Rise & Shine: Black Career Women, It’s Time To Accept Your Brilliance
Even though Black Women are the most educated group in the United States, we still don’t occupy nearly enough slots in the higher ranks of the corporate world and major organizations. Of course, this is due in large part to racism and sexism, but there’s another culprit: Black women are not flexing their talents and are afraid to shine, some experts say.
And that is exactly what business strategist and success mentor Allyson Byrd wants Black women to stop doing. Byrd, who calls herself a Profit Accelerator, works with women to not only take control of their finances and careers but also their self-esteem, helping them accept their brilliance and not to hide their talents and achievements.
“I think first of all that people in general like to hide their brilliance, so it’s not just a Black thing but I think that Black women are taught to been seen and not heard and not get involved in ‘grown people business,”’ Byrd explained to us. “So we have to realize, for one, we are grown up, and two we don’t have to be apologetic about our gifts.”
Women in general, not just Black women, sometimes think they need to hide their talents. According to Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson in an article for Psychology Today, women “judge our own abilities not only more harshly, but fundamentally differently, than men do.” Furthermore, from a young age, found studies, young girls, as young as grade school students, are made to seem “unusual” if they are “too” smart, and this makes them feel more vulnerable and less confident. Even in school, noted Halvorson, boys are encouraged by teachers and parents to excel more than girls are.
“We continue to carry these beliefs, often unconsciously, around with us throughout our lives. And because bright girls are particularly likely to see their abilities as innate and unchangeable, they grow up to be women who are far too hard on themselves–women who will prematurely conclude that they don’t have what it takes to succeed in a particular arena, and give up way too soon,” she wrote.
Add to this the societal norm of not bragging, and women become very slow to boast of their achievements. “All people don’t want to be seen as braggarts, but you need to own your achievements, own your skills,” Byrd said. “We all have a stage in life and if we don’t take center stage in our own life, then others will–or family or circumstances–and when this happens you are not living your life for yourself.”
Byrd knows what she is talking about. She went through tough times when she didn’t own her brilliance. At one point in her life she was living on food stamps. And this happened soon after she started her own company, the Byrd Agency. Obviously something wasn’t working and Byrd had to revamp her business strategy. Now, as CEO of Money Movers International, her company does business worldwide–from Thailand and Sri Lanka to Moscow and the British Virgin Islands. Before she became a success, Byrd had to not only revamp her business plan, but also her way of thinking, as the way you think can hinder your brilliance, she said. Primarily, you have to get rid of “occupational thinking,” she advised, which is staying with what’s safe and not taking career risks.
“First you have to identify the way you think, and if you have occupational thinking, you need to identify a way to get out of your safety zone. Think about what you really want out of life, if you could have everything you want. Then you have to take the steps to reach those goals. But also think outside of the four walls of school; there are other ways to learn new skills and get experience, such as a life skills group.”
When it comes to your career and your industry you also need to ask, “Do you hear me?” “Do you see me?” And “do I matter?” If the answer is “no,” you have to work on making yourself visible, not invisible, Byrd said. Do this by flexing your skill sets–start a blog, go on the speaking circuit, comment on social media about issues in your industry. In other words, speak out and speak up. Next, look at who you have around you. Does your social circle include a lot of naysayers, who shoot down your ideas? If so, it’s time to weed them out. “Evaluate who is in your community. If you hang around people who don’t want to hang out in the sunlight, then you will feel uncomfortable talking about achievements and goals,” noted Byrd. Surround yourself with positive and forward thinking people who design their own futures. They will understand your career and life desires and encourage you.”
You should also work on your growth in other areas of life as well, Byrd added. “A lot of career experts leave this out, but if you don’t grown spiritually, then you won’t grow at all,” she explained. “And I’m not talking about going to church. Look beyond the walls of the church for your spiritual growth. It could be doing yoga, meditation. You have to try something you have never done before. Go for the promotion you’ve been thinking about but didn’t dare.”
And most important, realize you don’t have to accomplish any of this alone. “I try to have mentors for every aspect of my life–a mentor for my health and wellness, a mentor for my business, a spiritual mentor, a finance mentor,” said Byrd. “I also recommend changing mentors every 90 days. This is what I do, and it’s great. Imagine having all these great opinions and advice in your circle and your circle keeps growing. Mentors can help you define and find your brilliance.”