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Although there’s still a long way to go, diversity within the business world is improving, even among the highest tiers of management. This is great news, as diverse leadership within an industry can have a positive impact on that industry as a whole. This increase in diversity also has the benefit of inspiring others, as more people of color gain prominent positions. This is important, because learning about relatable and successful people is ideal for getting your own ambitions off the ground.
4 inspirational people of color in leadership positions
There’s a lot to learn from these five people of color…
Tye and Courtney Caldwell.
Natalie M. Cofield.
Let’s learn more about their stories and successes.
1. Tye and Courtney Caldwell
Let’s first look at a couple who are helping freelance stylists and small salon businesses. Tye and Courtney Caldwell recently won Capital Factory’s $100,000 Diversity & Inclusion Investment Challenge for their ShearShare startup. The company marries empty seats in salons with freelance hair professionals, which will help boost the economy of both areas.
This power couple paired their individual experience and expertise to fill a niche in their market.
A best-selling author with a doctoral degree in professional barbering, Tye owns a salon in Dallas, Texas. He’s also a featured speaker at industry events, mentor and business coach. Courtney’s extensive sales and marketing background includes successful stints at companies including Zendesk, Oracle and RightNow Technologies.
According to information on the ShearShare website: “ShearShare was born out of sheer necessity. When Tye expanded his salon several years ago, he noticed a shift away from the industry standard: instead of signing up cosmetologists and barbers under long-term contracts, he started to receive inquiries for day leases of his suites. Looking to recoup the investment for his salon remodel, he decided to host the visiting cosmetologists and charge them on a per-day basis. After numerous requests from stylists and manually matching cosmetologists for three years, the idea for ShearShare was born!”
2. Natalie M. Cofield
When you read the story and achievements of Natalie Cofield, you get a sense that she’s supported by the entire history of POC entrepreneurship. In fact, her primary concern — Walker’s Legacy — directly references the past, while simultaneously helping future business leaders.
According to information on her website, Cofield is an honors tech graduate who “has leveraged her experience coding to build a career centered on empowering businesses, entrepreneurs, women and underrepresented communities.”
Walker’s Legacy began as a business lecture series for women, but grew into a global platform to provide mentorship, support and guidance to the next batch of female entrepreneurs. However, the initiative also carries out research on the women it serves, meaning Walker’s Legacy is also developing insight into this burgeoning area.
What’s more, the Walker’s Legacy Foundation spun off from the main platform a few years ago. The goal is to end economic inequality and improve prosperity — especially for poor and low-income women.
Cheers to Cofield for not just believing in the “untapped entrepreneurial potential of women and girls” — but for putting that passion into action.
3. Kenneth Frazier
Our next inspirational business leader of color came from a humble background. His father was a janitor, and his mother died when he was 12. However, despite this (and taking his own inspiration from Thurgood Marshall), Frazier graduated from high school, and eventually studied law at Harvard in the ‘70s.
You could argue that Frazier’s greatest achievement was saving the life of an innocent man.
He worked tirelessly to overturn a death penalty conviction in the mid-90s, and subsequently won a retrial. He then went on to become the first African-American man to lead a pharmaceutical company (Merck & Co.).
In his position as CEO and Chairman of Merck, Frazier has prioritized increasing research funding into new treatments, rather than focusing on profit targets. He also took a “stand against intolerance and extremism” by resigning from the President’s American Manufacturing Council following Trump’s comments about the violence that erupted during the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
As Frazier explained during an interview with The New York Times:
“It was my view that to not take a stand on this would be viewed as a tacit endorsement of what had happened and what was said. I think words have consequences, and I think actions have consequences. I just felt that as a matter of my own personal conscience, I could not remain.”
Justice. Conscience. Determination. These are qualities of a great leader.
4. Maya Penn
For our final entry, we wanted to highlight someone who is already inspirational, but has the potential to go even further. Maya Penn is only 17 years old, but that hasn’t stopped her from becoming vitally important to the state of developing countries.
Maya began her first business venture when she was just 8-years-old, and through that company has cornered the market in sustainable fashion. What’s more, she was featured on Oprah Winfrey’s SuperSoul 100 list of entrepreneurs at 15, and has already presented a number of TEDTalks based on her views and philosophies.
Maya has also parlayed her talents into assisting developing countries. Specifically, she has helped create eco-friendly sanitary pads for girls who would otherwise not be able to access them, making it easier for them to go to school without disruption.
Strong representation of the power of diversity
Our world is racially and culturally diverse, and it’s important to have prominent, successful figures to represent that diversity. Fortunately, there are plenty of inspiring examples that provide motivation and vital lessons to us today.
In this post, we’ve featured four people of color who fulfill that role admirably. They are:
- Kenneth Frazier: This pharmaceutical mogul was the first African-American man to become a CEO in that field.
- Tye and Courtney Caldwell: When it comes to helping freelancers and small businesses, this power couple is a standout inspiration.
- Natalie M. Cofield: Giving back is important, and through Walker’s Legacy, this is possible for many black business women.
- Maya Penn: This 17-year-old entrepreneur is a leading figure in sustainable fashion, and has set up a number of charitable initiatives to help developing countries.
Kudos to these leaders for lighting the way for the next generation of leaders in business and life!