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Succeeding As The Only Black Woman In Leadership: A Guide for Aspiring Executives

| Super User | Elevate


You succeeded, sis! You worked hard to advance your career. You probably worked long hours, sacrificed your social life for work-life balance, and battled imposter syndrome as you competed against overconfident, underqualified classmates.

Your business has shown you they share your self-confidence. Here you are, at the top of your field, with an outstanding title. As you look around, you see a small problem. You're alone.

According to a McKinsey analysis, black women are underrepresented in corporate ranks across industries and make up only 4% of C-suite executives. Here are some measures you and your business can do to get support.

Promote Your Own Interests

Asking for what you need no longer shows weakness. Strong people ask for what they need. Tell your leaders what you need to achieve and how it will benefit the company. Success means trying everything. Is there a coaching program or other expertise that can help you succeed? Ask for a budget for a coach or study aid. Need extra team members to reach your company's goals this year? Make your argument and request a head count.

If your requests are founded on your success and the firm's success, you should get a loud "Yes!" Before hiring and promoting Black executives, companies should learn what they need to thrive. "Lean in" fits here. Businesses must support black women CEOs' professional and personal needs. Lack of social and psychological safety prevents women of color from opening up at work. Working with authentic cultures is crucial. When your bosses get to know you, you can be yourself at work, ask for what you need, and feel like a valued team member.

Create Your Board

Let's broaden your influence. This refers to the links we build within our organizations to progress our careers and stay competitive. Meeting leaders beyond your immediate workgroup or department for coffee can help you create contacts and extend your circle of influence so you always have someone to turn to for resources or project-related advice. A board consists of peers, sponsors, leaders, internal and external coworkers, and friends who may offer advice, build connections, and support your progress and goals.

Who should your board include? First, your sponsor. This person sits in influential rooms and promotes you. They encourage and advise you to make career-defining decisions. A sponsor is usually an experienced or senior colleague at your firm. Whoever they are and wherever they sit, your sponsor helps you through what might feel like an abyss in your new career or company.

A group of colleagues with more than 20 years of total experience in the sector knows the enterprise's intricate interpersonal and business ties. Black women CEOs have been terrific champions and sounding boards and they share your appearance and career concerns. Businesses may help diverse talent at all levels by implementing mentorship or sponsorship programs. Be proactive. Don't wait until someone is having problems to help them navigate business structures or recover from professional blunders.

Form Your Cheerleading Squad

Being the only Black woman at the top might feel lonely, and if your efforts aren't recognized, you may worry about your impact. This may trigger imposter syndrome, worry, and self-doubt. Continue telling yourself you deserve this and all the possibilities to fight it. Your circle of influence can remind you that you're here for a reason if you need support. Remind your leadership why they should support you while you and your followers do. Leaders are often disconnected from the issues we face, solve, and monitor. Share your successes and updates. Your support network will grow, and your self-confidence will triple, so you can keep overcoming problems.

Make Self-Care Essential

To maintain a healthy work-life balance, set restrictions. You're not a machine, therefore you can't "work twice as hard" in an unsupportive or poisonous environment. Businesses should regularly check on its leaders for signs of disengagement. Stay interviews, 90-day check-ins, and monthly progress talks promote two-way communication. Close interactions, active listening, and feedback can avoid or detect disengagement.

If the vantage point is too lonely and doesn't promote growth, it may not be for you. Protect the bag and flourish, but avoid tables with nothing pleasant to eat. Top leadership roles have many perks and some challenges. As a Black woman, these problems may seem insurmountable, but they're not. Organizations must assist Black women leaders within their ranks, but this may be done jointly and without imposing an excessive burden on the leader. Sis, you can advocate for yourself, create meaningful relationships with individuals who keep you grounded, and take care of yourself to flourish rather than merely survive.

You're capable, sis! Everyone supports you.