A few months after I left my corporate job as the Head of Merchandising for Old Navy Online, I walked into the Everlane concept store in preparation for an upcoming meeting at their corporate office. As I looked around trying to find an outfit, a feeling of alienation came over me. From the perky twenty-something sales associate that looked at me askance when I walked in, to the array of androgynous, box-llooking, nondescript apparel, it was clear that I didn't belong. I finally landed on a streamlined navy dress that was seemingly appropriate for my meeting — a nothing special, medium quality, basic dress that felt like a millennial uniform. I never wore that dress again.
I was about one month into my dream job as a forensic psychologist in a remand facility for adolescent girls in Brooklyn, New York. Unlike my old job, this one did not offer a parking lot for employees, but I was issued a state parking plaque to use in front of the building when there was space. However, that employee-issued parking plaque was enough illicit the suspicion and disbelief of the NYPD leading to me getting wrongfully arrested and detained for two nights. This experience was not the only instance of racial discrimination in my life, and it certainly was not my last as an employee. I chose to tell this one as it was, sort of, my official introduction to life in America as an educated, African-American woman.
Amidst a global pandemic and growing research which suggests women are severely affected by COVID-19, it's an opportunity to make big strides in our effort to address larger societal issues such as equality and justice, reproductive rights, poverty and domestic issues like financial abuse, as well as income security and retirement. It is estimated that 46% of women are "not too confident" or "not at all confident" about their ability to live comfortably after retirement, compared to only 31% of men who feel that way.
I've always been an introvert and a woman—two traits which aren't exactly relished by the business world. Yet I am also a long-time leader in my organiziaton. I am, therefore, writing this to argue in favor of the introverts and women out there and to help anyone become a better leader. It's as simple as this: communication.
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.
TaChelle Lawson is a hospitality veteran with over 20 years in marketing, branding and events and has worked with brands such as Nike, Louis Vuitton, Coca-Cola, M&M Mars, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz. As an entrepreneur, TaChelle focuses on bringing understanding to the corporate world about what it's like to be a black woman in corporate America by shifting the mindset of diversity. It's about more than ethnicity; it's about mindset.
TaChelle started sassmouth to acknowledge the natural beauty of black women that is rarely acknowledged outside of the black community. As little black girls are raised to believe everything about us is "too" something and that we need to adjust to fit in and be accepted. So, we do, and our adjustments become our norm. Although the average black woman is born with fuller lips, dark skin, and a big butt, her features are not considered "beautiful." Today, there is an unusually high number of non-black women undergoing surgery to adopt average "black" features. Yet, the black woman has still not made it to the "beautiful" category.
She remembers watching a video of a young black man being forced to cut his dreadlocks off to participate in his high school wrestling match. While the video was appalling, she found herself staring at the anchor woman's lips who was covering the story. They were so fake and unnatural, yet this young man was forced to cut something natural because it didn't fit the "norm." She decided she wasn't ok with that, so she created a brand to give a voice to the audience whose natural beauty is overlooked, borrowed, and stolen, but rarely acknowledged: black women.