For most Black women, the journey to find positive reflections of themselves begin at an early age. We choose dolls that match our curls and complexion, we tune into TV shows with main characters who resemble our girlhood plights, and when it comes to our career, we search for role models as guiding lights for what's possible to achieve.
With every new upgrade and evolution on our journey, the need to see ourselves in these spaces deepens, long before we ever arrive. For Marty McDonald, founder of Boss Women Media, her search began on her ascend through the corporate ladder, when she came to a rattling realization. "I didn't see myself because there were no other women who looked like me in leadership at the organizations that I served in. Instead, I was the only one who had to put on a hat every day and code-switch into who someone else wanted me to be," she shares candidly.
"When you don't see someone who looks like you doing what you want to do, you don't see possibilities."
Coming to light with this truth has since guided Marty into a career pivot to help other Black women ascend into their pursuit of purpose.
Courtesy of Marty McDonald
The birth of Boss Women Media came just as Marty's corporate journey was coming to an end. It was around 2016, Marty recalls, that she began questioning her corporate surroundings and looked inward for the answers. "I knew that there had to be other women really suffering from this imposter syndrome. How do you find your voice? How do you find yourself in spaces and in systems that were not built for you?" The turning point came while attending a women's conference that, to Marty's surprise, was predominantly and overwhelming, white. She reflects, "When I walked into that space, I knew that I needed to create this for Black women. I came back to Dallas on fire and on mission to help women solve problems around entrepreneurship, side hustling, and growing their corporate career."
"When you don't see that, you don't see possibility or you gain the mindset of it's only one seat available to you. It's only that one seat that you have to crawl and fight for, and when there's only one seat, it's hard for you to navigate how to pull up a chair for someone else."
Cut to now and it's clear that Marty has achieved that and more. What started off as an intimate brunch experience with 25 business-minded women, has since catapulted into a blooming storytelling organization and conference, the Black Girl Magic Digital Summit. The two-day experience, sponsored by Capital One and Amazon, celebrates and supports women in their professional, entrepreneurial, and collegiate pursuits to tackle areas of financial well-being, generational wealth, career development, and more.
This year, the conference had keynotes from actress Yara Shahidi, to Naturi Naughton and Candace Parker. But more importantly, it created the space and platform for Black-owned businesses to be amplified and have grant money put into the hands of their founders. And for Marty, the mission to fund small businesses is simple, "It's because I didn't have it. There's so much power in, I didn't have it, so let me help my sister out. Because I know that this will change her life." She continues, "I want to make it easier for another Black woman. I want her to win because when she wins, I win, we all win."
xoNecole: When it comes to Boss Women Media, what space did you hope to fill with the organization?
Marty McDonald: It's really a storytelling company. It's telling the story of women who are creating spaces and places, whether they're in corporate America or entrepreneurship so that other women see possibility in themselves.
We're telling stories of women who have done what damn near feels like the impossible. We're telling stories of women who are paving the way for others, but not only are we just telling those stories, we are also giving our community resources on how they can do it too. Because it's cool to hear the story, but you've got to know how can I do it. That's our purpose. Our mission is to change the way when we connect through the stories of other women.
You’ve mentioned before that, “When you don’t see someone who looks like you, doing what you want to do, you don’t see possibilities.” Could you tell us more about what this means to you?
It's really a two-lane street: It's through the lane of entrepreneurship and thriving in corporate America. I always say we need Black women in corporate America; they are the trailblazers, they are the voice for Black women across the world. Their space [in corporate] is so pivotal, but only 58 percent of Black women are in corporate America. As a woman who's sitting in these spaces, you connect over stories, you connect over experiences. So when you don't see that, you don't see possibility or you gain the mindset of it's only one seat available to you. It's only that one seat that you have to crawl and fight for, and when there's only one seat, it's hard for you to navigate how to pull up a chair for someone else. Even with entrepreneurship, Black women are the fastest-growing entrepreneurs, but we make the majority at the poverty level in our businesses.
So if I don't hear the stories of Black women who are navigating venture capital, who understand how to get SBA loans, who are killing the game with bootstrapping - if I don't see that, again, I don't see possibilities. It's beyond important for our stories to be told, to be heard, and to be seen to be spoken in order for change to happen and to know that this is possible for us.
