Champions for Change

Speaker, Author

Trudy Bourgeois

Trudy Bourgeois urges women to become champions for change. Trudy is a renowned and respected authority on leadership development and founder of The Center for Workforce Excellence, which transforms organizations through focusing on developing leadership skills with an emphasis on learning how to develop talent across differences. She built her outstanding reputation by experiencing a lifetime of “firsts.” Growing up African American during segregation in the South provided her ample opportunities to strive for equality and simultaneously check each advancement off for herself and other women like her. She says that she is grateful for each of her “firsts” because they help her understand how to help people get to their next level and reach their greatest potential.
When Trudy was the first woman of color vice president in the tobacco industry, diversity and inclusion weren’t even business concepts. Women were told they were too collaborative; they needed to be more strategic.  Now, she says that we’re in the fourth industrial revolution where technology outpaces technology and we can only out-distance the competition by investing in our people—our most important resource—and bringing everyone together. Companies who don’t leverage their talent and ability to change will not be in business long in this new competitive environment

Equality Depends on Having Courageous Conversations

In her third book, EQUALITY: Courageous Conversations about Women, Men, AND Race in the Workplace to Spark a Diversity and Inclusion Breakthrough, Trudy describes “5 Brutal Facts for Obtaining Equality.” She lists the old paradigms that used to work for companies, including outdated leadership models where leaders don’t understand “how to manage the most diverse workforce in history,” and points out how most of the research has been done on men and most of the research that includes women, focuses on white women. Bottom line, although there’s a lot of talk about diversity, leaders are not held accountable for leading in inclusive ways.
But women can change all that. Trudy discusses how the pendulum is swinging back the other way from the 90% white male power structure to an awakening of the female spirit with the #MeToo movement. She says that for a long time, when women rose to the top, they didn’t want to admit they were women. They took on the male persona. But that is changing and organizations are gaining an appreciation for the natural skills that women have exhibited all along.

Women Must Reach Out to Other Women

Trudy talks a lot in her new book and in this conversation about how women need to step up as thought leaders and be champions for change with no apology. Women haven’t been told we are good. We need to do that for ourselves and for other women. She encourages women to reach out and “pour into another woman” whenever there is an opportunity. Reach out to someone who is not like yourself. She also urges women to listen and learn. In her book, she uses the example of how Marilyn Monroe gave Ella Fitzgerald a hand-up by sitting in the front row of her nightclub performances to get her career started in clubs that wouldn’t hire a black singer. We may never have heard the name of Ella Fitzgerald, or more importantly never received the gift of her voice without another woman using her privilege to pour into another woman.
Listen to this interview to learn more about how Trudy says women must come to grips with our own biases and work together for equality. Check out her social media pages, her website http://workforceexcellence.com/, read her blog at Huffington Post, and get her amazing book to learn more about how she says we can be champions for change by reaching an olive branch out to someone who isn’t exactly like us.

BE the Change You Want to See in the World

entrepreneur and philanthropist

Mea Boykins

International philanthropist and entrepreneur Mea Boykins may have been born with service in her heart. She started early helping others and her passion developed quickly. While still a junior at Spelman College she founded the Student Emergency Assistance Scholarship to provide funds to two friends who faced expulsion when their money and resources ran out. To date, she has awarded five scholarships and launched a speaking career telling people how she did it. Now a 501c3, her foundation also works with disadvantaged youth and displaced individuals around the world. Mea is a positive force on a global scale connecting with others to live her mission to BE the change she wants to see in the world.
Mea credits several things for propelling her into her life of service. First, her small town upbringing in Opelousas, Louisiana, where opportunities were few and education wasn’t valued, exposed her to people living in impoverished circumstances. However, it also exposed her to a broad range of church-going experiences. Mea was curious and attended churches with everyone she knew. Whether they were Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholic, Mormon or Pentecostal, she tagged along. The result: she became deeply spiritual and opened her heart to other people.
Moving to New Orleans in her teens to live with her father transformed her life. She enrolled in a private Catholic school, where she was the only black student. The emphasis there was on community service and she participated by helping the elderly. She also traveled to Paris for the first time, where she learned French. Her well-established taste for travel and experiencing different cultures deepened during her time at Spelman College. Although a liberal arts college for people of color, Spelman’s students represented 49 states and 15 countries, including the Caribbean Islands. The heritages represented are rich and varied. Mea followed that education with two master’s degrees: one from Kings College in London in Child Psychology and a second in International Studies in San Francisco during which she also studied in Spain and Asia.

“You can never do too much. There is always more.”

