"I'm sorry you feel that way." I had sat there listening on the phone to the apology she believed she had offered me at the beginning of this year. "I'm sorry you feel that way. And this situation, well, it's really not my fault. It's not his fault, and it's not her fault, either," as she had named the other players who had been involved in the situation that had transpired amongst those who I had trusted and thought were friends. And clearly, they weren't.
I think we can all agree that we are living in unprecedented times, and many of us are experiencing challenges in both our personal and professional lives. But it is important to remember that often, challenging moments present opportunities for change. Right now, companies and individuals are using this time to rethink how they conduct their business, the resources critical to their success, and how they go about their daily activities. And what we are seeing is that more and more people, especially women, are taking control of their lives by starting their own businesses. While it is estimated that the number of women-owned businesses is one-quarter to one-third of all enterprises worldwide, there are still many women who aspire to make entrepreneurship a reality.
The "All Black Everything Summit" was born out of the COVID-19 pandemic. When stay-at-home orders first went into effect, I started to do an Instagram Live series called "Conversations with Global Pros" on my personal account as a way to stay motivated and engage with my community. As a full-time professional makeup artist used to being out and about, it was clear I would be stuck at home for the foreseeable future, and my work had come to a halt. The series started to take off and was doing very well. More importantly, I was having fun and the DMs I was receiving made it obvious my followers were enjoying the content, too.
The murder of George Floyd was a lightning rod galvanizing the Black Lives Matter movement and highlighting the vast inequalities that remain within our society and economy. Perhaps among the most striking of these is the widening racial wealth gap with Black families holding roughly one-tenth the wealth of white families. One key to ushering in a new age of greater social and racial equity lies in narrowing the vast wealth and earning disparities among the Black population, and Black women specifically.
I've worked in Human Resources for nearly a decade, and throughout all my roles, I've passionately incorporated diversity initiatives to help make companies more inclusive. Recently, many businesses have made public pledges around diversity in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. Statements are one small step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done.
For twelve years, Evy Poumpouras put her life on the line almost every single day. But she never let fear run the show. As a Special Agent for the United States Secret Service and a part of the Presidential Protective Division for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Poumpouras had plenty to be scared of, but when she talks about her experience, one thing is clear: she is always in control, even in her confidence that you can't plan for everything.
My father's uncle invented the first fully mechanized sugarcane planter in Modeste, Louisiana, in 1964. He marketed the machine during the civil rights era, selling them for $6,000 and making a $1,000 profit. While he was eventually able to get a patent, he ended up losing about $11 million due to unauthorized copies of his machine. My father's family history is not in history books. It is pulled together from a line of oral history and newspaper clippings; stories that are untold, underappreciated, and buried deep beneath the whitewashed history learned from school books. And as a mixed-race woman, I feel deeply connected to these tragedies.
Impostor syndrome — that feeling that you're "a fraud" or that your success is not deserved — has grown new wings during this pandemic. While most of us have experienced impostor syndrome at some point in our careers — it's estimated that more than 70% of people will feel the symptoms — I've heard from so many women who are now questioning their worth and value when they have never before. The reason? We are all overtaxed.
Have you ever wondered why women have been kept out of board rooms? Or why we have seen very few female world leaders? Why is our advanced world still holding back power from the beings that birthed us? Divine feminine energy has long been oppressed and possessed by those who would like to own this power for themselves. This imbalance has caused disease, famine and war. Fueled by greed these people and structures have used fear to rule the planet. There is a better way, we only have to look to a not-so-distant past where indigenous people honored the divine feminine within, and all around them. Our ancestors survived for thousands of years on systems built with divine feminine and divine masculine balance in leadership.
Melissa "MJ" Jacques is the Director of Human Resources at Mustache Agency, a Brooklyn-based full-service creative content agency. Since joining Mustache in 2019, MJ has spearheaded Mustache's first-ever intern program, "Content-oisseurs," and promoted various internal and external diversity, inclusion, and company culture events that have bonded Mustachers. More specifically, MJ created Lunch and Learns focused on embracing Black History Month and Pride, as well as supported black-owned businesses for event specific needs. Additionally, MJ has established relationships with various companies with aligned missions, partnered with Sparked for multiple agency networking events (with diversity at the forefront of recruiting), and worked with Cutter for women-driven screenwriting and networking events.
Dr. Mary Beth Wilkas Janke is a former United States Secret Service Agent and current consultant in the fields of forensic and clinical psychology and professor at George Washington University, where she teaches Abnormal Psychology and the Psychology of Crime and Violence. Mary Beth holds a Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology, a Master's Degree in Forensic Psychology, and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. She is also the author of " The Protector: A Woman's Journey from the Secret Service to Guarding VIPs and Working in Some of the World's Most Dangerous Places"
Aji Oliyide is a Senior Program Manager at Google who has worked on a number of projects related to product launches, and mergers and acquisitions. Aji sits on the board of directors for San Francisco CASA, a San Francisco non-profit devoted to supporting youth in the foster care system. In addition to board service, she enjoys volunteering and travelling. In 2011, she traveled to Nepal to participate in a charity trek to Mt. Everest Base Camp resulting in over $5,000 personally raised for a local Nepalese non-profit. In her spare time, Aji explores her creative side through her blog (Pivot Points) and her podcast Eat.Plank.Live. Her blog is focused on sharing insights from the decisions and events in people's lives that have influenced their path and how they interact with the world. Her podcast focuses on the role that food and fitness plays in our lives and is now live on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher. Aji holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and an MBA from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.