The Magical Annie Malone – Madame C.J. Walker’s First Mentor

Many have heard of hair/beauty pioneer Madame CJ Walker, but not many people know about the woman she credits a great deal of her knowledge to; a woman that influenced her path of success—Annie Malone.

Annie Malone - Aerial Ellis Blog SeriesBefore Shea Moisture, Miss Jessie’s or The Mane Choice, Poro Beauty Products was one of the first haircare and beauty lines developed in the 1890s for black women. Recognized as an African American business woman, inventor, and philanthropist, Annie created products not only for straightening black hair, but she wanted to ensure that her product would not damage it in the process.

Her school Poro College was the first educational institution in the United States dedicated to the study and teaching of black cosmetology. By 1926, the college employed 175 people, and franchised outlets in North and South America, Africa, and the Philippines employing some 75,000 women.

Annie developed a network of franchised agent-operators who operated salons under Malone’s guidelines using Poro products.

A star student she helped and became rather fond of was Madame C.J. Walker. Although much of Annie’s success has been overshadowed by her, it is a known fact that Madame C.J. Walker got her start by selling Annie’s hair care products.

One of the first African American millionaires to be a serial entrepreneur, Annie owned her hair care college and company, a secretarial school, a hotel, and a number a real estate properties (she even owned a whole entire city block in Chicago). She became one of the wealthiest women in the world accumulating a worth $14 million during the 1920s.

However, despite her wealth, Malone lived conservatively and gave away much of her fortune to help other African Americans. Malone donated large sums to countless charities including giving thousands of dollars to HBCUs counting record-breaking gifts in large amounts to Howard University and Tuskegee Institute.

Throughout the years, Annie perfected her craft, continued building her brand, and created many opportunities for other black entrepreneurs.  Her manufactured line of beauty products for black women created a unique distribution system that helped tens of thousands of black women become entrepreneurial while gaining self-respect and economic independence, and birthed the legendary career of our beloved Madame C.J. Walker.

This post is the part of The Bag Collector series – a spotlight posts that feature serial entrepreneurs of color each recognized for their ability to diversify in business, wealth and investments. These individuals exemplify what it means to be creative and unapologetic in pursuit of entrepreneurial excellence, and ultimately collect the “bag” then use it to make greater community impact. 

 

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Introducing My New Blog Series: The Bag Collector

This year, I celebrate 15 years of entrepreneurship, and after starting several ventures with a few more planned to launch soon, I want to share the stories of entrepreneurs of color who’ve done the same thing in the most impactful and profound ways.

The Bag Collector is a spotlight series that features 15 serial entrepreneurs of color each recognized for their ability to diversify in business, wealth and investments. These individuals exemplify what it means to be creative and unapologetic in pursuit of entrepreneurial excellence, and ultimately collect the “bag” then use it to make greater community impact and establish a cultural legacy.

I will be featuring present-day game changers alongside a few unsung giants in black history whose shoulders the rest of us stand upon.

You are going to love their stories, and I’ll even share mine with you too.

Subscribe to my blog here to get notifications when each post goes live, and share, please share this awesome profiles with your network.

More to come…

How Inmate Cyntoia Brown Became a Scholar

At this time of year, most college students have completed final exams and term papers in anticipation of a nice winter break. As I read the senior capstone paper of one student, I am profoundly impressed by her scholarly work. The paper’s empirical research, theoretical context, and succinct flow – all elements are brilliantly done. I am soon reminded though that the chance to come home from college at the end of a semester or the hope of entering the world of work after obtaining a degree does not belong to her.

I’m reading a paper by Cyntoia Brown – an inmate in the Tennessee State Prison for Women whose case has been the center of attention lately reemerging from a news story and leading to the social media outcry insisting her freedom. She’s serving life in prison after being tried as an adult for killing her 43 year-old abuser at the age of 16.

Amid the demands for sexual predators to be called out and the persistent push for systemic change, Cyntoia’s 2004 case as a teen sentenced to 60 years has reappeared in news feeds and caught the eye of celebs like Rihanna, Lebron James and Kim Kardashian West. With a history of being trafficked into sex slavery, many are questioning why Cyntoia wasn’t seen as the victim in this case.

