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  • Writer's pictureFletcher Consulting

Lessons on Inclusive Leadership from Women Achievers

I learned enough about inclusive leadership at lunch yesterday to inspire me for years.

At YW Boston’s annual Academy of Women Achievers luncheon, the exuberant (and always fabulous) emcee—Boston’s NBC10 anchor Latoyia Edwards—provided the first lesson. She asked each of the five awardees to come up on to the stage of the hotel ballroom dancing to a song of their choice. 

The diverse crowd heard snippets of Beyonce, Motown, and Dua Lipa in the giant hotel ballroom. And these eminences of business, non-profit, and government—including Governor Maura Healey—let the rhythms loosen them up. 

Authenticity is strength

My takeaway: inviting people to show their full, authentic humanity brings out their strengths. 

Three other themes recurred in the onstage dialogue that followed:

  1. Inclusion is a daily choice. Maggie Baxter, V.P. of Programming, NBC Boston, NECN, and Telemundo Boston, explained how the TV stations she leads prioritize telling the stories of the widest range of people in our city. “Every day, this is the filter we use when we develop our stories. But more importantly, it’s the filter we use when we deal with each other.” Governor Healy relayed the daily prompts she gives herself: “Who's in the room with you? Who are you taking with you into meetings? Do you bring out those voices, particularly of women, particularly people of color?” And Boston’s Chief Communications Officer, Jessicah Pierre, added, “DEI can't just stop at representation. It doesn't matter if there are more of us in the room if the systems don’t change, if the culture’s not changed.”

  2. Diversity has many dimensions. Pamela Everhart, S.V.P. and Head of Regional Public Affairs & Community Relations at Fidelity, told a story: “In law school I was in three different study groups: I was in the all Black women study group; I was also in a group with people who were in second careers; and I was in a group with all white men. Because financial services is 70% - 80% white men—and I wanted to see how they think.” Dr. Aisha Francis, President and CEO of Franklin Cummings Tech, advised us each to assemble a “personal kitchen cabinet of five people—and they should not all look like you.”

  3. Mentorship is fundamental. These exceptional leaders consistently credited others for their success—and they pay that forward. “The best way to succeed as a woman is to first help others and bring them along,” Ms. Everhart summarized. For Ms. Baxter, this includes being vulnerable: “The best thing you can do for other women and others is to share that 2020 hindsight—the ability to look back at where we didn't succeed and what did we learn from that—because you can help them take a different path.”

The experience was best encompassed by Beth Chandler, the President & CEO of YW Boston: “Our support for one another is what will keep us strong through the challenges ahead.”


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