Supporting Women of Color in Leadership

Mari's Memo

March 2023 – I know you all think I retired from Partners In Diversity back in January, but I’ve tied myself to my desk and the team has allowed me to stay for a couple more weeks. Thus, this will be my last Mari’s Memo, and as a woman of color, it seemed poignant that this is Women’s History Month.

As I transition out of my role, I often think of the women around me and those who have come before me who have greatly impacted my career. I have grown into my leadership role due to support from mentors, advisors, friends, and confidants who have taken the time to acknowledge my passions and skills and have provided guidance when I’ve encountered challenges.

If you search for women leaders online, you’ll come across many lists of women who have paved the way for other women to advance. Although inspiring and indicative of some progress, I cannot help but acknowledge that women of underrepresented identities still make up a minority of these lists and continue to be underrepresented in leadership roles at most organizations. Genuine recruitment and retainment strategies to get women of color into positions of leadership are just not there yet.

If you are a woman of color aspiring to step into a leadership role, I want to remind you of the great agency that you hold over the trajectory of your career and your life. There are structures and systems in place that you must break through without fear and with an incredible support system by your side. If you are a woman of color who is currently in a leadership role, I ask that you pass on the support that was once offered to you. Great challenges are overcome through persistence, boldness, and unity. Embrace those qualities and move upward together.

With gratitude,

Mari Watanabe