Episode 23: Leveraging a National Network to Advance the Careers of Women of Color in Communications

Hello listeners! Welcome back to Tech Forward. On this week’s episode, I’m speaking with Lauren Wesley Wilson, President and CEO of ColorComm, Inc. From its humble beginnings as a luncheon in 2011 for women of color in the communications industry, ColorComm has grown into a professional community of over 40 thousand women. Lauren is also a Contributor to Forbes and has a column which covers women of color in business. Today on the show, we’ll be talking about her journey launching and growing ColorComm, and the state of affairs for women in communication and tech.

Despite the fact that the communications industry is female dominated — women make up 70% of the workforce in that space — the executive leadership positions are overwhelmingly held by men. When their careers stall, many talented women end up leaving the industry for higher paying jobs in other sectors. In an effort to change this, ColorComm offers a variety of programs and services for members, including panel discussions on how women of color can lean in, financial funding, and business development. ColorComm is active in 7 cities with members all over the country, and teams within each city to manage and execute these programs.

Companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google partner with ColorComm in order to diversify their hiring and retention. With their massive talent pool, it’s easy for ColorComm to push back against the false and pervasive narrative of the pipeline problem. “We say, ‘Here are the people you say you can’t find.’ [...] And while our partners are really focused on increasing diversity, a lot of people just aren’t sure what to do. No one group has the answer as far as diversifying companies. People who want a more diverse workforce need to invest in it.”

When it comes to the progression of ColorComm over the last 7 years, Lauren stresses the importance of being willing to evolve in order to succeed. “We built this organization by listening to people’s needs, the challenges they faced, and being open to changing things. We started one way, but those needs have changed since we started 7 years ago.” Another key component to success has been the feeling of a mutually beneficial community, where senior members learn from junior members, not just vice versa.

This sense of community has also been key to Lauren’s own professional journey. “Everything I’ve shared, I learned from having conversations with other people who’ve done these things before. [...] Speak up, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help doesn’t mean that what you do isn’t good enough. ” She echoes this sentiment when offering advice for women of color looking to enter or advance in a male dominated environment. “Build your resources both internally and externally. Hiring and promoting are collective decisions — cultivate relationships with people who can advocate on your behalf when it’s time to move upwards.”

Lauren, thank you so much for sharing your story and your insights on the show this week. As ColorComm continues to grow their offering, it will be so exciting to see where the future takes you. Thank you, also, to all of my listeners. See you next week!

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