Despite her circumstances, Cyntoia has dedicated her time in prison to scholarly inquiry and intellectual rigor as a student in the Lipscomb University Initiative for Education (LIFE) program – one of only a handful of programs in the U.S. to offer a college degree to prison inmates. She was selected by the Tennessee Department of Correction to be admitted as a student at Lipscomb University, a private Christian university in Nashville, Tennessee, and took courses from the university curriculum alongside fellow inmates and other traditional students onsite at the prison. A rich, life-changing educational experience, it led her to earn an associate’s degree in 2015.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press

In May 2019, she will complete her bachelor’s degree.

Cyntoia has been studying literature on domestic minor sex trafficking and researching the correlation between societal perceptions of trafficked and exploited teens, and the effectiveness of eradication efforts. Her research explores the maturity factor of minors having the competence to distinguish consent from sexual abuse. She combats the notion that minors welcome exploitation by voluntarily prostituting themselves and challenges the social phenomena of shunning and shaming exploited teenagers.

In her capstone paper, she proposes a grassroots community based approach that reshapes the cultural norms surrounding the teen sex epidemic. She names it The GLITTER Project (Grassroots, Learning Initiative on Teen Trafficking, Exploitation and Rape) – an online awareness campaign with blogs, narratives, hashtags and photos aimed at fostering dialogue among community members through education and empowerment.

More often than not, young women struggle with histories of substance abuse, rape, violence, childhood trauma, domestic violence, mental illness, and poverty. Often times, these traumas span back generations in families, as they do with Cyntoia. However, she has gained the self-esteem to invest in her own education and the confidence to transcend the systemic ills that have haunted her.

Cyntoia now embodies the qualities of a scholar.

Her intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, communication skills, thought leadership and commitment to community all reveal the academic professionalism of any high-achieving student.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Though Cyntoia will graduate with a bachelor’s degree, she will not enter the real world and the job market like most college students. That’s what many are fighting for – a chance to win clemency from the Tennessee Board of Parole and Governor Bill Haslam granting her a new life.

Cyntoia was sexually exploited and lured into a lifestyle of abuse, and now her education has become an outlet for halting the spiral of shame, low self-esteem, and hopelessness. Not only is she battling her life sentence, she’s fighting the lack of awareness and acceptance around this problem. Through education, she has used her academic experience to highlight the domestic minor sex trafficking that she’s witnessed firsthand and is ready to devote her future life to creating solutions.

Becoming a scholar is a worthy pursuit. Cyntoia can now look beyond prison walls to see what could be and to know that her life is forever transformed. Full of promise, she’s now an agent for change and an influential voice in the fight for exploited teens.

Her story is a testament of proof that making an investment the best minds of our society can create cultural change and set them on the road to redemption.

Why Your Diversity Training Won’t Work

Earlier this year, Starbucks paused it operations of 8,000 stores for unconscious bias training. Soon after the announcement, I landed three new clients desiring to facilitate conversations and launch initiatives around issues of diversity and inclusion for their organization. The majority of my work, like others who work in this area, is spent customizing content for the trainings and crafting a strategy to support them. I predict more of these trainings will be a priority for organizations, and recommend that consumers hold them accountable for doing the work.

But there’s a major issue with diversity trainings. Many of them won’t work.

Even if you offer multiple trainings, or a series of events and workshops, the experience will have no impact if you have overlooked the most important element any organization must implement – a strategy.

Aerial Ellis Training Diversity Inclusion Intergenerational

Any training or learning event should be tactic inside a larger diversity strategy because most times when training is treated like an activity, the learning experience is much less effective and not seen as a deliberate part of the organizational culture. Without a strategic plan to support your diversity and inclusion initiatives, your trainings are merely an exercise.

Because corporate America has historically struggled to communicate the value of employees and consumers who represent cultural differences, the atmosphere or climate of an organization can have varying effects on employee outcomes and organizational effectiveness. In order for your trainings to work, they must be supported by a strategic plan that advances a dedication to diversity and internalizes a culture of inclusion.

A plan establishes diversity and inclusion as a strategic imperative. It means your organization is committed to the practice of diversity and inclusion and is not simply having a conversation. If your trainings are an attempt to develop core competencies for your employees that will enable them to work more effectively inside a diverse workforce and approach consumer audiences with greater cultural awareness, then a strategic plan should include a focus to examine trainings to determine their effectiveness.

Developing a plan can be based on a competency-based framework for practicing diversity and inclusion. A few proven models that can support your plan include Darla Deardorff’s Process Model of Intercultural Competence (2006), The Conference Board’s Report on Global Competencies (2008) and UNC’s Diversity Competencies for Leadership Development (2016). These examples offer competencies that organizations can strategically use as metrics for regular analysis and data collection.

