Do you remember a time when something gave you chills because you were moved to such an emotional state? I experienced that kind of physical reaction while watching poet Nikki Giovanni’s poignant speech following the disturbing 2007 Virginia Tech Massacre. Ten years later, I watched it again and once more, got chills and felt a strong, heartwarming connection to those affected. In that time of deep tragedy, Nikki concluded her presentation by declaring, “We will prevail. We will prevail. We will prevail.” The crowd, which included President George W. Bush, gave her a standing ovation that lasted for nearly a minute. Today, I am inspired by Nikki and so many other women who—in a mere moment—can affect us so profoundly.
WOMEN IN NUMBERS: None
While Nikki Giovanni’s Virginia Tech oration has become somewhat legendary, if you Google “greatest speeches in history,” you might notice a trend. Like in many a present-day boardroom, it’s all men, men, men. Even worse, women of color often aren’t recognized at all. For instance, in 2015, women of color comprised 38 percent of the U.S. female population and made up 35 percent of the female labor force. Yet, in 2017, there are no African-American women leading Fortune 500 companies.
WOMAN TO WATCH: Minda Harts, Founder and CEO of The Memo
If you’re as wound up as I am about that statistic, today’s Woman to Watch will definitely lift your spirits. Minda Harts is a glass-breaking career crusader and the founder of The Memo, an occupation-development company aimed at providing women of color with the resources and opportunities to learn, grow and excel in their careers. Fortune 500 company, here you come, ladies!
There are some things money can’t buy, like resilience and determination. That’s the stuff of leaders, and definitely what Minda is made of. She grew up in a Chicago suburb, with her family’s annual income totaling less than $25,000. At one point, she was even homeless for a year. So, this determined lady vowed to do something to help her family, and while still in high school, Minda landed a job at Dairy Queen, offering up her paycheck to cover family expenses. Later, this go-getter became the first person in her family to attend college.
Today, Minda is dedicated to helping other women of color dominate the corporate world. With an all-female staff, The Memo helps members nail job interviews, network and negotiate like pros, and finally get a seat at the dang table. One of my favorite resources The Memo offers is its career boot camps, which provide women with professional, educational and interactive tools to navigate their entire career cycle.
This drive to help others excel at work comes from Minda’s own experiences. In situations in which she was the only woman or woman of color in the workplace, Minda felt like she couldn’t make waves, for fear of coming across as combative. Working in such an off-balanced environment required Minda to continually reassure herself she was worthy of the position. Though troubling, it was those experiences that emboldened Minda to found The Memo and help other women of color realize their career potential and command respect in the workplace.
At the heart of Minda’s business is her belief that, regardless of your circumstances, you have the power to change them. That’s some powerful stuff. Like many successful women, Minda has a keen understanding that empowered women empower other women. We couldn’t agree more!
QUITE THE QUOTE
Thinking of the important work of Minda Harts, I’ll leave you today with one of my favorite quotes from Nikki Giovanni’s powerful Virginia Tech speech:
“We are strong and brave and innocent and unafraid. We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imaginations and the possibilities.”
This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.