As a woman who is very much into fashion I decided to click on a link that the Toronto Star featured called, Top 10 Most Stylish Canadian Women . I was curious to look to the diverse styles and female fashionista’s that reflect our cultural mosaic.
Instead I clicked through pictures of all white women in western-styled clothes. Infuriated I decided to do my own Google search and write a blog that would represent diverse women on my own but became frustrated as even the Internet failed to answer my query.
Recently, the Huffington Post did some research on magazine covers and found from September 2012 to September 2013, 82% of the women on the covers of these magazines were white.
You might be thinking, get OVER it – it is only fashion and fashion magazines. Why does it matter for a brown-skinned woman who is striving to be a leader?
I am not about to write a thesis on the representation of women of colour but what I do want to say is extremely important for all women, especially women of colour who are striving to become leaders in their personal and/or professional lives.
In the book Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell he coins a phrase called ‘thin-slicing’ that resonated with me so much that I educated everyone that I could about it. He writes:
“Thin-slicing” refers to the ability of our unconscious to find patters in situations and behaviour based on very narrow slices of experience. When our unconscious engages in thin-slicing, what we are doing is an automated, accelerated unconscious version…”
In other words our unconscious attitudes may be utterly incompatible with our stated conscious values.
“You don’t choose to make positive associations with the dominant group…you are required to. All around you , that group is being paired with good things. You open the newspaper and you turn on the television and you can’t escape it.” (p.85)
You can’t escape it.
You can’t escape it.
You can’t escape it.
I am STARVING for positive representations for women of colour ANYWHERE in the mainstream. As a Caribbean woman of colour in the media I am virtually invisible in the mainstream…so what does this mean?
Fortunately I had my family that was filled with strong, independent, smart and inspiriting women that motivated me to do my best.
However in those moments when I am required to make my OWN decisions in education, relationships, career choices in addition to building my OWN self-confidence I have to do the work that I found at times challenging not being from the dominant culture.
Recently I did a poll of women of colour who I thought to be leaders or are yearning to become ‘better’ leaders in their given industry and what struck me most was the lack of confidence in comparison to their white counterparts…
What can we do about this?
Back to Gladwell, he wrote that in order to ‘reverse’ or ‘combat’ the negative messages about groups outside the mainstream you must actively search, connect and learn about those who are demonstrate excellence in all aspects of life.
So I did.
5 Things All Women of Colour Leaders Should Do
1. Find success stories of women of colour in your own industry.
Learning about other women of colour that have achieved success and share their story with your network. If you don’t talk about it and what is inspiring about their story with others it will not manifest in your brain as something worthy or memorable. Taking a step further would be to write in your personal journal about it.
2. Subscribe to blogs that will send your confidence THROUGH THE ROOF.
3. 40% of what we do DAILY is habit.
What is a habit that you do which contributes to a negative self-image/concept about who you are? For me it was gossip sites that detailed stories that were extremely condensing to women in particular women of colour SO I CUT IT OUT (except for Rihanna’s Twitter feed;) and replaced my ‘free-time’ reading with the FIERCE female bloggers listed above!
4. Become GOOD friends with the people from the MAINSTREAM.
Recently, according to an ongoing Reuters 2013 poll only 40 per cent of white Americans and about 25 per cent of non-white Americans are surrounded exclusively by friends of their own race – there are a lot of valuable things to learn from befriending others that are from a different background of your own- noting that your exposure and understanding of valuable ideas, tools or strategies be limited simply due to ‘access’. I have LOADS of examples on this.
5. Control your dialogue and self-talk about race and racism.
Try to limit the negative talk about race and racism to a minimum or else it can become a self-limiting belief. This is extremely challenging because in my mind ‘everything has to do with race’. We can discuss race in a constructive way – but overly indulging in conversations that allude to race as an issue can be preventing YOU from achieving the success you are worth of. Been there. SOOO been there.
As a woman of colour what some things you do to become and/or maintain a leader in your personal and professional life? How do you build your self-confidence to achieve your personal and professional goals?