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Women of power: embrace your power now.

We at black enterprise are extremely excited that more than 1,000 African American women, like you, will be descending upon Hollywood, Florida, to attend our annual Women of Power Summit this year from March 9-12. You clearly represent those who have employed intellect industry, and ingenuity to make remarkable professional achievements--in some cases, overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. As such, we have designed a safe haven for bonding and mentorship; career and business education; life management and spiritual renewal.

This year's theme couldn't be more appropriate given our current times: "Know Your Worth ... Own Your Truth ... Embrace Your Power! " The sad fact is that far too many African American women do not achieve the same level of clout as their white and male counterparts. Even though studies reveal black women outpace white women in educational attainment, an alarming percentage have been relegated to lower-paying, non-managerial positions--a nagging trend that has persisted for roughly 30 years. To compound matters, another report uncovered that, on average, single black women have only a penny of wealth for every dollar of wealth owned by black men and a fraction of a cent for every dollar of wealth owned by white women.

I share these stats not to mute the well-deserved applause for your impressive accomplishments. Instead, this dilemma should energize you to further lift your status and that of other women of color. I fully appreciate all your journeys, struggles, and triumphs from your examples--and even more significantly, from the important women in my life: my late mother, Barbara, whose sage lessons and love serve as a daily source of inspiration; my loving wife, whose advice and unwavering support allows me to achieve success and stay focused; and my enthusiastic, forward-looking twin daughters, Erika and Kristin, who provide updates on the latest tech innovations and social media trends as well as fuel my passion to build a legacy for future generations. (In fact I beam with pride that Kristin has recently decided to join the BLACK ENTERPRISE family in our Digital division.)

So as you meet the constant challenge of balancing your upward climb in business environments often marked by institutional racism and sexism and your role as familial nerve center, I implore all of you to design the life you want. It starts with embracing your power now.

First, bolster your professional positioning. As some Summit speakers will attest, the process requires taking inventory of your talents and skills; critically evaluating your worth; and, yes, standing up for yourself. Only by knowing your true value in an organization or the marketplace can you effectively negotiate for the right job, salary, or business opportunity that fits into your master plan.

Reclaim your financial power. I have often been shocked by brilliant businesswomen who have not taken steps to ensure their financial future. Too many either sacrifice for family or entrust that money management responsibility to others, especially their spouses. Given that wage disparities and discrimination tend to place you behind the pack in the wealth race, it is imperative that black women take control of their finances. To win, you must possess nothing less than a laser-beam focus and sound investment principles.

Leverage your political power. Let your voice be heard and exercise your franchise. Why? Public policy ultimately influences access to opportunity, financial advancement, and quality of life. Women of color have recently led the charge for Black Lives Matter and removal of the Confederate flag in South Carolina. And you must play your role in the outcome of a range of issues from education and environmental racism to equal pay and reproductive rights, among others, that are currently being legislated or adjudicated. Moreover, black female voters proved pivotal in determining the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2008 and 2012. And you can also be the deciding factor whether history will be made with the election of the first female president of the United Sates.

Summit speaker Avis Jones-DeWeever summed it up best: "I embrace my power by unapologetically leaning into my deepest aspirations and then believing in myself enough to devote the time, energy, and effort necessary to making them real." Look forward to seeing you at our Summit as you begin building the life you deserve today.
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Title Annotation:Executive Memo
Author:Graves, Earl G., Jr.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Conference notes
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2016
Words:707
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