As this Women’s History Month comes to a close, I have reflected upon the women who have shaped our world thus far. Powerful women like Sojourner Truth, Fannie Lou Hamer, Michelle Obama and more have laid the groundwork for advocacy, empathy, and transformational leadership. We look to their examples for inspiration. We look to their lives for models of who and how to be. Their work must continue. Each generation must build upon their efforts to create a better world for those that follow.
Fortunately for us, noteworthy historical achievements continue to be made. Just this month we have witnessed Ruth E. Carter win her second Academy Award for Best Costume Design. In the 95-year history of the Oscars, Carter was the first Black woman to win two trophies. We also saw Dr. Tamia Potter, a Florida A&M University graduate, accept a match with Vanderbilt University’s College of Medicine (CNN). Dr. Potter was the first Black woman to train at Vanderbilt’s Department of Neurological Surgery in over 100 years.
Throughout this month, I have asked myself, how do we continue the work all these women have begun? How do we ensure that, as Vice President Kamala Harris stated in her 2020 victory speech, “I may be the first…but I won’t be the last,”?
Women are often described as being competitive with one another in ways that only leave room for one woman to shine at a time. That myth continues to overshadow the myriad efforts women make each day to support one another in and out of the workplace. While this misconception still looms, I have cherished the lived experience that the very opposite is true.
Over the course of my life, I have grown as a result of the support of women mentors, sponsors, teachers, friends, family and champions. In times of uncertainty, it was often remembering their belief in me that motivated me to overcome that next challenge. I carry their words of encouragement in my heart as I take on new challenges and look ahead to the legacy I will leave behind. To stand upon their shoulders is simply not enough. As we are reaching our own goals, we must make a way for other women to flourish and achieve. We must lift as we climb.
There are simple ways to contribute to a woman’s success. According to Leanin.org, we can begin just by listening to women’s ideas. I would add that we make sure to give them credit for those ideas. Out loud! Let it be known who originated the idea. This acknowledgment can instill confidence in her and trust in you. Additional recommendations include celebrating women’s accomplishments, encouraging women to take on new projects, and becoming a mentor or sponsor. A mentor helps with direct feedback and guidance while a sponsor helps by opening doors to new opportunities. These are all methods of supporting one another that can be done by anyone regardless of gender.
Taking it a step further, as women, what can we start doing today to champion ourselves?
I regularly hear women say they are their own worst critics. We are long overdue for this ongoing self-criticism to change. What if, instead of doubting our abilities or whether we belonged in our positions, we were the first to congratulate ourselves? What if we were the first to boldly list our accomplishments? What if, the next time someone gave us a well-deserved compliment, we said “thank you” or, better yet, “I know!”.
Contact Editor-in-Chief Camike Jones at 317-762-7850 or by email at CamikeJ@IndyRecorder.com.