“Obstacles are put in your way to see if what you want is really worth fighting for.”
Your own business. The corner office. Maybe even President of the United States. We all have goals, passions, dreams. Yet, for women, roadblocks, obstacles and naysayers can seem to thwart us at every turn. As we explore how to go around the roadblocks, jump over the obstacles and smash the walls of ignorance, keep this in mind: Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain. So, let’s dance!
As one of the few Black students in her law school class, Paulette Brown found career counselors guiding her and other Black students into legal service instead of more prestigious law firm jobs. Refusing to take that path, she would go on to serve as in-house counsel to Fortune 500 companies and become a partner in a large law firm. To realize her dream, she fought against subtle racism, discrimination and small slights. Once, when a judge kept telling her to be quiet, Paulette slammed her checkbook down on the table and said, “You can fine me whatever you want, but I am talking today.” And the judge let her speak. Now that, ladies, is what I call confidence! The confidence to stand firm in your belief in yourself and your abilities without letting anyone, even a judge, demean you in any way. Today, I am proud to announce that last month Paulette became the first Black woman to lead the American Bar Association. Even better, throughout her career she has encouraged firms to hire and promote more women and minorities, mentored hundreds of lawyers, mostly women, and trained others on diversity in the workplace.
Persistence and Networking
“… What’s the worst that could happen? Everyone turned me down; big deal,” said J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series. Armed with faith in her writing and steadfast persistence, she found her “big deal” when a publisher agreed to accept her work, which she has built into an empire. Yes, it took time; and today for most women entrepreneurs seeking to build a dream and a business, lack of investor confidence is a huge obstacle to success. Raising capital for women-run ventures through outside investors or bank loans is much harder than for men. So what do J.K. and the women who manage to obtain investors and loans have in common? Persistence! And, you must, too. Keep moving forward, don’t give up and the most important point to remember: Use Your Network! That’s what NAPW is all about. Aside from contacting family and friends and asking if they can help with important introductions, rely on your NAPW sisterhood, too. Ask the members of your Local Chapter how they raised venture capital, what banks were helpful to them in obtaining loans, and ask if they know someone who can recommend an investor who would be interested in your new business.
When it comes to diversity in tech, the news is abysmal. That’s why it’s important to stand together, stand firm and educate corporations about the necessary need for women, Blacks and Latinos in tech. Kudos must be given to Pandora Internet Radio for their diversity leadership role that boasts 49% women! Google, however, is another story, but they’re working on it. With only 30% women and 2% Black employees, they’re taking steps to address this disparity. Their recent $190,000 donation to Black Girls Code, the nonprofit dedicated to providing opportunities for girls of color to learn about technology and programming, will, hopefully, influence other tech firms to embrace diversity. This is a great step in the right direction; and, a call for all women to get involved in promoting, encouraging and embracing diversity in their own businesses, in the workforce and in their lives. It’s time to overcome the gender bias and ludicrous stereotypes by getting involved in your local communities, schools and organizations and help them, either through donations to causes that support diversity, or by donating your skills, talent and time to teach or mentor a young girl in math, science or computer technology.
As Women of Achievement month comes to a close, we must keep the doors of opportunity open to all women. Through confidence, persistence, networking and embracing diversity, women’s achievement will continue to grow and impact the business world as we storm the tide of workplace change, overcome the obstacles placed on our road to success and empower tomorrow’s leaders to further achieve… because our goals, passions and dreams are worth fighting for. Yes, our time has come…
Let’s dance… together!
How have you overcome obstacles on your road to success? What steps have you taken to empower other women to keep their goals alive? Share your comments below.