Empowered To Lead: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Thoughts -

This past weekend, we were proud to support our good friends, She Leads for Legacy, at the Empowered to Lead conference, in Bruntwood’s impressive Bloc studio. The conference offered a chance for black female professionals and allies to come together to learn, network, and be inspired to drive change and succeed in their careers.

The event featured some incredible guest speakers, including the likes of Professor Dawn Edge, Manchester University’s first black female Professor and Professor Laura Serrant OBE, whose poem features on statue at London’s Waterloo station, which commemorates the Windrush generation. There were also panel sessions and masterclasses, where we learnt a huge amount about how we can help black women advance into senior leadership and board level positions, and level the playing field.

We’re passionate about supporting this agenda however we can, which is why it was so important for us to be present in the room on Saturday. Hearing about the experiences of black women in business was eye-opening and taught us an incredible amount about how we can use our power for good. Being an ally isn’t about silently supporting the cause, it’s about taking real and meaningful action that doesn’t just tick a box, but actually makes a difference.

Here are our five key takeaways:

1. Be active, not passive

As we heard during the event, passive and performative allyship can often hinder, rather than strengthen the cause. It’s easy to share a post on social media, join conversations with peers or take part in a protest, but being a true ally is about taking action that will make a difference, even (and especially) if it’s difficult.

As Mark Da Vanzo, Chief Executive of Everyman and Playhouse said, being an ally has to be earned. Commitment to social value and practicing what you preach is the backbone of advancing the equality agenda.

2. You might see the glory, but you don’t know the story

As Professor Laura Serrant OBE noted, you might perceive someone who is at the top of their game as having had a successful career, but you don’t know what it took for them to get there. We need to understand the challenges and barriers that stand in the way of black female professionals in order to help break them down.

3. Bring people with you

Panellist Naseem Ahmed, Global Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Inizio, spoke powerfully about the importance of taking people on the journey with you, so that as you progress in your career or in your workplace, you can help others to do the same. We all have a responsibility to help level the playing field.

4. Listen

An important lesson in general, but highlighted so prominently during Saturday’s event. It’s only by listening to other people’s experiences, perspectives, challenges, frustrations, ideas and everything in-between that we will be able to make a change. We cannot live in an echo chamber – we must open ourselves up to listening and learning, even when it’s hard to hear.

5. We can all lead for legacy

The Empowered to Lead conference taught us that you really don’t have to be a leader by job title to make a difference. Leadership comes in many forms and can be done at any age, whatever your background, position, race or gender, we can all find ways to make a change for the better.

The success of Empowered to Lead did not come as a surprise to us. We are so proud to have been a part of such a positive and inspiring conference that taught us so much about the challenges that black women face in breaking the glass ceiling, and the responsibility we all have to make a change.

We want to continue creating opportunities and working with forward thinking, like-minded businesses that share our values by actively doing good for people, and She Leads for Legacy does exactly that.

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