Why we need more BME women in Leadership

Why we need more BME women in Leadership

May 22, 2018

The short answer to my topic title is we need more BME women in leadership because we don’t have enough and everyone deserves the right to be heard and represented!

Hello, my name is Indie Love Gordon, yes that is my real name - my parents are what I like to call ‘free spirited musically inclined souls”, everything is a show to them, even naming me. Life is boring if you can’t have a little fun right!

The most powerful person I know in leadership is my mother. For as long as I can remember my mother, Hetty, has been a phenomenal power house that has refused to allow me to doubt my greatness due to others’ dislike for the colour of my skin or gender.

When I was younger my mother would tell me stories about BME superhero women who would work tirelessly to change the world and pave the way for future generations like myself to have a free voice to express and lead with strength. 

Before I was even a thought or creation my mother knew the importance of having BME women in empowered leadership roles, she wanted to me to have positive role models to look up to and learn from. The thing is, she wanted me to be able to see myself in their shoes and slowly come to the realization that anything is possible if you only work hard and never give up. She could have easily told me that I can achieve anything, and to be honest she always did, but she also understood the importance of self-discovery and development. Unless you unapologetically believe in yourself nothing of substance or worth can be achieved. The most powerful tools leaders have are their own personal experiences.

Learning begins before we are even born: we hear, feel and sense things around us. Only 50% of our knowledge comes from what we are taught the other 50% comes from what we are exposed to, so it is important that women regardless of age have positive influences everywhere and are continuously encouraged but also challenged to never settle for anything less than what is perfection to them.

A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions and the compassion to listen and understand the needs of others. She does not set out to become a leader but she becomes one by the quality of her actions and the integrity of her intent.

When I was 24 years old I took part in the Uprising leadership programme, I wanted to be pushed outside of what had recently become my norm: unconfident and unwilling to try. As I said before, my mother has a big part to play in where I am today, however after I left home and started university I was no longer receiving my mum’s daily dose of inspiration and motivation. I began to doubt my abilities and myself and I struggled to see my place in this world as a young black women let alone a young black powerful woman that led others. The choices of others around me started becoming my reality and all the past BME women who originally spoke strength and determination into my life began to fade and I became a follower instead of the leader I now know I am becoming. Looking back on it I now know it was all part of a master plan of self-discovery, my mum started that journey on my behalf and as a young black female leader it’s down to me to continue that journey and create a path for the generations to come.

The Uprising programme was such an integral part of my development because it did three things I didn’t know it would do:

  1. Firstly it gave me new skills like strategic thinking, operational management and problem solving. I had forgotten what it felt like to learn something new and feel so excited about new additions to my already growing skills bank.

  2. Secondly it enhanced skills that were already there but were weak, including public speaking, teamwork and project management. People often think that once they obtain a skill the work is done, but that not true - the work has only just begun. To keep a skill you must always be ahead of the game and must never stop searching for ways to be better.

  3. Finally, it opened my eyes to what I originally deemed impossible and made it possible. It re-sparked that fire that my mum had originally lit and reminded me that I can choose to be anything I want, I am NOT defined by the opinions of others, I am instead liberated by the belief I have in myself. 

Following my time with Uprising I then went on to learn the biggest lesson of all with the National Citizen Service. From 2012 and onwards I had spent multiple summers working on the NCS programme as a Mentor. I was overwhelmingly passionate about people and the things they could achieve with a little support and time, however my greatest realisation and development came in 2016 when I became a Programme Leader for NCS and had the honour of working alongside my best friend to lead a team of 60 young people and 10 staff through the NCS programme. All the skills I had learnt from Uprising were kicking in and I was beginning to put my experience in action. As a leader my original focus wasn’t to learn anything but rather just to support and lead my team, so it came as such an awesome surprise when I began to learn again. I learnt 5 keys things during my time on the NCS that completely shape the way I work and lead today:

  1. Firstly making mistakes are great - they allow you to learn things you never thought possible

  2. Asking for help is powerful

  3. You’re not searching for a destination you’re enjoying the journey, take the time to experience all that if offered to you

  4. Actions speak loader than words

  5. It’s NEVER too late to try again!

Learning these things during the NCS programme allowed me to learn about what it means to be a strong leader, it is what has turned me into the senior manager I am today.

Both the NCS and Uprising programmes are really important for young people to do, especially BME women, because they both offer a platform of supported self-discovery and connections to the community. Both allow young people to learn and make mistakes in a supported and encouraging environment.  It’s important that young people be given different platforms where they can explore and experience new things, the best way to do that is through social action, community engagement and self-reflection.

So to answer my topic title again, we need more BME women in leadership because every other community is largely represented and has been for some time. We need champions that will fearlessly empower young BME women and men to chase their dreams and do great things. It is my hope that one day we will live in a world where we are no longer defined within minority based groups but we are fully united, continuously empowered and motivated with the same goal to create a strong nation of powerful leaders.

I’m going to end with my favourite poem I believe it truly speaks for what our world and the people within it can be. The greatest piece of advice I could give is to NEVER stop learning, programmes like NCS and Uprising allow you to do that. Learning doesn’t have to be something that is done just in the classroom. Learning – knowledge - happens anywhere and everywhere when you allow your mind to explore and learn new things. The key to success is knowledge and with that you will be an unstoppable leader!

 

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves
who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? 
You are a child of God. You’re playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking So that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, 
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

 

Opportunity for Uprising alumni who have experience working with young people:

We have partnered with NCS (a youth empowerment programme currently recruiting for over 4.5K paid short-term roles this summer) to offer Uprising participants/alumni a fast track code for their roles. To do this, you must use this referral code: UPR0118FT and when asked, to quote “Uprising” when starting a new application. Click here for more information and to apply!