take chances, accept risks, and remain cognizant of possible biases within organizational structures. Therefore, it's imperative to arm yourself with knowledge in order to effectively exert your power. The following are 10 essential tips to help light your pathway to leadership:

  • Believe in Yourself: It sounds cliche', but you must be able to see yourself as a leader and believe that you possess the skills necessary to serve in a position of authority.

  • Be Aware of Implicit Bias: Implicit Bias is defined as a form of bias that occurs automatically and unintentionally, that nevertheless affects judgments, decisions, and behaviors. It is pertinent to be mindful of implicit biases in an effort to recognize them and work to combat them through thoughtful and critical discussions.

  • Visualize Your End Game: Determine your leadership end goal and create an actual vision board with a set target and aligned action steps.

  • Become an Expert: Develop yourself professionally by learning specific skills based on your desired leadership position. Participate in continuing education courses on a consistent basis in order to challenge yourself and set yourself apart from others. In addition, consider obtaining a certification or an advanced degree.

  • Get a Mentor: Find a mentor who is already a leader in your chosen career field. Meet with the mentor periodically and ask the individual to serve as your accountability partner.

  • Join a Professional Organization: Grow your professional network by joining reputable professional organizations. Work towards serving as an officer in at least one of the organizations.

  • Keep a Journal: Start a journal to record of your strengths and needs. Using your notes, make an effort to increase your prowess to lead others.

  • Grow Where You are Planted: Build your leadership capacity while serving in your current position. Create a special project that meets the needs of the organization, empower others to join you in your quest, and measure your impact by analyzing the results of the project.

  • Start Your Own Business: The ultimate leadership position is being your own boss. This entails venturing out into the unknown through faith, preparation, and intentional actions. The reward is having the freedom to work on your terms at your own pace in a professional culture you design.

  • Illuminate a Path for Others: There is great honor in helping others, especially individuals who endure insurmountable difficulties. As a result, it is of paramount importance to make the road to leadership less cumbersome for the disadvantaged women that follow. Create a map for them, show them the path, and model the way.

Adversity is inevitable; there will be countless twists and turns for women to navigate. It is vital to view these curves as opportunities for personal growth and meet them head-on as you progress toward that coveted leadership role. No matter what you face on your path, stay true to your moral compass and keep moving forward. The future leader in you is waiting.

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