12 Black Women Leaders Share Wisdom, Advice

Tiffany Dufu, author and founder and CEO of The Cru advises on building a support system.

Tiffany Dufu, author and founder and CEO of The Cru advises on building a support system.

In honor of Black History Month, we gathered from our Take The Lead archives  the best leadership, life and entrepreneurial lessons from these 12 outstanding black women leaders we greatly admire.

Marlyne Barrett, an actor starring in NBC’s “Chicago Med,” and founder of The Way Out, a group of homes in Montreal for girls rescued from sex trafficking: “Here we are today still fighting the fight and continuing the conversation on inclusion. It’s a must, not a maybe, and we have to communicate the story of who we are as women. There are not enough opportunities for dark skinned black women. We have to get into the game and be able to say something.”

In honor of #BlackHistoryMonth, we gathered from our archives the best leadership, life and entrepreneurial lessons from 12 outstanding #blackwomenleaders we greatly admire.

Jas Boothe, founder and president of A Final Salute, a nonprofit serving more than 5,000 homeless female veterans and their families in 30 states since 2010: “Be prepared to handle praise and pushback. Always have your facts together. People have questions either because they are curious or they are trying to challenge you. As a woman, people are going to doubt you. Be ready for it. But if you have knowledge and passion and are ready to do the work, go for it.”

Miko Branch, co-founder and CEO of Miss Jessie’s LLC:  “Money makes people stupid sometimes. We are diligent in our vetting process and we are trying to think things out as if I didn’t have any money.”

Read more in Take The Lead on black women leaders

Michelle Collett, marketing associate for Make City and the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago and Jennifer Holmes, director of fund development and marketing for Make City Chicago: “If you have a great idea, go for it. Put everything you can into it, get the support you need to invest to make it work. Talk to someone about the small business development center in your state. They can market research, and help find the best markets, the best price points, and see if your idea is viable. Find out how much time and money it will cost to pursue. Talk to someone objective about your business plan. The No. 1 mistake is not evaluating the cost, overhead and how much the materials cost, where to get the materials and not thinking through the manufacturing costs, time staffing and all the nitty gritty stuff. That is the fastest way to lose money.”

Felicia Davis, leadership consultant and Take The Lead leadership ambassador: “Being in the driver’s seat takes effort, commitment and strategy. There is inequity and the myth is we can’t do anything about it. You cannot go back and change history. You can stop repeating the narrative and thinking there is nothing I can do and what I do won’t matter. You can take control if you do this as a collective, and you can help other women rise.”

What does leadership consultant @womenpoweredup have to say about facing #inequity? ‘You cannot go back and change history... You can take control if you do this as a collective, and you can help other women rise.’

Tiffany Dufu, founder and CEO of The Cru and author of Drop the Ball: “I do have a compass and my life’s work is advancing women and girls. I’m not just here making a difference in life for me. I feel a huge responsibility, that is part of how I was raised.”

Watch the November 2018 Virtual Happy Hour with Tiffany Dufu

Fay Ferguson, co-CEO and co-owner of Burrell Communications Group and founder of Allies of Innocence, an organization that provides grief and trauma counseling to survivors of gun violence in Chicago: “What fascinated me in advertising was the opportunity to have an impact on people’s lives. That to me meant I can help change the world.”

Michelle Gadsden-Williams, managing director of North America Inclusion and Diversity at Accenture: “Be self-aware of who you are and assess the skills and talents you have. Be honest and realistic about what you are. Be direct and honest in how you show up in the world. I think some of us are very much concerned about how we are perceived in the workplace. There is the hair conversation, the vernacular; all these things to be concerned about can be a burden and affect you in lots of ways. Sometimes if you are out on a limb by yourself, one of a few in a room, who is diverse from a gender and ethnicity perspective, a lot of what you are saying may be new and others may not agree. You are treading a fine line of trying to fit in and also trying to stand out. Early in my career, I did not have the courage always to say what needed to be said. The more senior I became, there is more safety, so you know you need to speak up because there are not many people of color sitting at these tables. Sitting in silence serves no one.”

Kimberly Peeler-Allen, co-founder of Higher Heights For America: “Black women are not a monolith. We want to encourage more women to run for higher office and take larger roles. We want every woman to talk to her friends and colleagues about what civic engagement means and what elected leaders are doing. Pay attention to policies. Not everyone needs to run. But everyone needs to step up.”

@kimberp_a, co-founder of @HigherHeights, offers this wisdom to fellow leaders: ‘Pay attention to policies. Not everyone needs to run. But everyone needs to step up.’ #BlackHistoryMonth

Mae Whiteside, president and CEO of CKL Engineers: “My mother died with $2.75 in her account. She always said to me, you are smart, you are beautiful, and you matter. Having lived without, as an entrepreneur you go through things and I think, I can do that. I also know what success looks like.”

.Read more in Take The Lead on leadership lessons

Dr. Angie Williams, dean of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity of University of Phoenix: “I definitely think when someone challenges you to think about what you’re good at in a different way it’s an ‘Aha!’ But it also ignites that passion that is already within. Know what you have is valuable to offer. Whether you are re-careering or trying to advance in a different way, if you have this mindset you can put this into practice after realizing your value. You can look at your life and think what am I good at and how can I translate these skills to be a better leader.”

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About the Author

Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon www.micheleweldon.com