Kenyetta Nesbitt brings her 5- year professional experience in information technology (IT) and Project Coordinator/Software Application Specialist, in addition to her brand as The Millennial Strategist, to discuss the struggles of black women in leadership in the work place and practical ways to be an effective leader in the work place.
What inspired you to start your platform? And how do you promote women to take charge and be leaders in their respective fields?
Starting my platform was a decision to start embracing my purpose and what I know I’ve been called to do. Growing up in a small community, most people aren’t sure of their gifts and potential in making it out, so I strive to help them realize it through mentoring. I want to provide access to resources that otherwise aren’t available in order to succeed in the world. Most people can’t get a job without a decent resume, so I’ve devoted efforts to assisting people with sharpening and polishing their professional image. I’ve also devoted time to mentoring youth on the importance of taking your education seriously and seeking opportunities that may seem limited or impossible. I know that I am the voice for those who may feel like there’s no way out of poverty or lack. I am the voice of the millennials and generation Z who feel misunderstood, misjudged and ostracized. We are tomorrow’s leaders, and we must equip ourselves with the knowledge and experiences necessary to overcome obstacles and embrace triumph. Someone is watching and someone needs us to survive and thrive as leaders!
In order to promote women taking charge as leaders, I lead by example. Although I am considered young to most, I try to lead with grace, consistency, self-awareness, and through serving. I encourage women to form teams because as much as we’d love to think, we can’t do it all within ourselves. It’s important to have a solid foundation of team members and co-leaders who are willing to go the extra mile with you. Self-awareness is key to taking charge. Understanding who you are as a woman, your strengths, as well as your vulnerabilities. Furthermore, I demonstrate humility and a servant’s heart. At the core of my image as a leader, I am always ready and willing to get in the trenches and serve those who have been assigned to me either professionally, personally, spiritually, or whatever the relationship may be. I never make it seem as if I know it all and they are there to listen to me. I present myself as a transparent person with flaws who has life experiences, but also willing to learn and be taught by others of any age. Furthermore, it’s important to believe in yourself and never be afraid to speak up and share your ideas and innovations. We are all unique and we all are to be respected for what we carry. Never be afraid to establish boundaries of respect and understanding to protect your morals, values, space, peace, and sanity.
How important is being a black female leader in our community?
Leadership is important because it’s time for the world to see that women are far capable of more than just being caretakers and nurturers in the home. It has been a history of advancements for women to gain rights and be seen as more than just second-class citizens. The challenges have been even more complex for black women because we’ve had to face so many additional stigmas, such as the difference in pay compared to men as well as being labeled “ghetto,” “angry,” and “loud.” We have to work twice as hard seemingly for half the benefits and accomplishments as our counterparts. Furthermore, there are not many people in top positions who look like us or who will advocate for us, so it is important for us to groom ourselves and each other through education and experiences that allows us to shatter the glass ceiling and begin breaking barriers. We are capable of leading organizations, corporations, communities, etc.
In your experience, how has that journey to being a leader been like? What challenges/ obstacles did you have to overcome?
My journey to being a leader has been a very unique, challenging, yet rewarding experience so far. There are many obstacles I’ve had to face and still continue to face when it comes to walking in my calling as a leader.
First, I’m young (I’m only 23), and working in a traditionally male-dominated field has proven to be difficult. When given a seat at the table with top executives, I’ve found that I had no one who looked like me to support or advocate for me, so I knew that I had to set the standard and be that advocate for others around me who desired to move up in leadership. There are times I hesitated in expressing myself, my ideas, and my capabilities out of fear of being stereotyped, judged, or criticized. It was a long road to overcoming that fear of rejection and stereotypes. Others made me feel incompetent because they believed that I couldn’t possibly have the abilities and potential I had at a young age. I was seen as a threat to them because I was advanced. In reality, I didn’t see myself as better than anyone. I’m just willing to take risks and chances to learn and grow in any environment. I also faced many challenges in my educational setting. I was one of few black students to excel academically throughout primary school and be presented with opportunities. There were many events and organizations I participated in where the majority of students didn’t look like me either, so I felt I had to fight to prove that I was worthy to be in that space, and that black students are intelligent and just as capable in succeeding academically as students of other races. I’ve also been ridiculed in the past by others I know for my ability to articulate my speech. I’ve been accused of “talking white or acting white” by others who seemed ignorant to the fact that articulation is not a race or ethnic quality/attribute. All of those experiences contributed to my self-doubt and delay in truly embracing my purpose of being a leader. Thankfully, I’ve begun to really explore who I am as a woman and free myself from the opinions of others in favor of doing what works for and serves me so that I can give to others who really need my gifts and potential.
What are some practical actions black women can start applying to their careers/lives with out being termed The Angry Black Woman to be better leaders?
I have a few tips that I’ve learned from experience and wisdom I’ve received from others who have traveled or are traveling the path similar to mine and where I am trying to go. First, it’s important to be willing to speak up and advocate for yourself. Don’t be afraid to assert yourself and show others what you’re capable of. You don’t have to do it in a cocky or condescending way, but embrace your confidence and self-awareness in the fact that you are unique and you have a story to tell. You can control how you do things, but you can’t control people’s perceptions of you. As long as you do things with pure motives and good intentions, don’t worry about the rest. People will always have negative things to say in an attempt to bring you down. Keep soaring above the criticism and stereotypes.
Secondly, be a mentor to those who look like you. It’s difficult enough that we don’t have a lot of representation in places that matter, so as you grow and accomplish great things, don’t forget to give back. Even if it means sharing an encouraging word, posting positivity on social media, or taking someone under your wings to teach them skills necessary to grow as you have grown. Never forget where you come from!
Thirdly, make self-care a priority! Start writing down affirmations and putting them in places you will encounter them every day. Recite them in the mirror. Tell yourself every day “I love you,” “you’re beautiful,” “you are destined for greatness,” “you can do anything you put your mind to,” etc. Also set aside time to unwind and unplug from the daily grind and stress of life. Take time to rejuvenate and refill your cup. You can’t pour into others when you’re empty. Refuel daily!
Fourthly, learn to be comfortable with who you are. Embrace your flaws and all. After all, it makes you who you are, and there’s nobody like you! Also, embrace opportunities to better yourself. Take a course to learn a new skill, learn a new language, meet someone new, etc.. Always seek to advance yourself in some way each day. Lastly, but most importantly, I am a spiritual person who believes in God, and spending time with God each day is important. I try to read my devotions on my Bible app as much as possible as well as pray in order to spend time with God and gain insight and direction on whatever is going on in my life. It brings me peace, wisdom, clarity, and hope. I know that God placed me here for a purpose, so if I stay in tune with spending time with Him, He will guide me on my path to accomplishing what I was destined to do in the earth. 🙂
– Ivery Arie