When Dr. Nancy asked Mea, “What makes you different? You saw a great need and reached out to solve it. Why don’t more people do that?”, Mea answered, “Because of all the hardships I had to overcome, I realized that my life’s purpose was bigger than me.” When she would face an obstacle, she felt that God put it there for her to overcome, not just for herself, but so she could help others overcome it also. She is empathetic, but warns that you also have to be balanced, stay focused and do the inner work within yourself, so you can be happy and whole and continue to be a vessel and servant to do God’s work. She stays focused on her spiritual path and her purpose in life.

Most People in the World Are Good

Having lived in five countries and developed positive relationships with people from dozens of others, Mea is firm in her belief that people really do want to get along. She says that only a few have hate in their heart, but they get a lot of attention. She also credits the imbalance of wealth as a root for world-wide problems with the top 3% not doing what they should to help equalize it.
In April Mea founded a company: Global Management and Marketing, LLC, providing project management, event planning, sponsorship, proposal writing, marketing, branding, social media management and web development.  Beginning with global clients that she met while traveling, she is already starting to spread her wings in this new business venture. She is also directing  strategic relations for Noirbnb, a travel company for millennials of color that identifies accommodations people can rent and unique venues for fun experiences. She says they are looking for organizations and rentals that fit their target market and travelers to take advantage of what they offer.
Check out Mia’s website and listen to this interview to hear more of her inspiring journey to live her life’s purpose and BE the change she wants to see in the world.

Make Room for Social Justice

Lead Coach Leadership Matters Consulting

Patricia Jerido

Patricia Jerido has earned her MSW, and served over 30 years as an advocate for social justice, so when she founded Leadership Matters Consulting, she engaged her skills to help those well-intentioned people who wanted to do good but needed a road map and guidance to truly make a difference in the world. She says the stakes are too high to rely on simply wanting to do good; we must employ strategy, discipline, review, candor, and compassion to make our work effective.
Since she was a small child during the Cold War, Patricia thought adults were way off the mark in focusing their energy on ways to destroy the world instead of making room for the people who could make the world a better place. Given that there are so many talented people in the world, Patricia wonders at the inefficiency of a society that would limit their participation. In fact, her view is to level the playing field by assisting those who need a step up to help create a socially just system that uses all of its resources for a sustainable way of life.

The Challenge Is to Dream Bigger

When Barack Obama was elected president, Patricia realized that she hadn’t been dreaming big enough.  The possibility of a black president had never occurred to her and suddenly it was real. To enlarge her dream, she became a Take the Lead Leadership Ambassador to help women reach parity by understanding their relationship with power. Patricia says that power is about connection. She realizes that she is more powerful when there are more people like her who have power. When she is the only person in the room, that’s when she has the least advantage. She says the key is to build your network by working with other people like yourself. Parity isn’t going to come by itself.
Like all social justice initiatives, we have to develop strategies and work toward that end. Patricia has her eye on the long view. Today, she speaks to groups about the need for patience to stay sane in this political environment. As an example, she explains that the Underground Railroad existed 35 years before the Civil War. Then she reminds them that it’s only May.

Mindfulness Meets Social Justice

Many of Patricia’s words of wisdom center on staying alert to what’s around you. With things so easy In today’s world, we’re apt to go on auto-pilot. Patricia warns against it. She agrees with the Dalai Lama who told Dr. Nancy that the fate of the world is in the hands of the western woman, but she must wake up to improve it. Patricia says that we must be aware of what we do and live our lives fully. To find out more, listen to this conversation and visit Leadership Matters Consulting.com and follow Patricia on Twitter @culturalmusings.

Inspiring Role Models Support Other Women

In the past few years, I’ve met some of the most inspiring women of my life. These women support other women by reaching out to help them succeed. These advocates for change know that the more women they help up the ladder, the more they will transform outdated ideas and create new possibilities for generations to come. Let me tell you about three of them.

A Leader and Mentor for Other Women

Inspiring Role Models

Dr. Johnetta Cole and friends

At the Diversity Woman Business Leadership Conference, I met Dr. Johnetta Cole who has an impressive record of accomplishments and determination to advocate for women. Dr. Johnetta turned 80 at the conference and currently serves as the director for the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. She grew up in the South when segregation was still legal, but her parents told her she could become whatever she wanted as an adult. She chose anthropology and higher education.
Eventually she became the first black woman to serve as president of Spellman College, which had been founded 106 years before to educate women of African heritage. Spellman developed under her 10-year leadership to rank as the number one regional liberal arts college in the South. She continues today in her advocacy for other women. Dr. Johnetta says in her “Makers” interview that she never goes to a meeting without taking a younger woman with her, giving her the opportunity to learn and be exposed to the community of women helping one another succeed.

