The Black Beauty Spotlight goes to Dr. Ella Bell, co- author of CAREER GPS: Strategies for Women Navigating the New Corporate Landscape (SRP: $14.99), a book that offers timely and relevant tools for any woman looking to advance up the corporate ladder and optimize her performance in 2011.
Even in these trying economic times, women can still find new pathways to the careers they want. But in order for women to succeed, they must master new ways of navigating the ever-changing business landscape.
“[A] must read. It will serve as the business coach you’ve always wanted, offering timely advice on everything from landing a plum position to getting rewarded for a task well done.”
Q: Why did you write CAREER GPS?
EB: The genesis of CAREER GPS came as a result of my writing the column, “Working It,” for Essence Magazine. A career advice column geared toward African American women, this column also found its way into the hands of women from all racial and ethnic groups, representing all types of professions. Their inquiries challenged me to find a way to offer a more comprehensive way to discuss issues related to women’s careers and the changing world of work. Now I felt compelled to share what I knew about women succeeding in Corporate America.
Q: CAREER GPS is written with women of color and multicultural women in mind. What are some of the issues that you think applies to this group?
EB: I wrote CAREER GPS with all women in mind. All women, including white women represent one or more cultural or ethnic groups. Based on my earlier work, research conducted by Catalyst and other scholars, we know that while there are similarities among all women in the workplace, there are also differences that create an unlevel playing field. Multicultural women encounter greater difficulty in getting sponsors, men and women who can open doors to new opportunities. Too often they are excluded from informal networks and activities, where valuable information is often exchanged. More so than White women, women of color have to constantly prove themselves, even to other women. We know that women have trouble supporting each other in the competitive world of corporate America. But when you add race and ethnicity to the equation, it makes it even harder for women to cross racial lines and become allies with each other.
EB: First of all, CAREER GPS was written with the broadest spectrum of women in mind: women in different industries and professions, who are employed either in the public or the private sectors, and for women who are in various stages of their careers. Too often career books for women implicitly speak to the needs of one group of women.
The rich stories of women who have succeeded are another factor that makes CAREER GPS different from the competitors. I loved that fact that so many women, many of them my friends, were willing to candidly share their experience not only about their careers, but also about their lives. When I am attempting to change some aspect of my life, it makes a huge difference for me if I have role models or real life examples. Their stories give me the courage to change my behavior, reach for that challenging goal or try a new path in life. I don’t think of CAREER GPS a career guide. I think it’s a book on creating a fulfilling life for yourself, defining your own success and being your best self.
Q: Is CAREER GPS just for women just starting out in their careers?
EB: No, this is a book for women in all stages of their careers. Chapter 4, Hit the Ground Running: Your First Ninety Days on the Job, Chapter 7, Moving on UP: Landing Assignments and Assessing Opportunities, and Chapter 8, Going Global: Preparing for Success in International Assignments, are aimed for women who are in middle and upper management positions. And all women, regardless of their career status, have concerns about managing their careers with other, but equally important, dimensions of their lives.
EB: CAREER GPS is a book as much about walking into your authority, your power and becoming a leader as it is a book on careers. I believe that the time is right for women to claim their leadership roles in corporate America. Why? By 2050, 50 percent of the U.S. populations will be people of color. By 2010 (this year) 70 percent of the entering U.S. workforce will be women and people of color. Yet, only 28.6 percent of all corporate managers in the U.S. are women. We are entering an age when women will be the core of the American workforce. As such, they will also have expanded opportunities to move into leadership roles. It is our time, but we need to be ready. Knowing who you are is the first step.
Leaders who are truly successful are authentic; they bring their whole selves into the role. They have learned to use their cumulative life journey to develop their leadership skill kit, such as courage, empathy, humility, risk-taking, passion, integrity, vision, and most importantly results. They know the difference between right and wrong. Self-knowledge is the first tenet of leadership. Knowing yourself builds your confidence and helps ground you. It enables others to trust you, and thereby follow you. Knowing, accepting and liking who you are encourages others to do the same. We all have our special brand of spice. It’s our spice that fires our creativity, informs our view of the world, facilitates our connections across borders, and enables us to make a difference. What do you bring to the table? Developing yourself will tell you. Besides, you can’t develop someone else until you develop yourself. Make no mistake, leadership is about developing others.
Q: What is the one thing that you’d like women to walk away with after reading CAREER GPS?
EB: Perhaps you can’t have everything you want in life at one time. But with planning, determination, hard work, a little help from your friends, allies, mentors and sponsors, plus a bit of faith you can have the career and life that is truly meaningful and fulfilling. It’s your time, walk into all that you are.