For Lauren Wesley Wilson, what started out as a luncheon series to introduce more women of color to those in leadership positions, quickly turned into a growing network of female professionals in six cities around the nation.
Today, the robust organization dubbed ColorComm has an active membership base of nearly 1,000 members and a yearly meeting of the minds at the ColorComm Conference each July. This year's weekend of dynamic speakers, workshops and networking, which started in 2014, will take place at Miami’s Ritz Carlton hotel from July 26-28.
But for the first time ever, the organization that connects the best and brightest in communications, advertising and marketing, is introducing a fellows program for young, minority women between the ages of 21-26. The program will give a select number of young ladies the opportunity to attend the conference for free.
Wilson explains the idea for the fellows program emerged from a conversation ColorComm members had about reaching millennials who might be constrained financially, but are ambitious and could benefit from meeting powerful women in their field.
“Jobs aren’t investing in young employees because they are so new and are constantly jumping around,” she told ESSENCE. “They don’t see the importance of paying money for a 22-year old who just got out of college to go down to a conference for a weekend.”
In addition to meeting game-changers in the field, young professionals will also receive the access and training that comes along with registering and attending the weekend event.
“We started this to give people who don’t have access to key players in the industry, or who can’t step outside of their office and receive exposure to the skills and training needed to advance, the opportunity to experience those things that will help them build their careers,” Wilson told ESSENCE.
Young women who apply for the fellowship program and are selected to attend will also receive benefits that extend beyond the weekend of activities. This includes the opportunity to be on the leadership team at their local ColorComm chapter, and, thanks to the partnership with MSL Group — a public relations company headquartered in Paris, France — direct access to open positions at MSL Group’s U.S. offices.
But even if a local ColorComm chapter does not yet exist or an interested fellow is happy with their current position, Wilson insists the organization still wants to hear from them.
“We want women from all over the country to apply. Especially people who don’t have this type of exposure on a regular basis. Who aren’t in areas with a strong communications, marketing, and advertising industry.”
Wilson believes that the experience will be game changing. By connecting young women with direct access to senior leadership, they receive someone who will actually “hold their hand,” Wilson explained. In addition, she hopes each fellow walks away smarter, with the confidence to advocate for themselves.
“Certain skills the majority group receives and minorities don’t because they don’t have someone saying I’m giving back to you. This is how you go get a sponsor. This is how you get a mentor. This is how you position yourself of value.”
The deadline for all interested fellows is Monday, May 1. You can find more information, here.