Members of the CEL Solicitors’ diversity committee attended the Empowered to Lead conference in Manchester held by She Leads For Legacy. Marketing executive, Rebecca writes about her experience in this blog.
What is She Leads for Legacy?
She Leads for Legacy (SLFL) is a social enterprise which champions the acceleration of Black female professionals to reach senior leadership and Board level roles. Co-founded by mother and daughter, Sharon and Afiya Amesu, SLFL works in partnership with a range of organisations to accelerate established and aspiring Black female leaders in senior positions.
The Empowered to Lead conference brought together over 100 black female professionals and allies to engage in workshops and masterclasses from industry leaders on inclusion, self-care, finance, allyship, and much more.
The diversity committee decided to make the trip down to Manchester to see what the conference was all about.
Leading a Legacy
We were welcomed into the conference centre with a goody bag which contained a conference programme, networking ice-breaker cards, and a notebook which read ‘I’m a Legacy Leader’ on the front cover.
SLFL’s mother and daughter co-founders, Sharon and Afiya delivered an introductory speech, welcoming attendees into the conference. Sharon outlined her professional journey, stating how she faced multiple glass ceilings being a black woman in the legal sector, and a young mother at that. She then went on to explain how she is leading a legacy for her daughter, and how we are all legacy leaders in our own right.
The talk emphasised the importance of leadership, and how as women, we have an incredible legacy to lead, and there is no time like the present to lay the groundwork for our legacy. It was an extremely empowering message for us Black women and allies in attendance.
Black Women’s Mental Health
The first keynote speech was delivered by Dawn Edge, a Professor of Mental Health at the University of Manchester. Her talk highlighted the mental health disparity between Black women and White women. In the UK, Black people are at a greater risk of a serious mental health diagnosis, however, there are multiple barriers that they can face when seeking help, such as cultural stigma and the ‘strong black woman’ stereotype which often leads Black women to suppress their issues and not treat their mental health as a priority.
Those Black women who do get help frequently have bad experiences with mental health services and thus, poorer outcomes.
Professor Dawn Edge also highlighted the fact that there are multiple gaps in research when it comes to Black women’s mental health. There is limited data providing insight into the extent of Black women’s mental health issues, what enables them to ‘bounce back’, and at what cost.
For that reason, Dawn encouraged the conference attendees to get involved in research so that there could be more help and resources available for Black people. While we should advocate for Black women’s mental well-being, Dawn points out that we need to look after ourselves first.
Accelerating Your Career
Business Coach, Samantha Lubanzu delivered a breakout presentation on her career journey which began as a team manager at Barclays Bank. Samantha eventually ventured into HR, working her way up to a global business partner position, and now sitting as Chair on the CIPD Manchester.
Samantha’s journey was nothing short of challenging as she had to contend with workplace racism and sexism whilst also balancing motherhood.
Through her experience, Samantha is now a business coach and provided attendees with ways to powerfully position themselves and accelerate their careers. She encouraged us to face our challenges, seize opportunities, and to be intentional with what we commit our time to.
Samantha was a compelling speaker; she presented herself confidently and even had the audience stood up and singing!
How to Be a Leader of Impact
Professor Laura Serrant OBE is a professional development specialist, a coach, and a mentor.
She delivered a keynote speech on how female professionals can thrive as leaders of impact. Laura provided attendees with pathways to go from ‘Tame to Trailblazer’, which included being yourself, being human, being intentional, and being consistent. With the conference taking place during Black History Month, Laura highlighted the fact that as black people, we hail from a legacy of trailblazing and would be doing ourselves a disservice by not blazing our own trail.
Mental health consultants, cousins, and co-founders of Aurora Wellness, Ngozi Weller and Obehi Alfoje delivered a seminar on how to prioritise your wellbeing in a busy world.
Suicide rates are higher among middle-aged Black and South Asian women compared to that of their White counterparts.
29% of Black Britons say that their mental health has been negatively affected by racism – and 50% of Black Britons claim to have experienced racism in the workplace.
Therefore, Ngozi and Obehi stressed the importance of businesses providing counselling services which specialise in racial trauma since, as the statistics show, a number of their workforce are likely to have been affected by it.
As working professionals, it’s easy to dismiss our wellbeing and become run down. Ngozi and Obehi emphasised that we must practice bold self-care through their ‘ANGEL’ acronym: Active, Notice, Give, Engage and Learn. They also suggested that we schedule a daily, non-negotiable ‘wellbeing hour’ to practice one of these five steps. Through this, we can increase positive emotions, regulate negative emotions, and develop resilience to stress.
Black women are highly underrepresented in multiple industries such as the corporate sector, academia, politics, and law.
When Black women are present in these sectors, they often must navigate the workplace more carefully as they may have to contend with racial bias, gender bias, and other forms of inequality which interact with their identity (otherwise known as intersectionality).
Research also shows that Black women have less access to training, receive less mentorship, and have less frequent opportunities to interact with senior leaders. These all result in fewer opportunities for them to develop their careers, compared to White women.
She Leads for Legacy aims to bridge this gap by connecting black female professionals, and thus, accelerating our careers and professional development.
The Empowered to Lead conference was extremely validating as it made me feel that I was not alone in the issues that I have faced in my personal and professional life. It provided a safe space to communicate and explore the nuances of the Black female experience, whilst also empowering us to strive for greatness in the professional spaces that we occupy.
From the gripping keynote speakers to the gospel choir intermission, the Empowered to Lead conference is one of its kind and is needed now more than ever. I found the entire day to be super impactful and what made it even more meaningful was seeing the number of allies in attendance that are committed to championing Black leadership.
Commenting on the event, Fraud paralegal, Natalie said:
“It was such an empowering conference. It was amazing to see people from different walks to life working to empower women in sectors that are not really talked about such as finance, mental health, and self-care. It was a well needed conference!”
As a law firm, CEL Solicitors is committed to being an inclusive and informed workplace through educating ourselves and engaging with external activity. Therefore, we are honoured to have attended the Empowered to Lead conference during Black History Month. The diversity committee were in total agreement that the event was empowering and ground-breaking. We look forward to attending next year!