Championing Diversity at ColorComm Conference
By Yakesha Cooper, Senior Account Executive, MSL
We are all aware that a lack of gender and racial parity is a problem across many industries, including in public relations. ColorComm, a professional networking organization for women of color in communications, wants to break those barriers and create a level playing field for minority women across the industry.
Recently, I had the unique opportunity to attend ColorComm’s 4th annual conference in Miami, which draws a diverse mix of women from multicultural backgrounds at the mid- and senior-levels. The conference focused on the theme “Surprise Yourself” and covered everything from salary negotiation to self-advocacy, financial responsibility and body language. However, the main topic of conversation focused on diversity & inclusion challenges and opportunities.
While I gained a ton of valuable insight at the conference, here are five key takeaways that spoke to me the most:
- Be a diversity champion – “Diversity means nothing without inclusion. Diversity is inviting them to the party. Inclusion is asking them to dance.”
- Have the courage to speak up and stand out – “Be present and add value to the conversation. Always have three canned questions that you can ask in a meeting. If you don’t say anything, no one knows the value you bring.”
- Know your value and don’t settle for less — “You should work where you are celebrated, not tolerated.”
- Know the importance of a mentor, advocate and ally in the office – “All it takes is one to believe you can to get you where you wouldn’t have been.”
- Your identity is valid – “Nobody can be you the way you can be you. Your authenticity is your distinct competitive advantage.”
From dynamic speakers to empowering sessions and workshops, the overall experience far exceeded my expectations. For me, one of the best aspects of attending was that it gave participants the ability to network and build sustaining relationships with exceptional women who are making their mark and changing the face of our industry. I felt a sense of belonging and sisterhood that I haven’t experienced since my undergrad years at Spelman College, a liberal arts HBCU (Historically Black College or University) for women in Atlanta, GA.
Organizations like ColorComm remind us that our talent pool should be more representative of the increasingly diverse world we live and work in. Lack of diversity takes away from the type of balanced, well-rounded advice and service we can provide to clients. For that reason, MSL partnered with ColorComm for the first time to introduce a fellows program for young, minority women to establish a mentoring program and give them access to open positions at offices throughout the U.S.
I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the women who have helped open doors for me along the way, so I am excited to be part of this initiative to help usher in a new generation of rising stars. My hope is that this program inspires other organizations to recruit and retain a mix of talent at every level.