Everywhere there Are Women, there Are Leaders

There was a time in my career when I believed that being a mother would limit by professional advancement. In my first career job as a nonprofit manager, I worked for a woman leader who reinforced this belief. I tried to hide and minimize my home demands, so that I would not be penalized when evaluated for advancement.

My beliefs at the time paired with my work environment, and bred resentment, health challenges, relationship strain, and professional burnout. Reconciling my attitudes and beliefs about myself, women, family, and career facilitated my recovery from burnout.

I no longer pursue career advancement from a place of shame, fear, or deficit related to my womanhood. In less than two years, I was promoted to the position of chief program officer at my current agency. In this positive work environment, the commitment, dedication, flexibility, and multitasking associated with motherhood, are embraced, not shunned.

It is a fact that women fulfill critical leadership roles at home. It is a fact that women fulfill critical leadership roles at work. It is also a fact that these critical roles can coexist! Unfortunately, it is not yet a majority opinion in most career environments.

To successfully dismantle the beliefs that have been ingrained in most people across generations, we need all women to be in accord. We have to resist the temptation to perpetuate competition between mothering and non-mothering women. We must realize that outdated beliefs in the workplace hinder us all.

My hope is that someone reads this issue and is reaffirmed and encouraged in her own professional journey. Perhaps, she may be experiencing isolation and self doubt, while navigating professional spaces with inequitable systems that perpetuate penalties for women. I hope that women in leadership read this issue and are motivated to lift up the women around them. I believe women in leadership have a responsibility to challenge old adages, empower women professionals earlier in their careers, and share our own experiences and triumphs, in the service of mentoring. As a black woman in leadership, I embrace opportunities to mentor, empower, and affirm women, and in particular, women of color.