A panel of successful, professional Black women of all ages and backgrounds came to Northwestern’s
McCormick Foundation Center as panelists in the first Above The Ceiling talk Thursday.
The talk was moderated by Medill alumnae Angellic Ross and Nesa Mangal, and featured panelists with diverse media backgrounds and talents, which they drew upon to answer moderators’ questions and give advice to the young women that populated the audience.
“My whole professional career has been in media,” said E.T. Franklin, EVP Managing Director of Strategy & Cultural Fluency at Spark Foundry. “Because I’m a woman of color, wherever I go I’m cognizant of how I should’ve handled a situation or how I am perceived. How can I feel like an advocate for myself? You need to make the jump sometimes if you don’t feel valued in your current role.”
The event lasted two hours and was attended by about 50 people, most of them young Black women. The panelists provided suggestions to help Black women thrive in the workplace, such as sticking close together, making your presence known, and knowing the true value of your work. All the women in the panel agreed that it was critical for Black women to get to know each other in the workspace because they had each experienced a time when they needed someone to listen without “having to tell the story from the beginning”
The panelists provided stories of their own successes and failures in the workplace, as well as tips to help the young women listening get ahead in their future careers.
“From a career standpoint I have been elevating quickly. When opportunities arrived I was already at the door two months before that,” said Danielle Atanda, Managing Director at OMD USA. “Be intentional and be deliberate. Don’t be censored by the role you have. You are in charge. You create the role that you want.”
Ross and Mangal said they viewed the panelists as mentors, and they wanted to host this informative event as a way to give back to the Northwestern community. They said they came up with the idea to host a panel in the Fall as they were first starting in their careers.
“I think anectodotecally, as a woman of color, when you enter the work world, it is much different than undergraduate,” Mangal said. “You realize that you are the few instead of the many, and I think both of us, when we got our first jobs, we looked around and you notice that gap.”
The next Above the Ceiling event is yet to be determined, but Ross and Mangal hope the event will be an annual occurrence.