Black professionals hold only 3.2 percent of all executive or senior leadership roles and less than one percent of all Fortune 500 CEO positions.
Former Reebok executive Denise Kaigler and her friend Jerome Hutchinson, Jr., who once led programming at Radio One and CBS Radio had first-hand experience with these sobering numbers.
After successfully climbing the corporate ladder to head of marketing at Reebok where she led campaigns for Venus Williams, Scarlett Johansson, 50 Cent, and Jay-Z, among other A-list celebrities, Kaigler alongside Hutchinson founded Black Professionals Month (October), which is described as 31 days of support through virtual workshops, panels, conferences, and other programs.
“I was able to break through the barriers that are systematically placed in front of us as Black professionals, and truly gain access to the right opportunities over time,” Kaigler shared. “ I knew I needed to disseminate this valuable information I learned through my years of experience working my way up the ranks.”
Although her work ethic was a key contributor to her ascent to the top, Kaigler also acknowledged she wouldn’t have gotten there without help.
“I believe you need three important people in life to help push you to the next level in your career: a mentor, a coach, and a sponsor,” Kaigler shared. “A mentor helps teach you key information, a coach pushes you to apply what you learn and a sponsor invests in and champions you for opportunities you would’ve otherwise never had exposure to.”
She shared the first step aspiring Black professionals should take in acquiring these key figures in their lives is to simply ask.
“It may sound daunting for someone who’s naturally introverted, but what many don’t realize is there are so many leaders that would be flattered to be asked to offer a helping hand,” she said.
For those who want to opt for an e-mentor, a great place to start is with BPM’s virtual conference coming up later this month. Created by and for black professionals, the event kicks off Black Professional Month with seminars led by a myriad of Black leaders who are dedicated to helping others succeed.
For example, the event’s keynote speaker Dennis Kimbro, author of several books, including Think and Grow Rich, will host a 4-part Expert Session called “Think and Grow Rich,” to help black professionals build sustained wealth.
For those that want to learn how to enter a room with intention and sell their skills effectively, Precious Williams, AKA the Pitch Master will be facilitating an expert session focused on “Mastering the Perfect Pitch.”
Additionally, Bryony Bouyer, SVP of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Hasbro, and Nikki Lanier, SVP Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis will participate in a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion panel discussion to offer their insight into navigating the choppy waters of microaggressions and challenges that come up in often white-washed corporate settings.
BPM is offering a special 20% discount for a day pass using code: BPMEssence20.