A Role Model Who Helps Women of Color Take Their Rightful Place in Cinema

Inspiring Role Models

Terra Renee

I have noticed that African American women really understand the importance of sisterhood. At every event I attend, whether the Diversity Conference or more recently the African American Women in Cinema (AAWIC) Women of Excellence Salute Awards, I hear stories of collaboration and community. Terra Renee founded AAWIC 19 years ago after she encountered thousands of women just like herself auditioning for a minor part. Terra realized the importance of creating jobs for them, and not just the actresses, but the directors, producers and storytellers who need resources to get their story told. Women of all races are under-represented in every sector of business and government, but in cinema and the entertainment industry, they truly struggle to make their voices heard.
As Gloria Steinem says, “If we can’t see it, we can’t be it.” And the annual report by the Women’s Media Center, which she founded with Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan, says nothing had changed by 2015. Old boys continue to reward old boys and what is depicted as normal is anything but, with all women –– especially women of color –– under-represented in all areas from production to on-camera appearance. Women like Terra are working hard to change that picture. Terra says today’s internet media is helping. Women who can’t get their films distributed by mainstream Hollywood are instead uploading them to U-Tube where friends and family help generate the views that eventually earn them distribution contracts.

Generous Teacher Helping Women Change Their Relationship with Power

Inspiring Role Models

Gloria Felt at WES Awards

My Leading Women co-author Gloria Feldt, co-founder of Take the Lead, Inc. foundation is sharing her life’s work, the “9 Power Tools” curriculum with other women leaders. Her mission is to prepare, develop, inspire and propel women to reach parity in leadership across all sectors by 2025. Gloria has always supported other women, starting with providing birth control for teenage girls in a west Texas Planned Parenthood and rising to become President and CEO of Planned Parenthood’s national organization.  Gloria debunks the idea of a finite “you-win-I-lose” pie. The pie is actually infinite, she says.  “The more there is the more there is.” She works every day to create more opportunities for women by helping them transform their relationship with power. Check out TaketheLeadWomen.com to learn more about Gloria’s groundbreaking book, their free programs and 35 Leadership Ambassadors certified to deliver the training.
Are you thinking, I can’t start a foundation or serve as president of a college? Maybe not, but we can all do something. You may be surprised to hear that many corporations and community organizations are seeking women to serve on their boards. Statistics show that when women serve on boards, the organizations are more profitable and successful, so the feminine perspective is in demand.
If you don’t have time for community service, take the hand of another woman, like Dr. Johnetta does. Share a job opportunity with a friend. Call your sisters together at work or in your neighborhood. Create a supportive community of women and decide to do something positive together. Women are natural collaborators. You will be amazed at the momentum you can create when you reach out to help another woman. It doesn’t take any particular skill, college degree or cultural status. All it takes is a willingness to help and the courage to offer.  Sometimes the simplest gesture makes the most impact. How will you improve the world today? I know there’s a woman near you right now who needs your support.
~Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly, Founder and President, WomenConnect4Good, Inc.

Diversity Means All of Us

diversity-woman-conference-3I recently attended my second Diversity Woman Business Leadership Conference, this year in Baltimore. Once again I welcomed the feeling of inclusion; we are all women coming together to support one another. If I were ever to feel set apart, I might expect this to be the place, where three quarters of the attendees were women of color, and where I was the only white woman on  a panel of four. But that was not the case. I discovered again that when we share our stories we are more similar than different and we all want to make the world a better place.
This was the 11th year for the Diversity Woman Conference, although I just learned about it last year. My friend and co-author Kristin Andress, not only suggested I attend, but signed me up to speak on a panel. What an experience! I had never been among so many women (and men) working to help one another and it inspired me to reach out, sponsor this year’s conference and join a panel once again.  This year’s panel, which included a millennial, baby boomers and women in charge of diversity in major organizations, answered probing questions aimed at getting all of us to work together to create more diverse executive leadership and cooperation in the workplace.
Millennials are the toughest women entering leadership today. If interviewed by a stereotypical white male businessman, they will walk out. They insist on working in companies that have management that looks like them and they have enough talent and persistence to persevere and follow their dreams. They are accustomed to obstacles of race and gender and have the determination to overcome them to reach their goals. The talent they bring to a company makes, not only a more collaborative place to work, but brings in new ideas, a fresh perspective and synergy that directly impacts the bottom line. Study after study supports this. If corporations want to make more money and succeed in today’s economy they must welcome diversity of all kinds within their management ranks. Companies and governments around the world are waking up to that fact. We can no longer limit the dynamic input from diverse genders, races and cultures and expect to succeed in any enterprise.