Implementing a strategic plan ensures that diversity and inclusion will be:

• embedded throughout the organization

• engaged across functions and departments

• executed through communication with consumers and communities

• evaluated for effectiveness through business outcomes.

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To value diversity is to be expected but to have measurable knowledge and skills on how cultural differences can work best inside the organization, and how to communicate effectively about those similarities and differences, is to be strategic.

Your employees may be relieved to know that your organization is attempting to have a conversation around issues of diversity and inclusion – trainings increase one’s cultural knowledge, ability to empathize, understanding of cultural differences and willingness to face challenges.

Unfortunately, if treated like an exercise, your employees can suffer from pressure to participate, resentment of false commitment and the likelihood of losing interest. Trainings should be not a “check the box” exercise.

Organizations cannot trade tactics for strategies. Conducting trainings for diversity is a wasted effort without a strategic plan in place to activate inclusion.

One of Nashville’s 40 Under 40

My 40 Under 40 interview was released in the Nashville Business Journal earlier this month. The content was exclusive so here’s a sneak peek of the feature. Enjoy!

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received, and what did you learn from it? 

Most recently, the worst advice I received was not to pursue a doctoral degree. Last spring, I enrolled in the University of Southern California’s Global Executive Doctor of Education program, and since, I believe its one the best decisions I’ve ever made. Initially, there were many people who highly endorsed the idea as a possible waste of time and money. With a master’s degree, a few businesses and a job as a professor, they felt the credentials I had were enough to carry me as far I wanted to go. I see some merit in that notion but I also saw this as a chance to deepen the connection between my entrepreneurial background and my role as an educator. I relish the opportunity to tackle intellectual problems and explore new areas of knowledge through global trends from around the world. Making this decision gave greater affirmation in knowing that not everyone will understand your vision. I have come to learn with this and past situations that the more you love your decisions, the less you will need others to love them.

What is the greatest potential that comes from Nashville’s growth?

I am both optimistic and concerned about the growth this city is experiencing. While we’ve seen amazing progress in significant areas, we’ve also seen issues like crime, gentrification, housing and transit become more prevalent as a result of our rising population. I believe that the greatest potential from this expansion is the opportunity to make Nashville an exemplar for diverse communities – a place where resources are allocated and room is made for residents of various socioeconomic levels to thrive.

What fictional character do you most relate to or empathize with, and why?

Not a fictional character but a biblical character, Lydia – a woman from the Bible whose story found in Acts 16 – is one with which I identify. Lydia was an intelligent entrepreneur who loved community and understood the value of relationships. She was humble, perceptive, assertive and generous.

What is your least favorite assumption about millennials?

I write in detail about millennials in my book, The Original Millennial: Lessons in Leadership, and address the many stereotypes and assumptions of my generation. I think there’s enough conversation about what millennials are and are not in contrast to other generations so I don’t speak to the stereotypes or assumption that could support common issues. I think those are rehearsed and, quite frankly, rather old. I believe the driving force behind the potential greatness within the millennial generation is our originality. Millennials always look for ways to make things greater, bigger, better, stronger and more practical. The best parts of millennials are found in the choice to change and evolve. The original qualities of past generations use commonly understood behavior patterns, which make them far easier to define, whereas millennials have the ability to defy category. We, and other generations, have to accept that and embrace it to overcome issues that could create barriers to leadership and collaboration.

What is your favorite social media platform, and why? 

I love YouTube. I am a creative at heart so I love the storytelling aspect of videos as well as the ability to research, find information, and be informed and entertained. I also love Instagram and WhatsApp.

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Why #BlackGirlMagic Is More Relevant Than Ever

The gap in management, representation and compensation leaves room for the PR industry to champion African-American women leaders

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The evidence is real. #BlackGirlMagic isn’t just a trending hashtag or catchphrase, it’s a real-time, quantifiable illustration of how the consumer preferences and brand affinities of African-American women are resonating across the U.S. According to African-American Women: Our Science, Her Magic, a new report by Nielsen, African-American women are driving total Black spending power toward a record $1.5 trillion by 2021. Insights reveal that we have enjoyed steady growth in population, incomes, and educational attainment. This rise in influence and buying power as consumers is a result of our increased success in business and our careers.

