Women of Color in Business // PVD Lady Project's Women’s Entrepreneurship Week

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As part of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Week sponsored by the PVD Lady Project, I had the pleasure of attending the Women of Color in Business event. This event, held at the Easy Entertaining cafe in Providence, featured some amazing panelists, including Lisa Ranglin, President and CEO of Ranglin and Associates and Founder of the Rhode Island Black Business Association (RIBBA), Pearl Farquharson, Owner and Creative Director of Delsie Catering and Events, Olivia Rodrigues, Wardrobe Stylist, and Norelys Consuegra, Program Coordinator of the RI Latina Leadership Institute. 

Sierra Barter, CEO and co-founder of The Lady Project, opened the evening with a warm welcome for the panelists as well as for the audience of women in attendance. She was followed by Brittany Taylor, Editor-in-chief of the Lady Project Providence, who moderated the vibrant discussion. 

What struck me throughout the event was the engagement of the diverse audience, which included both professionals and entrepreneurs. While the discussion centered around professional and business women of color’s career experiences, one of the most interesting questions to me revolved around the importance of mentorship for women of color. To this, Lisa Ranglin, President and CEO of Ranglin Associates, explained that when she started her career, it was actually one of her mentors who first noticed her drive to succeed and started helping her develop the leadership skills that would make her successful. She particularly emphasized the importance of finding mentors who are different from us. Mentors who don’t just come from the same environment, work in the same field, or look and feel familiar, but mentors who can actually enrich us by exposing us to new ideas and environments. 

I also was particularly inspired by panelist and RI Latina Leadership Institute Program Coordinator Norelys Consuegra, especially in light of the recent political elections in the US. Her initiative to set up such an organization is a testimony to the incredible things we can do as women of color, and as women in general when we get together for the common good. In order to effect positive change, especially in our communities, programs such as the RI Latina Leadership Institute are now more than ever crucial. 

As an entrepreneur/side hustler, the examples of wardrobe stylist Olivia Rodriguez, as well as Delsie Catering and Events’ owner Pearl Farquharson filled me with renewed motivation and hope. To see these women bravely tread the path of entrepreneurship in their respective fields was absolutely edifying. When Olivia Rodriguez spoke about switching paths from a career in the not-for-profit to the fashion design field and doing so successfully, was particularly empowering to any woman dreaming of launching full-time into business. Likewise, listening to Pearl Farquharson speak about creating a business from scratch and running her own empire at the ripe age of 26 was the encouragement many of us needed to hear. 

Another question that touched me at a deep level revolved around whether women of color feel their experience, especially as related to their careers, is affected by their skin color. While all the panelists did admit to the fact that being a woman of color did shape their career experiences in one way or another, one response, in particular, struck me. “When I enter a room, I enter the room as a talented professional”: those were the words of Ranglin and Associates President and CEO Lisa Ranglin. She emphasized the fact that in her own career, she doesn’t see herself as a woman of color, but as a capable, competent professional. Which made most of the women in the audience gasp in agreement, at the realization that we indeed have so much more power than we give ourselves credit for. 

As a woman of color and a professional myself, this was a true AH moment for me. So often, we tend to see ourselves as the external world may perceive us, instead of believing in the incredible potential we do indeed have as professionals and businesswomen. 

Overall, the event was not only a success, but a real inspiration to all women in the room. As women of color, the reality is we face a number of obstacles in our careers and lives in general. However, being able to benefit from the insights and experiences of seasoned professionals and businesswomen like the ladies on this panel, was a huge advantage we could claim that evening.

Thank you to The Lady Project for a great evening, and for continuing such important conversations among women!

Solange Lopes is an author, blogger and CPA. She writes about career and lifestyle topics for women at work in her blog The Corporate Sister. She’s also the author of Girl, Take Back Your Career: 7 Steps to Reclaiming Your Power at Work.