This past weekend I had the opportunity to be featured on a leadership panel, alongside two other established women leaders of color in Seattle, hosted by the Executive Development Institute.
The panel was called: “Navigating an Intersectional World” and included Tonita Webb, SVP at Seattle Credit Union and Meiling Elsner, SVP at HSBC Retail, along with myself. I walked away that day feeling inspired and humbled by not only hearing their experiences, but also being vulnerable and sharing my own stories. Here are a few of my takeaways from the discussion.
Accept the challenges.
Our experiences, whether they are good or bad, help us grow. Part of the process is accepting the challenges — being able to get up, brush it off, walk away, and learn from the experience — is key. Whether it’s your high school counselor trying to convince you that you shouldn’t go to college (this happened to me) or it’s people around you saying you can’t accomplish something — a challenge is a challenge. The reality is how you handle yourself and that experience. We all learn and grow from these moments in life.
We all come from different paths and backgrounds. I come from a first generation South Asian, working class, immigrant family. I’ve been helping my dad with his businesses for as long as I can remember. Whether it was helping him with the sidewalk sale during the summers in middle school or helping him run his gas station while I was in college — all of these experiences count for something. For me it was about the humble beginnings. Everyone’s path is different, and that’s okay — at the end of the day it’s important to embrace it and learn from those experiences.
One of the panel questions was focused around something that is near and dear to me: diversity and inclusion. My advice here is to be intentional. It’s important for young women of color to see people who look like them in strong, leadership positions. And the only way to make this happen is by (1) lifting other women in your networks, giving them access to these opportunities and (2) making sure your organization is uncovering any unconscious biases, addressing them and creating a culture that embraces diversity, along with programs that make the environment inclusive.
These were my major takeaways from an amazing panel, with some inspiring speakers. As women of color, there are power in the stories told and I’m glad I was able to be a part of it.
What are some ways your background or experiences have impacted your leadership style? Would love to hear about them in the comments.