But, another stat is much less impressive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (2016) reported that below 4 percent of women employed in public relations were African American (women overall make up about 70 percent of the industry). With all of our magical abilities to drive product categories and shift culture as trendsetters, brand loyalists and early adopters, there’s no reason more of us shouldn’t be leading in brands and agencies as decision makers. Make no mistake – we are here, and have been here for decades – but the gap in management, representation and compensation for African-American women leaders in the public relations industry must lessen as we’ve further proven our power and influence.

Here’s how we champion “Black Girl Magic” in the PR industry:

African-American women are best at creating and cultivating community.

Our magic is made tangible when we establish opportunities for dialogue and work to make industry diversity actionable and accountable. Such efforts like the E3 Task Force, a nationwide agency diversity effort led by Edelman’s DC President Lisa Osborne Ross, empower diverse candidates to elevate their voices and emerge as leaders.

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Credit: ColorComm 2016 C2 Conference

With the ColorComm (C2) Conference in Miami as the catalyst for the conversation, the task force went to work forming a quantitative study and hosting listening sessions, with mostly women of color in the communications industry across eight U.S. markets, to assess the barriers and dismantle the roadblocks to leadership. Similarly in advertising and marketing, there are still very few women of color in creative leadership roles.

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Credit: bohan Advertising

Ad Women For All Women, a program created and hosted by bohan, an independent, full-service advertising and marketing agency, introduces young women in high school and college to the opportunities available in advertising. The AWFAW program focuses on women and women of color specifically, but is part of a commitment to diversity and inclusion in a broad sense as well. Each effort, and so many others, indicates where we want to be and how we are willing to help one other get there.

 African-American women show a desire to lead and an ability to drive revenue.

Our magic is obvious as the Nielsen study reveals that 64 percent of black women agree their goal is to make it to the top of their profession. The study also reports that Black female entrepreneurs have grown by 67 percent within five years, totaling more than 1.5 million businesses with over $42 billion in sales and $7.7 billion in payroll. This kind of ingenuity is worth acknowledging and forces a response by placing more African-American women in PR leadership roles. Yet, in a survey of 51 agencies in North America, the Holmes Report and Ketchum Global Research & Analytics reported that women of color made $10,000 less than white women in public relations. This leads to the progression of African-American women opting out of agency life to create their own businesses or to leave the industry altogether. This is a clear sign of industry leadership passing on the untapped potential of ambitious African-American women, lagging on developing an organizational culture of inclusion and equity, and overlooking the intrinsic value we hold for leveraging business savvy for greater profits.

African-American women maintain a unique cultural capital.

Our magic is limitless as mainstream culture looks to us for trends and patterns. In most product categories, African-American women over-index against non-Hispanic white women for dollars per buyer and buying power, according to Nielsen. Also, 86 percent admitted to spending 5 or more hours each day on online/mobile platforms for consumer engagement activities and social media movements. As African-American women, our spending, watching, and listening habits are mirrored by other women and shape the way women of all ethnicities see themselves, states the report. While the behaviors, values and purchasing patters of African-American women have been long studied by corporations, our recent influence is proving that the cultural capital we embody has the power to extend beyond contributing a consumer point of view to now reaching leadership with a seat at the table in order to meet industry demands and address PR’s diversity deficit.

It’s confirmed. We are magic.

BlackGirlMagic in PR - Aerial Ellis ColorComm Nielsen AWFAW PRSA

 

We are an undeniable force as women influencers in public relations, as well as marketing, advertising and digital. Our position as creators, decision makers and game changers is indefinite, and will secure our presence as levelers in the future.

If the rest of the world is taking notice and recognizing “Black Girl Magic,” the public relations industry should be our greatest advocate.

What 4:44 means for black millennial leaders

What Jay-Z’s 4:44 Means For Black Millennial Leaders

In 1997, Jay-Z, a Brooklyn MC emerging in popularity and ambition, released his second studio album, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. Still perfecting his sound and his persona, Jay was at his hungriest then yet seemingly stuck between the rap game and the dope game, and the streets and the boardroom. Also in 1997, the African American community emerged as the fastest growing consumer base worldwide with a total purchasing power of $469.4 billion. As our influence climbed so did our access to education and entrepreneurship setting the stage for the youngest in our community – the millennials – to witness this growth and progression firsthand.

