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Michelle M

Written by Michelle M
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Empowerment has been a huge focus of my life and my career. Raising the voices of those that are marginvalized and disenfranchised - ensuring that their experiences are valued and they too have rights - has been central to my career. Growing up as a Puerto Rican in the US, rarely did I ever feel empowered. I watched the disenfranchisement of my parents. Watched how they worked tirelessly and yet never seemed to achieve the "American dream". My mother - Puerto Rican and blind - was treated significantly worse. Nothing is worse than watching someone raise their voice to a blind person - as though yelling at them will make them understand. I have watched my mother get treated differently and "less than" because of her disability. I have watched my father be treated as though he was stupid because of of his thick accent. I watched my sister be treated differently because of her learning disability and I have watched my brother be attacked for being a Puerto Rican man.

I too have my experiences. Though I have several advanced degrees, I still have to prove myself every day. I have to work twice as hard to achieve what my white, male counterparts have. Some days, it's too much. What I keep in my mind, though, is that my journey is an example to others. It's an example to all of the young women of color (who I am privileged to interact with at the Mikva Challenge) that yes, they can be leaders, they can be bosses. They often come up to me and tell me that they have never seen a Puerto Rican woman "in charge" before. I strongly believe that young women have "to see it, to be it". What has made my leadership journey so hard is that often I feel as though I am the only one. But I am lucky to have a circle of women of color who hold Executive positions. We can commiserate together, laugh together, cry together and we always hold each other up. Empowerment is tough. Some days I don't feel empowered and I have to fight everyday for my own empowerment. And empowerment doesn't work if you don't make sure that you create space for others to be empowered. I am blessed that I have an all-female executive team at Mikva. I constantly make space for them, make sure that they have the opportunity to expand their brands publicly and allow for their input and critical feedback to make Mikva an even better organization. Empowerment is also about mentorship. I try to mentor younger staff - especially women of color - as they start on their leadership journey.

Read 1145 times Last modified on Thursday, 10 January 2019 16:54
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