The ColorComm Conference Got Me Ready
I recently went to The ColorComm Conference, dedicated to connect and help cultivate women of color in the communications industry. This conference brings together the industry’s top practitioners and thought leaders together to discuss relevant issues from like-minded women. As this was my first experience with ColorComm, I was blown away and left wanting more, more and then some. This years theme was Get Ready...and I can say I’m more ready than ever for next steps in my personal and professional journey.
Founder and President, Lauren Wesley Wilson has built an empire. What started in 2011 as a luncheon for 34 women in Washington, D.C. has evolved into a community of chapters throughout the country (10 chapters in the U.S. and one in London, UK), ongoing programs and networking opportunities. ColorComm is the nation's leading women's platform addressing diversity and inclusion and the advancement of women of color from across the communications, marketing, media and advertising industries.
Being The Only One and Working Twice as Hard
I’ve been the “only one” in the room many times throughout my life. Dating back to Pre-K, I was the only African American female from the time I started school until the time I graduated high school. And over the course of the last 5-6 years, I’ve gotten to the space of being 100% comfortable in my own skin. I spent many years wishing to be thinner, lighter and have the perfect silky and smooth hair like those around me to fit in and “belong”. It took a lot of self love and discovery to appreciate the skin I’m in...literally and figuratively.
Since I could remember I’d always heard the narrative that as an African American, especially female, I’d have to be and work “twice as hard” and be “twice as good” as my counterparts. Even First Lady Michelle Obama addressed this narrative in her commencement speech to the 2015 graduates of Tuskegee University. This is even reflective in the 2018 Lean In/McKinsey - Women in the Workplace Study sharing how women of color are the most underrepresented group of all in corporate America—behind white men, men of color and white women. Here are some additional statistics and takeaways below that share how it’s toughest for women of color and common issues faced.
Fueling Your Rocket Ship
I’ll never forget that I had an adult say to me the day I found out that I got into UNC that I was likely admitted because of my race in a joking manner. And trust me, I know others personally that had similar experiences where their accomplishments were questioned by their race. One, that is never something to joke about, but at the time as a teenager I laughed it off since it was “a joke” but was broken on the inside. But, do you know what I did? I put a smile on my face and didn’t let the hurt show. What should have been an exciting and thrilling moment for me, turned into a moment of feeling diminished, belittled, not enough and not worthy. Because of this seed that was planted, I began to think and question myself. Is this what all of my peers at school would think as well? Maybe it was true, did I only get into Carolina because I was black? Did I deserve to get into Carolina even though those at school who ranked higher than me didn’t? My mind began to play tricks on me because of one stupid comment.
Eight years later, and I still remember how it felt in that moment to hear those words. It’s experiences like these that often makes you question your own ability, but also simultaneously fuels you even further to prove people wrong. But, living a life of constantly trying to prove people wrong is no way to live.
Therefore, throughout the years I’ve made it an effort to live for me, concentrate on my goals and deliver on what is best for me personally and professionally. Which sometimes requires you to shut off the noise of those that surround you and their opinions.
Nuggets of Life
Throughout the conference, many nuggets and life lessons were shared that I want to share. These lessons have already made an impact on my life, and hopefully they inspire others to advocate for themselves, be proud and confident, build community and ultimately fight for what you believe in.
Ann Curry, Emmy Award Winning Journalist and 2019 ColorComm Keynote Speaker, had 10 key lessons in life that she shared. I’ve highlighted five below!
What makes you different is what makes you special.
Every time someone diminishes you, let it fuel your rocket ship.
Strong and diverse friendships with women at work is so important in providing a sacred and protected place/space and support system.
Adapt, grow, evolve but stay true to your sense of self, what you believe and what is right and wrong.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure it is of service to someone else. Then, and only then, will you know on your last day that you know it mattered that you were born.
Additional lessons I learned or were reinforced during the conference include:
Representation matter….especially now more than ever. You can’t be what you can’t see.
“Don’t buy shoes. Buy buildings. Invest. Invest. Invest.” - Nely Galan, Independent producer, author, former President of Entertainment for Telemundo and 2019 ColorComm Speaker
“Having to work twice as hard is the rule minorities have to live by. It’s also the rule that very few people of color will become leaders. So, when you become the exception [to that rule], you have to make NEW rules...[To get to the top] you have to understand the rules, and then become the exception.” - Nathan Poekert, BMW Group Global Director of Communications and 2019 ColorComm Few Good Men Panelist
Doubting your accomplishments and having internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud has a name. It’s called the Imposter syndrome. And you must realize you are in your position for a reason and you must push through those fears. When you feel afraid, own it and be the best damn actor you can be until you adopt the “I belong” and “I’ve earned this” mentality.
I learned so much professionally, but also loved the thoughtful details of decor, engagement, social media, structure and organization weaved through the entire conference. There was a #C2Miami hashtag that allowed conference goers and the general public to follow along. There were fun activities to create a well-rounded experience and it was ultimately cute and on brand for my style! (P.S. my Instagram pictures were poppin! And who gets to say their face was on a latte and cookies?!) The decor and all around investment in making sure memories were captured deserves a round of applause.
I’m blessed to have been able to witness and experience this wonderful conference that will only continue to evolve and grow. Thankful for a company that invested in me enough to have been able to attend, learn and build connections along the way.