BLACK WOMEN NEED TO RECOGNIZE THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THEIR PRESENCE
Social media, the rise of TED and the public speaking industry have amplified the voices of an emerging generation of women, offering platforms to share their stories and shape their brands in new and powerful ways. However, black women of every age are often reticent to leverage them—especially those in corporate roles.
Women of color in America’s largest companies remain largely isolated, rendering them highly visible (and potentially vulnerable) on the one hand, and easy to ignore on the other. Eager to advance, but lacking internal role models and ample support, they must carefully consider their organizations’ culture as they cultivate their personal brands. Often confined by restrictive employee guidelines, they are rarely encouraged to trumpet their achievements and frequently made to feel uncomfortable about doing so. The dilemma: if we don’t promote our own successes, who will?
Denise Young Smith rose through the ranks at Apple for 20 years before even starting to realize the significance of her presence. “Apple was such an intriguing environment and you do get absorbed in that head-down, just-do-the-work thing,” says Young Smith, who left as the “iGiant’s” head of human resources a year ago. “Nobody was rushing to tell me that this initiative or that one parlayed into X,Y,Z level of success. So, part of my evolution was understanding the impact that my talent and skills were making on the company. Then it hit me that, oh my God, I’ve kind of been slack on this issue of telling my story. But it took others holding up the mirror to show me.”
Denise Young Smith (Image: Apple)
Young Smith recalls conversations with Apple Vice President Lisa Jackson and Bozoma Saint John, who was then leading marketing at Apple Music. “Lisa and I would be very circumspect and then we’d look at each other and say, laughing, ‘You’re the sh–!’ And Boz would look at us and say, ‘Right, and why aren’t you all out there talking about it?’”
Saint John, who left Apple in a highly publicized 2017 move to become chief of marketing at Uber, joined Endeavor in a similar role last June. Her latest move also garnered extensive media coverage, gobbled up and reposted by her 172K (and counting) Instagram followers, which include Young Smith. Now, often referred to as a “business celebrity,” Saint John will host and produce her own documentary series on Starz. Unabashedly on brand, it’s to be called, Bozoma: Being Badass.