Intro: Let me get some things out the way…..
Ahem. So the featured picture in this blog post may have you going “wha….” as it seems counter to the title of this blog post. First, let me give some photo identifications to this fabulous group of people then I will explain. Going from left to right: Rep. Doreen Carter (Treasurer of Georgia Legislative Black Caucus), Bernie Dixon (President of Atlanta Tech Angels), Dana Ugwonali (President of Black Tech Foundation), Stephen Hassett (Chair of the TAG Corporate Development Society), Chrissa McFarlane (CEO of Patientory), Allyson Eman (Executive Director of Venture Atlanta), yours truly and Mrs. Jennifer Callender, (Vice President of Membership of Minority Access To Capital, Inc.) Lots of women. Lots of people of color. I smiled a lot that day.
So what’s up with the photo?
To provide some clarity, this was a joint event held at the Georgia World Congress Center between the Technology Association of Georgia’s Corporate Development Board (where I serve on the board), my non-profit Minority Access to Capital, Inc. (where I am Founder and Board Chair) and the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus (where I serve as Chair of the Economic Development committee). It was a wonderful event focused on “Capital Raising & Growth Strategies for Women and Minority Owned Companies”—-so the marketing targeted…you guessed it…women and minority owned companies. So it’s not surprising that we had a room full of black people (let’s be honest) and women. But this focused event is the EXCEPTION to the rule and frankly, I’m tired of it.
Story of my life: The only black woman
“Dar’shun, what exactly are you tired of?” Answer: Being the only black woman in a room when money is being discussed at non-targeted events. That’s right—I said it. I went to an event to bring an international angel investor group to Georgia at the beginning of August. I was the only black woman out of about 100 people that attended this presentation. I also attended an event just last Friday on corporate venture capital funding with some of Atlanta’s top corporate leaders in venture capital. It was probably 150 people in the room at the Commerce Club BUT, low and behold, I was the only black woman. As many of you know, my outlet for venting my frustration is Facebook so I posted these (see below) at the time of both events….and yall, I am tired of making these same posts because this is NOT the first time I have made similar posts.
Now I did NOT write this blog post to point blame at anyone or any organization for this too often recurring situation that I find myself. However, I am placing blame on myself and holding myself responsible for making sure this happens as less as possible in the future. I tried my best to reach out to a diverse group of people to attend both events but I MUST DO MORE if I want to see black women at these events. Therefore, I am personally pledging to pick up the phone and personally invite black women. I am personally pledging to send as many follow up emails as necessary. And I am personally pledging to even pick my sister girls up on my way to the same event. I have never been one to complain about a situation and expect others to solve it. I must do more and I will do more.
Why This Matters to Me
Some of you may be saying “What’s the big deal? You see them [black women] at targeted events.” Well…well…well…
A few responses to that:
- I serve on a volunteer board of the largest tech organization in the southeast, the Technology Association of Georgia. There is no reason why I should be the only black woman “in the room” and “at the table”. I need to invite others that look like me to enjoy the meal as well. It is 2017. We can go where we please so we need to show up!
- This is not an exclusive offer. What I mean is that just because I am trying to get more black women to join me at certain non-targeted events doesn’t mean they cannot attend or shouldn’t continue to attend more targeted events. We are women—we can walk and chew gum at the same time.
- Optics matters. Ever heard the phrase “perception is reality.”? Well, it’s true in business and true in life. ALL presenters at both of the aforementioned events were white males, except 1 male at the corporate venture capital event. I am CONVINCED that there would be a different group of panelists and a more diverse discussion if black women had a significant presence in the room.
In closing, my self-inflicted “Call to Action”
And there you have it. I have put out what I will personally do the next time I am invited to a “non-targeted” event that I think should have the presence of black women to contribute to the discussion and the optics. I ask that each of you hold me accountable. Make sure that I do what I say I will do. It’s important, especially in these perilous times in the United States, that a diverse group of people talk with each other, respect each other and interact with each other in the same room. I hope you will join me in lighting up any room with a variety of colors and perspectives.
Upcoming Events & Initiatives
- August 31st- Deadline to apply for GA Path Program, an initiative to expose more minorities and women to careers in Governmental Affairs (lobbying)
- November 8th– 1st EVER Georgia Blacks in Tech Policy Conference. Registration opens Sept. 1st. Sign up for my enewsletter to receive early registration link.
- Outstanding RFP– Looking for an organization with strong corporate ties to develop a program to train and expose minorities and women to PAID corporate board positions. More information HERE.
I am Chief Diversity Activist and Consultant of Kendrick Advisory & Advocacy Group, LLC. We curate and execute customized initiatives, programs and events for organizations to meet their specific diversity & inclusion objectives and provide results. I practiced private securities law for over a decade before this transition to more meaningful work. I was featured in the Huffington Post as 1 of 25 People Poised to Scale Atlanta’s Growing Technology Start Up Ecosystem for Black Americans and Beyond.
I serve as a board member of the Technology Association of Georgia’s corporate development society founder and Board Chair of Minority Access to Capital, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to educating and empowering minorities on how to access capital to grow their business and create generational wealth. I have been elected to the Georgia House of Representatives since 2010, serving over 54,000 Georgians in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties under the Georgia State Capitol each year.
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