FIRST THOUGHT: Communication Fair Play
A must-read piece in Allure covered what women of color wish everyone else knew: A model reminds readers that Latinas’ skin tones vary, while an actress mentions losing her identity when casting labeled her “ethnically ambiguous.” So, how do you deal with people putting you in a box? Southern fashion designer Akua Shabaka has the answer. She urges women of color to believe in themselves and not fear being the first to speak because there will be vultures out there sitting next to them at a conference, blasting off at them on Twitter or silencing them in an interview.
WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 21 Percent
The Center for Women Policy Studies surveyed women of color, and the results were disappointing. It found that 21 percent of them don’t feel free to be themselves in their work environments.
WOMAN TO WATCH: Lauren Wesley Wilson, Founder of ColorComm
Today’s Woman to Watch, Lauren Wesley Wilson, aims to change this unfortunate statistic. Lauren founded ColorComm, a multicultural networking organization with the mission to promote and advance people of color in media and communications.
Thirty-something Lauren began her journey of building ColorComm in 2011. She didn’t have much entrepreneurial experience but she sure knew what it was like to be a hard worker. Her first job was working as a restaurant hostess, and then she moved on to camp counseling. Though they weren’t exactly Lauren’s dream jobs, she admits they taught her the importance of financial independence and saving for the future. These values stuck with her as she grew older, and she ended up leaving her full-time job at a corporate-communications firm to start ColorComm.
About 40,000 members later, ColorComm has that secret magic everyone wants a sprinkle of. It started with a group of only 34 women attending a luncheon in Washington, D.C., but it’s turned into a community of more people of color wanting to connect with one another. Now, ColorComm hosts events everywhere from Dallas to Piedmont, California. Lauren’s board consists of more than a dozen powerful ladies of color, including the editor-in-chief of Essence Magazine and the vice president of multicultural marketing at HBO.
In addition to hosting events, ColorComm offers a membership package, which boasts career opportunities, a directory to grow your network and professional-development seminars. Women of color get to speak up and create both professional and personal relationships with people in their fields. For Lauren, ColorComm aims to create a place you can feel as comfortable as you are when you’re watching Jane the Virgin on your couch in PJs.
To Lauren, success means two things: “being free from worry” and seeing more people of color, especially women, hold leadership positions in the workplace. She believes when women feel free to be themselves around other career women, we’ll feel a sisterhood of genuine support every hour we’re at the office.
QUITE THE QUOTE
In order to connect with others and build our own mini communities, we’ve got to speak up. As a one of the most fabulous speakers in the world, Oprah Winfrey, said:
“Great communication begins with connection.”