Last year, a Fast Company article addressed the lack of diversity in the millennial wave of networking conferences. Thankfully, many women are rising to meet this need in the community and churning out incredible events that leave attendees motivated to pursue their passions across fickle industries. We all know representation is nothing short of everything, so it's amazing to see these conferences grow and deliver impactful content.
I recently attended a panel discussion hosted by Every Stylish Girl, a space for stylish women of color to break barriers and empower future bosses. The networking Sip N' Slay brunch and panel event featured prominent women of color from music, fashion, public relations and even television. A vibrant energy filled the room and everyone whipped out their trendiest pieces for a celebratory day of workin' women of color. How could you NOT stan?! The spirit of embracing your success while also owning the trials along the way was the relatable representation I didn't know I needed.
Here's a recap of a few motivational gems from amazing women of color paving the way and driving impact in their respective fields.
Ashley Blaine Featherson is the actress behind a key character, Joelle, in the original Netflix comedy-drama series Dear White People. Ashley joined the discussion determined to relay the trials behind the great triumphs of her journey.
She affirmed to a crowd of 20-somethings that you WILL make it to the other side of your quarter-life crisis:
"I was feeling so down and out at 26, but when you wake up at 31, life is going to be so different and you are going to be so grateful for the trials and tribulations you are going through right now."
I admire her radical transparency and her desire for everyone to know the true journey of her career. She mentioned the success she's experiencing now came at a price: over a decade of hard work and dedication.
"I've been here for almost 10 years, so know that there have been more trials than triumphs in my life, particularly in my career. That's why I'm very transparent about my age because I don't want anyone to think that I just got here. No, I've been grinding for a decade."
Literally counting down until she releases her podcast titled "Trials & Tribulations". Stay tuned.
As I mentioned earlier, relatable representation is everything. Being a black woman in the corporate entertainment world at the beginning of her career and hearing an accomplished black woman affirm the underlying micro-aggressions behind comments about your "tone" is the reason why these events are so important.
Amongst the gems Sarissa Thrower happened to toss our way, my favorite were her thoughts on the importance of identifying the privilege you do have in the workplace and leveraging it to create opportunities for others who would not have had said opportunity. She mentioned in her current position, she is constantly mindful of her ability to provide a platform for other people and the ripple effects that opportunity could have in the community. Sis, you are appreciated!
Kamie Crawford is the connector you need in your circle. Not only did she help her friend land a role as Anna Wintour's assistant, but her determination to see all her friends win definitely gave her the good karma she deserved. Kamie spoke in great length about her career and how she consistently pushed herself to go after the things she knew she enjoyed and was passionate about. She continues to grind while landing big gigs, such as her recurring stint as co-host on MTV's Catfish.
When asked about getting a foot in the door in the LA broadcast industry, she mentioned the importance of stalking. Don't be afraid to track down a host/producer on the show you want and pitch segment ideas. Get creative!
I applaud Melissa Victor's gracious grit and her transparency about her path to becoming a Senior Vice President at Sony Music. Melissa's current role sounds like the career you achieve in your dreams where you're planning marketing campaigns for iconic artists like Janet Jackson and Lenny Kravitz. The steps she took to get there are where the true lessons lie.
Not only was Melissa on the path to law school, she was also working at a law firm after graduating. Once realizing her dream of pursuing a career in music, she dropped the legal job, moved back in with the parents and got an entertainment internship for a small weekly stipend. In hindsight, this career choice definitely paid off but it's such a lesson on the necessary sacrifices for pursuing a dream in a tough industry like entertainment. Who better to invest in than yourself?
Ade Samuel joined the panel and equipped us with everything we needed through her fun, relatable personality and strong work ethic. Ade has a celebrity roster that includes favorites like zaddy Big Sean and our favorite activist/actress Yara Shahidi.
What most resonated with me was her confidence in her seat at the table:
"For me what was most important was finding my seat at the table and making sure that I was seen. Even though I was one of four black people, I would always find myself going into those meetings and making sure my opinion was stated; regardless of how others may have felt about it."
This really hit home because after getting into a room, it's so easy for impostor syndrome to take over and feel like you do not belong. Ade affirmed you indeed belong at that table and the table actually benefits from what you contribute to it. Speak up, girl!
Samira Ibrahim contributed the entrepreneurial perspective of quitting a stable 9 to 5, and embarking on a journey full of great risk but also huge rewards. She admits the greatest risk she took was betting on herself. Samira was confident she could create the work and lifestyle she wanted without relying on a corporate gig to provide that. With that, she stepped beyond the bubble of security and established Base Communications. Hearing the journey of a young entrepreneur firsthand is something that everyone can relate to in their career journeys.
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Featured image by Ade Samuel/Instagram