Lisa Lutoff Perlo, CEO Celebrity Cruise Line

Lisa Lutoff Perlo, CEO Celebrity Cruise Line

However, achieving this transformation will take all of us. No one person can change the world. We must realize that when we share our stories, we make connections. Women want to solve the problems of the world. We all want better places for our families to live, better communities, and a more secure future. We know when women serve on boards, in public office and in upper management, the conversation changes to include what will benefit people. Women nurture by nature and that makes us bring others together. Excluding others is actually against our feminine inclinations. When we authentically welcome the feminine leadership model, we become inclusive and understand fully how no one group can do it all. I’ll say it again: it will take ALL of us working together and welcoming everyone’s insight and effort to make the world a better place.
Kristin said it simply in my recent interview about her new book, “Why can’t we all just get along?” No reason at all that I can see.  Yes, I know, there are all those issues of money and power and control, competing interests and different ideas about the best ways to accomplish goals we may share. But when I’m surrounded by all the energy, vitality, skills and creativity of diverse women and men, I’m inspired to do more. I feel optimistic that we can do it. We are so alike it’s just crazy not to be inclusive! We must help one another to nourish our own lives and the lives of others. It’s the only way we are going to create a world we can all live in and sustain for our sons and daughters, one in which all races and all cultures honor our diversity and the best of our humanity.

Happy 80th Birthday Dr. Johnetta Cole

~ Dr. Nancy

Sheila Robinson Turns Adversity into Opportunity

Sheila Robinson Turns Adversity into Opportunity

Dr. Sheila Robinson

Dr. Sheila Robinson is the poster woman for turning adversity into opportunity. As an African American born in the South, she faced barriers based on her looks and background that she didn’t think possible. She focused on solutions, not problems; she looked for ways to make things better and urged others to be the best they could be. Her journey through her life experiences, which sometimes hurt to the core, hardened her resolve to be a courageous advocate for women helping women and lifting up everyone from all races, cultures and backgrounds.
Sheila founded Diversity Woman Magazine for women seeking career advancement and a national conference that ranks among the most beneficial in the country. Among her many awards is being named one of the 50 Top Women in Magazine Publishing for her significant contributions. Her book, Lead by Example: An Insiders Look at How to Successfully Lead in Corporate America and Entrepreneurshipprovides practical guidance for women to succeed in corporate America and entrepreneurship, based on her own valuable experience. And most recently, Sheila became Dr. Sheila Robinson when she was awarded her Chief Learning Officer (CLO) Doctorate of Education at University of Pennsylvania.

We Are All Leaders

When Sheila wrote her book, she did it to share her journey, not understanding immediately that she had been developing leadership skills along the way. A question was presented to her once, “Are you born a leader or do you learn to be a leader?” She decided that it’s a bit of both. And in answering the question, she realized that we are all leaders, from administrators to CEOs. Her administrative assistant is the most phenomenal leader she knows and Sheila credits much of her success to her assistant.
Mothers are leaders who guide their children through behavior on the playground and at school.  Many women have a tendency to try to hold other women back when they try to be successful. Both Dr. Nancy and Sheila discuss how they confronted this behavior during their journeys. Sheila wonders if women have been so beaten down by society that we see ourselves as servants and can’t imagine being leaders. Her mission is to dispel the myths and help women see their best selves and their best potential for achieving their dreams.

Key to Advancing into Leadership- Mentorship

Sheila’s research demonstrated that one of the key elements to advancing is to build strategic relationships—in which mentorship, sponsorship and networking are at the core. She defines a mentor as being a person who agrees to share her expertise with another person for free. Since they aren’t being paid, the person being mentored needs to make it mutually beneficial for the mentor. Sheila lists several ways to make it a win-win relationship in this interview, but finally, she urges us to take the advice. No one wants to offer advice and see it go nowhere. She told a story about how she asked Dr. Maya Angelou what she could do for her, to which she replied, “Sheila, continue to do what you’re doing. That’s the greatest thing you can do for me.”

Women Helping Women—All of Us Working Together

Sheila credits her success, not to people who look like her, but instead acknowledges that her achievements come from the women and men from all races, cultures and backgrounds. That’s why she works so hard to educate and include everyone in the potential to be their best. Check out www.diversitywoman.com for more information about Sheila, her book, magazine and the 2016 The National Diversity National Women’s Leadership Council in Baltimore, Maryland, in October.
Listen to this interview to hear Sheila tell her own amazing story and Dr. Nancy’s and Sheila’s discussion about how women helping women and everyone working together can make anything possible.

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