20 years later, Jay-Z is known as the legendary rapper holding the number one slot on just about everyone’s top five list. From beats to business – then Beyonce and Blue Ivy – he’s been able transcend all aspects of entertainment, leverage philanthropy for the cause and master entrepreneurship with the best of black excellence. His latest album 4:44 is proof, and most black millennials will agree. With themes like financial freedom, generational wealth, ownership and entrepreneurship all woven into dope, soulful beats, and not to mention, the slick short movies as videos for songs like Moonlight and Story of O.J., and an inside scoop from the Rap Radar podcast on TIDAL, 4:44 is a blueprint for black millennials who are poised to lead.

Yet, we still have a reality to face. In the Black community, money circulates zero to one time and one dollar circulates between us for only six hours, according to Nielsen, making us the least wealthy U.S demographic. However, Nielsen also tells us that the overall Black spending power is projected to reach $1.4 trillion by 2020. And with millennials representing 50 percent of the global workplace by 2020 making us huge influencers on how business works, the projected $162 billion that Black Millennials have in buying power along with undisputed cultural influence, means we as leaders must get serious about avoiding “living rich and dying broke” as Jay-Z said.


With new wind of inspiration from Jay and a major cultural shift at hand, here are four things 4:44 should inspire black millennial leaders to do:

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We must own.

“You walkin’ around like you invincible/You dropped outta school, you lost your principles” – ‘Kill Jay Z’

Millennials are only interested in purposeful work. School may teach you how to get jobs but there’s no guarantee school will teach you how to create jobs. Ownership is a priority because for black millennials the future of business depends on our ability to be employers. With all our smarts gained from school or otherwise, we must maintain the vision to be owners – own everything we can from property to businesses. Whether you run a startup in your basement or you jet set to make big deals, ownership is your key to financial freedom and generational wealth. For black millennial leaders to build legacy, we must apply compelling vision to own our own – whether it’s a website selling apparel or a food truck selling cupcakes. Without ownership, we jeopardize our progress. It’s about principle above all.

We must invest.

‘Please don’t die over the neighborhood/That your mama rentin’/Take your drug money and buy the neighborhood/That’s how you rinse it’ – ‘Story of O.J.’

Millennials are magnets for creativity and community. Whether you buy the block in your old neighborhood or cut a check to a local nonprofit, directing your resources to your own community curates and preserves its cultural originality. When you invest in the black community, you generate profits in pursuit of social goals. Use your profit to invest in your purpose in leadership. Remember, your profit is not just your money. You can invest your profits in form of time, advice and raw talents. Not only does investing foster loyalty to your community, it introduces a culture of openness so that solutions can be explored to help solve the problems we want solved and ensure a legacy for future generations for follow.

We must innovate.

“Y’all think small, I think Biggie” – ‘Family Feud’

Millennials are vocal about what we want for our lives. We think big. We create lifestyles that support innovation which means we keep an open mind about the way the world works. As black millennials, we have a legitimate role to play in the innovation of leadership. We must lead with incremental steps that make old ideas new again and repurpose the familiar into the unexpected. The cultural shift of innovation forces us to the frontline of leadership. When black millennials embrace innovation and build a culture to support it, we demonstrate intentionality in our leadership. When we deliberately and routinely think big, we show that innovation is a way of life. And when boundaries appear, we use innovation to push them by facing the fast-paced world head-on with no fear.

We must build.

“We’re supposed to vacay ’til our backs burn / We’re supposed to laugh ’til our hearts stops” – ‘4:44’

Millennials love life. We do not want to put our passions on hold – travel, food, love, technology, etc. Meanwhile, we are still building. Its part of the black millennial experience. We are building ideas that successfully raise awareness of issues facing the Black community and influence decisions shaping our world. We must use our collective power to build the future together —we must focus on outcomes, not hours, and results, not hype. We must have a challenge to continuously learn and do better. Though our ambition and zest for life may get us labeled as self-centered, what we really want is to get better at what we are doing, take care of our families and have an impact on the world. As we build, we must empower each other to eliminate the “me” mentality. When we do so, and do it together, we earn the power and privilege to lead lives of unlimited potential. Besides, “what’s better than one billionaire? Two,
especially if they’re from the same hue as you.”


In 4:44, Jay-Z masterfully proves the bond between cultural change and social entrepreneurship. Cultural change exposes problems by disrupting a system. This is a result of generations asking why. Social entrepreneurship solves problems by disrupting a system. This is a result of generations asking, why not? And, asking why not is what millennials do best.

