Our Time to Rise Up: The Urgent Need to Reconfigure Leadership Platforms for Black Women and Girls

by Raye Mitchelle, Esq, CEO at The Winning Edge Institute

Make no mistake. Young Black women and girls are under siege. They are being silenced, and they are losing generational and intra-generational connections and their visibility. The gender uprising 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 Black women and girls. They are supplemental to the conversation at best and left out of core leadership decisions for the most part.

From the schoolroom to the boardroom, there is a national crisis of invisibility for Black women and girls. While highly visible, millions of Black women and girls are virtually invisible at the leadership table in America. The number of African-American chief executive officers is so low that we are losing the race to achieve real diversity in the traditional and the newly forming notions of the C-suite.

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 First, the march toward "multiculturalism" and the inviting term “women of color" has allowed our identities to be superseded and lost.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?

On January 7, 2018, Oprah Winfrey issued a call to action and a promise to our girls:

“I want all the girls watching here now to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.”

The New Reality Foundation, Inc. focuses 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.-UPTM is one of our solution-based concepts 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 Raye Mitchell, Esq. that they will meet our needs. Black women and girls do not need to lean-in. Black women and girls have been leaning in long before the concept became popular. We cannot continue to follow advice and counsel that is 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 and girls to replace the call to lean-in with the drive to rise up, supporting our unique personas, needs, challenges, and opportunities.

These are challenging times for our young women and girls. Oprah Winfrey issued a call to action, and the New Reality Foundation, Inc., a proud member of the Alliance For Girls and celebrating out ten year anniversary, is actively seeking working partners who want to deliver a new day for young Black women and girls. We have some ideas. Let’s talk.

Interested in joining a R.I.S.E.-Up networking and mentoring circle? Contact Raye Mitchell at [email protected].

About Raye Mitchell, Esq.

A graduate of Harvard Law School and University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, Ms. Mitchell is a power and influence expert, an author, activist, and public speaker. As a licensed attorney in California, she is a registered as a network attorney in the Times-UP Legal Defense Fund and provides pro bono and sliding scale legal, coaching and support for women and girls subjected to harassment, discrimination, and bullying in the workplace and schools. She is the CEO and founder of The New Reality Foundation, Inc. and the G.U.R.L.S. Lead Global Leadership Program that provides available workshops and individual power and influencing coaching for women and girls. Visit www.drrayemitchell.com: Twitter: @drrayemitchell.