Thursday, April 26th I attended the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis Annual Tribute Luncheon. The guest speaker was Valeisha Butterfield Jones. I wasn’t familiar with her before this but I must say that I am thoroughly impressed. She is the Global Head of Women & Black Community Engagement for Google and the co-founder and CEO of the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network (WEEN). Valeisha had nearly two decades of experience driving social responsibility campaigns and community engagement programs for non-profit organizations. In 2009, she was appointed to serve in the administration of former President Barak Obama as the Deputy Director of Public Affairs for International Trade. As the National Youth Vote Director for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, she helped to deliver one of the highest youth voter turnouts in American history.
I must say that a thoroughly enjoyed Valeisha’s speech. She made sure every woman in that place understood that we each have “the juice”. I even stuck around afterward for a private reception chat she gave before leaving town. Here are some of the key points she made while chatting with FedEx Diversity & Inclusion Advisor Janas l. Jackson.
- Don’t ever dim your light. It’s important that you are acknowledged and associated with your work. I am unapologetically black and unapologetically a woman. I enter every space with that. That takes courage. Too often, we don’t recognize the true value we bring is our diversity. I have to be myself. Ask the questions. Challenge the status quo and do not become intimidated. Build your professional brand in a way that instills savvy.
- We not only have to empower the next generation but ourselves. If we don’t do it who will? Get on the ground and meet the people who do the work, and if needed, become their voice. I made it a priority to meet all 1,500 African Americans in the company (Google). In doing so, I was able to humanize the data. I also became the voice of young people who didn’t have a seat at the table.
- If you want to affect change build relationships. Then use the data to challenge the status quo. (In corporate America) You don’t get what you want going in with guns blazing. The key to success is building relationships and then leveraging those. Use your juice.
- Go for the moonshot! Moonshot is a Google term that means shoot for the moon. If we land somewhere among the stars then we did a good job.
- Have fun! Life is short. I will go to a party and hang off the chandelier as long as I know no cameras are around. Then I’ll walk back into Google on Monday like, How are you doing? Now, let’s talk about this bottom line.
Jae Henderson is an author, PR consultant and the founder of the singles empowerment group Happy & Single. Learn more about her at www.jaehendersonauthor.com.