Walking in Our Power

The CEO Column: Walking in Our Power

The Revolution Continues with You by Kerri Tietgen

In Korean, “black lives matter” translates to “흑인의 생명은 소중하다,” or in other words, black lives are precious. 

It’s a simple but significant difference that rocked me to my core. Black lives… and all lives are precious, a sentiment that we strive to communicate and live in our culture at EmBe. As an Asian American woman in our community, this one-word difference is powerful. And based on the response I received when I shared this on my social media this week, this pure recognition of the other’s divine power resonates with you, too.

On the evening before Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, I had the opportunity to gather with community leaders for a panel discussion about allyship. Hosted by Establishing Sustainable Connections (ESC), the conversation featured perspectives from multi-generational leaders, women, men, and people of color.

First, let me just say that I love that allyship is a thing. Growing up, there wasn’t a name for individuals working to speak up against injustice and promote equity in the community and workplace. And I feel that we’re finally having substantive conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

As an Asian American woman raised in South Dakota, I was often the “only,” an experience I share with all women, people of color, and the many who find themselves at the intersection of multiple marginalized groups. 

My otherness has always been at the forefront of my life and is a big piece of the lens through which I see the world. While it’s a lens I cannot take off, a growing number of allies are also finding that they cannot unsee the inequities that exist in our daily lives and interactions. Through conversations like our ESC discussion, our own self-education, and through plain old observation–the world simply doesn’t look the same once you begin a genuine journey of allyship.

I’ve learned that no matter who you are or where you come from, it’s our individual otherness that unites us. I know that each person who comes to EmBe represents a legacy of strength and culture that enriches our community. Each person brings a unique story, that inspires and gives permission for others to unapologetically own their story of struggle, triumph, mistakes and learnings. 

While EmBe’s mission to empower starts with us recognizing and seeing all in our community, it requires much more than seeing the disparities and talking about them. We must also learn to walk together in our power, which is exactly what generations of EmBe stakeholders have been doing since we earned the right to vote.

We’re here to fix the system, not the woman.

In our second century of empowerment, our women’s programming will better convey just how we do this. I couldn’t be more proud of the EmBe visionaries who are working to ensure each woman we serve knows that she’s not broken or less than, and that together, we’ll equip her with the tools to fix what is. 

While many organizations strive to promote female leadership in today’s world, workplaces continue to embrace a narrow scope of leadership traits that perpetuate limited leadership models and inadvertently deter women from leading with their strengths. By helping each woman examine her leadership traits and experiences, we’re also helping organizations revolutionize the workplace, and abandon the leadership models that limit our potential for impact.

As we welcome applicants for the 2022 class of EmBe’s Women’s Leadership Program, this message has bubbled up in our internal conversations about female empowerment programs that are widely supported in our community and nation today. While institutional leaders may relegate DE&I initiatives to human resources, focus groups, or task forces, we’re inviting each member of our community to self-examine the leadership models their organizations value, and take allyship upon themselves to promote the fair and equal advancement of women in the workforce.

If that sounds like a mission you’re willing to accept, join us.

To Strengthen the Circle of Empowerment, give here.

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