There’s been a lot of recent talk about “quitting” as it pertains to the arena of Black women and their careers. But often, quitting can be confused with being a quitter. From your experiences of stepping away from your corporate path to pursue entrepreneurship, what are some things that you learned about “quitting” and how has it shaped this half of your career?
When I left corporate America, I never saw it as "quitting." Instead, I found it as a moment to evolve as a woman; to take control over my finances and finally have the freedom that I deserve. As I've grown as an entrepreneur, from that girl who got $500 sponsorships to now, the girl who's getting a quarter of a million-dollar sponsorship, I know that my walk away [from corporate] was a part of my purpose. Corporate America taught me how to pitch, how to get allies, how to influence - I can never take any of that back. It was a part of the marathon that I was on, in terms of giving me the tools that I needed to create the business of my dreams.
But I'm telling you this: burnout is real. As an entrepreneur, you have to take breaks; it is not a sprint, it is truly a marathon and you have to breathe. I am a new mom, I have a six-month-old and I can truly say that I am exhausted at this very moment right now because I have been grinding and going so hard. But I know that because I am self-aware of my burnout, that I have to take a break. Taking a moment and pausing is not quitting, it is realizing what my body needs. This world will put such a weight on Black women to achieve more than anyone else in the world when in actuality self-care is needed for us and burnout can easily happen to us.
"Taking a moment and pausing is not quitting, it is realizing what my body needs. This world will put such a weight on Black women to achieve more than anyone else in the world when in actuality self-care is needed for us and burnout can easily happen to us."
Courtesy of Marty McDonald
Your trajectory had led you on a path to refine your purpose and zero in on the mission of creating a legacy and rallying for women. For women who feel like their purpose is still a little unclear, could you share what helped you get clarity on your vision?
I was 30 when I first started this entrepreneurial journey. It's something so interesting that switches when you're entering your 30's when you're searching for your purpose and that impact that you're going to make. For me, it was a connection with God. I could tell you stories of people who have placed my name in rooms that I've never even entered before and that's an encounter of God. I can't take credit for it. I am on a God-driven mission in what I'm creating and really who I'm creating it for.
My purpose is aligned to what my values are and I really had to go on a search and be in prayer and constant connection with God, asking him, "What do you want for my life to be?" But when you ask that question, you have to be prepared for what the answer is. Be prepared for how hard it will be to navigate. There's been plenty of times when I have felt like, should I be doing this? Why is it so hard? Why am I experiencing no after no? Through me finding my purpose, I've learned that you have to stay consistent. Consistency will bet the most talented person in the room every day of the week. Consistency is the key to how you win.
For the woman who's out there who's looking for what is my purpose, you get into alignment with what your values are, your skills, your passion, you figure those pieces out so that you can follow in line with your purpose. And when you find that purpose. You stay consistent every single day.
"Consistency will bet the most talented person in the room every day of the week. Consistency is the key to how you win."
You have an amazing lineup of panelists in this year’s summit. What was it about these women that made you go, “I want them at my event this year?”
This year the Black Girl Magic Digital Summit is all about The Upgrade: upgrading your mind, your voice, your money, and upgrading your wealth.
Yara Shahidi is a powerhouse. This young woman is transforming her generation, she's decided that she is the voice and that no one will tell her differently. She's wise and she realizes her space and her place. Candace Parker has upgraded from, not just a WNBA player, but I'm a mom and being multi-faceted. That's what this summit is about: it's about seeing the stories of women who are not taking the road often traveled, but less traveled, and saying that I'm upgrading myself through this experience.
The stories of these women at this event this year are absolutely magical and will give anybody who is tuning in goosebumps. It's all about how you, too, can upgrade in 2021 and go beyond the norm of what the world tells you you are.
When you envision the outcome of this year’s event, what do you hope that the women who attend your summit are able to take away from it?
On next Monday morning, I envision a million women who have tuned in and connected to our programming, who realized that they can create the career or business of their dreams, that there is nothing that will hold them back anymore.
Most importantly, that they have been able to connect with another woman who was also a part of the summit, and that they support another Black-owned business because that's how our community collectively changes the landscape of poverty of wealth and mindset through connectivity and support.
Featured image courtesy of Marty McDonald