Our Time to Rise Up By Raye Mitchell
The Urgent Need to Reconfigure Leadership Platforms for Black Women and Girls
Make no mistake. Young Black women and girls are under siege. We are being silenced and we are losing generational connections, intra generational connectivity, and our visibility. The gender uprising that is calling for more women in leadership and access to the c-suite is not about increasing the number of Black women or women of color in leadership. The fight for gender equality is not about us. We are supplemental to the conversation and perspectives at best and left out of core leadership decisions for the most part.
How Did We Get Here?
A word of caution, my thoughts are intended to be provocative and to spark difficult follow-up conversations. First, the march toward “multiculturalism” and the inviting term “women of color” has allowed our identities to be superseded and lost. The use of such aggregated words suggest unity and that we are stronger together, but in fact we may be weakening our negotiating positions. When we consistently merge under a group identity, we risk losing our unique and individual contributions and voices.
Second, while we have mastered the art of the “mass conference, we have failed to master the art of continuity, increased touch points, and on-demand interventions. Major conferences can be well crafted, enormous in production value, fabulous in esprit de corps, and well stocked with high-profile celebrity and big-name panel members and prestigious keynote speakers. The downside is that a mass conference can silence individuality and is one point in time with no known touch points until the next annual conference. Conferences are grand; continuity is preferred to enable lasting changes and transformations, and to keep the conversation and action plans moving forward.
Third, our needs are being filtered and translated for us as opposed to building our own platforms, agenda, and forging alliances where we have a seat at the leadership table. I call this the law of “well-intendedness.” Many majority women’s group’s conference leaders are or want to appear well intended and focused on diversity inclusion. However, mere diversity inclusion does not translate to diverse leadership platforms or targeted agenda. We are included, but often lack power and control over the look and feel of the very programs that are supposed to empower us. We are both visible and highly invisible at the same time.
How Do We Change the Status Quo?
I focus on assisting young Black women and girls master the ability to rise-up and brand themselves in their authentic leadership persona. R.I.S.E.-UP™ is a solution-based concept founded on building our personal brands, increasing touch points and forging new alliances for young Black women and girls. RISE-UP is a branded rallying call not dissimilar to Lean-In. RISE-UP stands for reclaiming our obligations to mentoring and training the next generation of young Black women and girls by leveraging research to increase impact, real world solutions, and continuous engagements.
RISE-UP is an action-based concept to nourish a new generation of Black female leaders and speaks to the needs of Black women and girls who do not seek the traditional corporate c-suite career path. In reality, the true “c-suite” for these millennial young Black women is connected to another set of Cs—the ability to be competitive, confident, and competent and to contribute as change leaders and independent entrepreneurs in charge of their own futures.
R.I.S.E.-Up is about presence, persistence, and the power to lead change, to resolve conflicts, to negotiate deals, and to build personal brands as highly visible leaders and influencers. Recognizing that young Black women influencers want to be at the top of their game, we know that mastering grace under fire is both skill and art. Rise-Up is about enhancing our ability to trade inside secrets and build collaborations in real time so that we can maintain our integrity when locked in tough negotiations and critical battles that we encounter every day in a wide range of power struggles to advance ourselves.
We have reached a tipping point where we need to reclaim our agenda, reengineer our personal brands, and set our own leadership platforms on a path forward. We cannot continue to subsume and merge our needs into majority organizational programs in hopes that they will meet our needs. Black women do not need to lean-in. Black women have been leaning in long before the concept became popular. We cannot continue to follow advice and counsel that are not based on our root experiences. We have to be more protective of our intellectual capital and our personal brands by being willing to invest in and believe in our own programs before we invest resources in other platforms. It is time for young Black women to replace the call to lean-in with the drive to rise up, supporting our unique personas, needs, challenges, and opportunities.
You have the power to drive your personal brand, how will you rise up? Here are some thoughts to consider:
- Before registering for that next mass conference or Black women empowerment conference in 2018, ask the organizers to outline their maintenance and continuity programs. If they do not have one, are you prepared to build your own?
- How can you revise your personal brand in the context of inventing a vibrant new plan to rise-up?
About the Author
Raye Mitchell is on a mission. Mitchell is committed to being part of the amazing journey and united efforts to help young Black women and girls assert their power and their presence. For far too long their voices have been muted, their stories ignored and their experiences have been rendered invisible. Mitchell wants to help build bridges and lend to a positive effort to find peace and common ground based on mutual respect, equality and share visions of justice and inclusion.
Mitchell is the founder of the New Reality Foundation, Inc., and CEO at the Winning Edge Institute Inc. She is a power and influence expert, attorney, author, speaker and activist. Mitchell is a member of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund network providing legal support for women and girls affected by harassment. Mitchell has received national acclaim for her work mentoring women and girls of color to help them beat the odds and excel as leaders.
Mitchell is a graduate of Harvard Law School, the University of Southern California (USC), the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy (B.S.) and the USC Marshall School of Business (MBA). She is a native of Los Angeles, California.