Being a woman of color in the workforce is no easy task—even going into 2015.
While the glass ceilings are getting cracks and there are unprecedented opportunities at the helm, that doesn’t necessarily make professional life “easy” for WOC who are new to the workforce or climbing up that corporate ladder. Sometimes you might feel like throwing in the towel, and that’s exactly when you need a little inspiration and motivation.
Consider these pearls of wisdom and sage advice from women of color who are thriving at all levels and in all type of industries. It’ll give you the strength (and camaraderie) you need to keep moving forward.
1. On Confidence: Gracia Martore of Gannett
“In order to lead an organization, you have to be incredibly comfortable in your own skin, and the only way to do that is to be confident in who you are.” Faking it until you make it might work if you have luck on your side, but for lasting success you need to know who you are and own it. Martore didn’t get to be a big shot at Gannett on hopes and false confidence.
2. On Self Improvement: Indra Noovi of Pepsi
“If you want to improve the organization, you have to improve yourself and the organization gets pulled up with you,” says the CEO of PepsiCo. “That is a big lesson. I cannot expect the organization to improve if I don’t improve myself and lift the organization.” Any organization is only as good as its leaders. You can’t be the weakest link if you want to head up an organization—you have to be the strongest.
3. On Passion: Oprah
“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” Oprah might seem untouchable, but her humble beginnings are common knowledge. She didn’t luck into becoming the icon she is today. She followed her dreams, but was a realist and found avenues to make riches doing what she cared about. You have to have both the pros of a dreamer and a realist.
4. On Reactions: Nyla Moore, Administrative Coordinator at Reed College
“My timeline looks like this: Bad, bad, bad, good. For every three (or more) bad things, there’s a good one. Just remember our emotions and reactions to situations are choices.” Every situation, no matter how major or minor, offers the opportunity to choose how you react. This is true in the workplace and in your personal life. Choose wisely.
5. On the Desire Paths: Jessica Tyner, Poet
“I always pause before checking the ‘Native American’ box on any form (assuming there is one—more and more, I have to select ‘other’). Will this help me? Hinder me? Should it even matter that my ancestors were on the Dawes Rolls?” Affirmative action is rich with controversy, and WOC in the workplace are reconsidering whether or not it’s beneficial—and if it is, should they capitalize on it?
6. On Taking Ownership: Edith Johnson, Banker
“We gotta stop blaming our parents, our childhood, our circumstances. It comes down to our decisions and attitude in life.” Today’s generation grew up with their parents talking about glass ceilings—but also as the generation who was told they could do anything. Placing blame is easy (especially in the instances where it’s deserved). However, it will do nothing to advance your career or any other aspect of your life.
How do these women of color’s perspective mirror traditional ideas on WOC in the workplace? There’s still wariness, still the idea that the battle isn’t over, and a renewed sense of motivation. However, there’s clearly been a shift from “we can do this” to “we need to keep doing this.”
Jenna is a freelance writer who loves the outdoors, fashion, and relaxing with her family.