I was supposed to be a statistic, you know? A black girl with very humble beginnings growing up in rural Louisiana. Well, that was how the story was supposed to go anyway.
It all changed with my first challenge in 1990, during my training as an agent for a well-known company. During a leadership training, my trainer told me not to engage the poor communities with the company’s valuable opportunities.
Being that I was from one of those unfortunate communities I was conflicted between my job and my principles, so I decided my next course of action. I ended up leaving that job and unbeknownst to me, that was my first real step into leadership.
Over the years, and throughout various places, I have met many trials as a woman who leads, but the most molding came in the form of a verbal reprimand.
You see I did not seek permission to start a new project. I found this disturbing because as I understood governance, the American Dream, and the Constitution, I needed permission from only two authorities, the secretary of state and God.
Since then I’ve come to realize that even though I understand my rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that understanding isn’t always as clear for others.
Second challenge: Knowing my place. As I heard the words "You didn’t ask permission," I thought of my grandfather. As a child, my grandfather would remind me to ask permission before doing anything and if I didn’t ask he would remind me of my place.
But as a woman who maintains success in the world of business, when women are often limited and judged on so many levels, I recognize myself as fully capable, and competent even when being reprimanded.
Lastly, the most prominent challenge is the box others try to force us in or as I call it statistical imaging. I’ve come to ignore that, and I’ve learned to work around things that have nothing to do with my successful outcome in three points:
Push beyond my and their limits, no longer ask permission, and flatly refuse to consider their box as an end-all. And, I’m starting to feel these tests are no longer solely mine.
I now view them as part of the making of an army of women leaders. That big part of our destiny and I remember something else my grandfather would say "God only give his strongest children the heavy crosses."
I believe we’ve finally arrived at our rightful place and I’m honored to be in such great company. Cheers to the women who lead.