I went to another women’s networking event recently. The speakers at this event challenged the attendees to close “the confidence gap” and take action toward financial independence . We were reminded that too often, women don’t speak up in meetings, fight for equal pay, or learn how to build wealth so that they have more freedom of choice to go after their dreams. All good messages, but I walked away from it thinking that I was not the stereotypical female that they referenced.
Having survived over 25 years in a corporate environment, I have often felt the need to prove that I am not whatever someone is assuming I am because I am Black and female. It makes me angry when people make assumptions about who I am because of external characteristics. I am very confident (not arrogant) and have always been comfortable sharing my perspective in meetings where I’m the only Black and only woman. I learned very early to manage my personal finances, to save and invest. I married and remarried not because I needed a man to take care of me, but because I valued having a life partner. Yes, I’m black. I’m a woman. And I’ve also been divorced so I wore the label ‘single mom’ as well. However, whatever those labels would have you think, you can’t possibly know me with that limited amount of information.
What I’ve learned is that people will make assumptions, so it’s up to me to let them know who I am. I know that I have an opportunity to reshape stereotypes so I try to be as transparent as I can be when building relationships. Whether it’s on the job, talking to teachers and counselors at my kid’s school, or seeking out a coaching engagement — I don’t want people making decisions that will affect me or mine based on assumptions. It’s important to let people know your preferences and opinions when they are working on your behalf. In meetings, your voice is important because there is power in having diverse opinions and experiences weigh in on business challenges. In relationships, you want to be appreciated for who you are and what you bring to the table. So it’s important to be yourself at all times.
Not everyone likes a confident, opinionated, career-oriented, independent woman so I don’t expend energy trying to win people over. My confidence comes from knowing that I have been uniquely and wonderfully created by God for a purpose. I refuse to shrink so that someone else can feel better about themselves but I am more than willing to share the spotlight while I shine. It’s important for our daughters to know that it’s okay to be who ever God created them to be. I know that the world is watching, so I’m unapologetically me.