Though Jay is a Gen-Xer and one of the most respected voices in pop culture, the so-called legends and power brokers from his generation aren’t the only ones responsible for creating the most exciting things impacting our culture these days. Increasingly, millennials are having the biggest impact on culture thanks to his influence along with others from Gen X.

If black millennials leaders intend to lead, and we are showing that we do, all the inspiration we need is in front of us.

Beyond the Buzzword: How to Talk about Diversity

Diversity has become a topic that everyone seems to want to talk about.

Now, in the second decade of the new millennium, the business case for practicing diversity and inclusion has been made a priority, as concern for race, age and gender expands to include diversity of culture, thought and lifestyle. This evolution has shown that the language of diversity is fluid and somewhat uncertain, and yet it contains fundamentals for the future.

While the importance of diversity has increased in recent decades, progress in the corporate world has been slower. “Diversity” has become a buzzword. The way we communicate the idea often makes diversity a novelty that we like to mention, rather than spending time determining how it should play out in organizations and in the world around us.

As the work of diversity and inclusion grows in demand, the PR profession has an opportunity to lead the language so that other industries can talk about this function with greater cultural competency. Here are a few simple ways to reframe how we talk about diversity:

Understand that diversity does not mean non-white

When we hear the word “diversity,” we tend to think that it means race, specifically people who are not Caucasian. Instead, we must define diversity as the measure or variation of social and cultural identities among people who exist together in a particular setting.

To go beyond the buzzword and arrive at authentic cross-cultural experiences, people of all races, ethnicities, ages, religions and backgrounds need to participate in building organizational cultures. On the other hand, relying solely on non-white employees to lead diversity efforts — or devaluing the realities of their societal experiences — allows us to sidestep persistent inequalities and to overlook opportunities to enhance our cultural competencies. 

Stop calling people ‘diverse’

Individuals add diversity to groups and should not be labeled as “diverse” for the sake of representation. One could argue that a statement such as “We need more diverse candidates” is a matter of semantics, but it obscures our understanding of diversity. Using the term this way depersonalizes people as “other” in an attempt to meet a socially acceptable goal, without naming the specific kind of person needed for the goal to be met. If one person fits the distinction, does that make the group diverse? Or if a group only has Latinas, for instance, is it diverse? It’s easy to measure diversity by headcount, but inclusion means understanding people’s narratives along with their numbers.

Using “diversity” as a catchall reinforces wrong meaning. Specifically naming the groups we’re talking about — based on characteristics such as LGBTQ, age, race or nationality — sets a tone for belonging, and prevents diversity from erasing the distinctions that make it necessary in the first place.

Prepare for the emerging majority

“Minority” has long been the default descriptor for people of color. But with the United States poised to become a minority-majority country by the year 2040, the shift will reshape the language of our industry and perhaps create a stronger filter for senior leaders and decision-makers responsible for navigating organizational cultures. 

Some believe that adding cultural differences creates a competitive advantage. Instead of seeing the focus on differences as divisive, we can leverage commonalities to spark future initiatives.

Treated as a buzzword, diversity becomes so diluted that it can be a code for anything we want it to represent. Even well-intended diversity efforts leave us without an understandable language. Changing the words and phrases we use to describe one another reflects progress toward a world in which everyone feels respected and included.

Some see diversity as a convenient solution to new racial and ethnic challenges, which becomes synonymous with a profit imperative. Appealing to diversity can unite people across differences that divide us and affirm a shared, self-reinforcing commitment to one another.

The PR/communications profession influences all areas of business and how language and perception are reshaped. When we grapple with how to discuss diversity and inclusion efforts, and look at how public perceptions will change, our profession can help lessen the misunderstandings and miscommunications that occur in the global workforce by listening actively, choosing words carefully and showing respect for others.

This article was originally posted at PRSAY. In August, PRSA is celebrating Diversity Month by focusing on the diverse communities, people and practices that comprise public relations. The Diversity & Inclusion Committee and other PR thought leaders offer their insights on the importance of a diverse and inclusive workplace. Join the discussion by following @PRSADiversity and using #PRSADiversity in your social media posts.

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The Opportunity for Millennial Leaders

By 2020, millennials will represent 50% of the global workplace, making us a huge influence on how business works.

