Attendees at the 2016 ESSENCE Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana beheld an amazing empowerment panel discussion called "Leading with Purpose." Moderated by Ellen McGirt, writer and editor for FORTUNE magazine, the discussion featured Bernard Tyson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente.
Additionally, three Black Women Executives (BWE) offering sound advice rounded out the panel: Kimberly Blackwell, CEO of The PMM Agency, Pamela Carlton, founder and president of Springboard – Partners in Cross Cultural Leadership and Co-Founder of The Everest Project and Deborah Elam, chief diversity officer of GE and president of the GE Foundation.
By way of background, in 2008, there was a study conducted by The Executive Leadership Council (ELC) entitled Black Women Executives Research Initiative. In 2016, the remix – so to speak – was released. Called Black Women Executives Research Initiative Revisited, the study found that 27 percent of African American women execs were promoted to higher level positions. On the contrary, more than 50 percent of black women made lateral moves, stayed in the same or similar positions, or suffered diminished roles altogether.
The panelists shared several ways Black Women Executives can “race to the top” and ensure their longevity and place in the C-Suite:
Lead with your head. According to Tyson, this is the first thing he looks for in a leader within his organization. Understand what it takes to be a leader, how to work with people, how to look at complicated data and simplify it, and just flat out know how to get the job done.
Lead with your heart. Know how to interact with people, have empathy for others, and make your employees feel good about who they are.
Lead with a moral compass. Be a person of high integrity. Do the right thing – even when no one else is watching.
Lead as a change agent. Carlton points out that women leading the charge for change in an organization tend to have more senior positions. Focus on transformation. Black women are taking the lead on innovation within corporations. If you can create a culture of innovation for your team, you can rise within the ranks.
Lead by conquering what’s uninhabited. When you find a deep void within your company, figure out a way to fill it. “Leading the charge and driving innovation is critical to success says,” Carlton.
For more help realizing your opportunities for advancement in business leadership, check out the Executive Summary available on The ELC’s website here.
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