Organizational leaders are becoming increasingly concerned that they soon will be unable to find the talent they need to succeed, with a shortage of suitably skilled workers as the single biggest worry. Businesses are competing fiercely for the best available talent to replace the retiring boomers in the upcoming years. Every year, more and more of that talent will be recruited from the ranks of millennials (PwC, 2011).

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That means building leaders from the millennial generation can no longer be a delayed strategy for decision-makers in the workplace.

Reason 1: Millennials are critical to organizational success and sustainability

Reason 2: Millennials can quickly learn the ropes then come for the boss’s job

Reason 3: Millennials have options. We can decide we don’t want to work for someone

Reason 4: Without millennials, organizations will start to wane.

A report by PriceWaterhouse Coopers provides some insight into the minds of millennials. In 2011, the corporation carried out an online survey of 4,364 millennials across 75 countries under the age of 31 or under and had graduated college between 2008 and 2011. Seventy-five percent were currently employed or about to start a new job while 8% were unemployed at the time they responded to the questionnaire. The rest were self-employed or returning full-time to continue their education. According to the survey, 76% of respondents with a job said it was a graduate role, while 12% had a job that did not require a degree. The survey said that 54% expected to work for between two and five employers over their entire career.

This isn’t attributed to low attention spans and bouts of boredom millennials are believed to possess. This is a direct result of organizations determining that millennials aren’t high-level contributors because we’re not “one-size fits all.” We spend an average 1.5 years to 3 years working at a company. But working for two and five employers over a 40 to 50-year career suggests much greater longevity with an employer than that the perceived length of millennials’ employment, the survey said.

Millennials are vocal about what we want for our lives. Our careers are top priority. In fact, our generation sees a bigger picture for our work, leveraged by technology, freedom and creativity. This means we have the ability to add meaningful value to our work from anywhere at anytime, and we must be allowed to exercise that value in ways that others respect it.

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Here are immediate opportunities we can take as leaders:

  • Ask your employer for the resources to pursue education in your chosen field and opportunities to keep learning through training, workshops or tuition reimbursement. Also, be prepared to invest in your own training outside of the office to make your skills as marketable and transferable as possible. Ask for time with your manager for an explanation for how your specific contributions add to the company’s bottom line and how the team benefits from the efficiencies you can create.

 

  • Ask management for leadership and personality assessments to better understand your traits as an intrapreneurial leader. Seek a professional coach and internal mentors who can advise you along the way. We are comfortable with transparency and want management to practice it as they are grooming us. We get the basic ingredients for success, but can gain valuable guidance as the benefit of some unconventional advice. Be prepared to make improvements along the way based on the feedback you receive. And, don’t be offended, even if you don’t agree with what comes out of the evaluation. Use it to your advantage. When we ask management to help us, we should reciprocate a tone of clarity and openness, with a respect for inclusion and diversity.

 

  • Ask if you can mentor fellow millennials in the workplace who may need to be coached on the company’s culture. Offer to be a reverse mentor to baby boomers or Gen X-ers as an effort to build relationships with senior colleagues that could raise the bar on employee engagement and productivity. If you seek leadership in the workplace, ask for an honest assessment of your communication weaknesses and make sure you are working to inspire confidence, showing interest in the professional development of your coworkers and communicating with clarity and transparency.

When we define and prove our value as leaders, we create leverage to ask for more of what we want and the work we want to do.

My Workshop for Millennial Leaders

Many cities across the country are experiencing a major culture shift led by millennials born 1980-1995. Nashville is one of them.

Here’s an opportunity for millennials to participate in an action-oriented class in preparation for the next phase of leadership in business and in community on Saturday, August 5, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Ezell Center at Lipscomb University. And, there’s an opportunity for me to come to your city. Dates are going fast!

I’ll tell my personal story as a young leader and facilitate an interactive six-step leadership development training session covering the following areas:

• Career, Entrepreneurship, Intrapraneurship
• Problem Solving, Disruption, Innovation
• Ambition, Decision Making, Goal-Setting
• Influence, Access, Creativity
• Profit, Passion, Purpose
• Faith, Mindfulness, Empowerment.

I’ll also lead a personal brand mapping session and we’ll have a little fun too.

Here’s my invitation!

 

Register at nashvillemillennialleadership.eventbrite.com for only $35 which includes lunch and a signed copy of the book.

For more about me and my book or to request a workshop in your city or at your company,
visit THEORIGINALMILLENNIAL.COM