“When women are not at the table, they will be on the menu.”
Hon. Blondell Reynolds Brown, Philadelphia Councilwoman At-Large and member of the Philadelphia Conference for Women advisory council, realized early in her career that diversity in the workplace changes the conversation. Read on to learn more about what shaped her professional path.
Q: How did your professional journey begin, and what would you say was your defining professional moment?
A: I started my career as a teacher/educator because I was surrounded by teachers—Mom, Aunt, Grandmother—and my high school years were shaped profoundly by inspiring teachers. So, working for and with young people was all I wanted to do. The defining game changer in my career was then State Senator Chaka Fattah hiring me to serve as his legislative aide in Harrisburg. The picture was 50 state senators; two were African American and two were women. What I discovered was when women are not at the table, you will be on the menu. This realization changed/altered my trajectory.
Q: What are the characteristics that you believe defines a great company?
A: Diversity in not only the workplace, but on the board of directors and in executive offices. When companies bring women and people of color to the table for major decision making, it changes the conversation. Different, but equally valuable issues rise to the surface.
Being a good “Corporate Citizen.” I admire corporations that work hard to achieve a “triple bottom line” of people, planet and profit, recognizing that it does not have to be a one or the other choice. We are able to achieve so much more as a City government and as citizens, when good “Corporate Citizens” give back with their time, talent and treasure.
Q: What are your top tips for a woman who is ready to make her next career move?
I read a book my last semester of graduate school called “Move Ahead with Possibility Thinking,” by Rev. Robert Schuller. In essence, it says:
“The Possibility Thinker resembles the hummingbird that looks for and finds honey, often in the most unlikely unthinkable places. Perceptively probes every problem, proposal and opportunity to discover the positive aspects present in almost every human situation.
The Impossibility Thinker makes sweeping passes over a proposed idea, scanning it with a negative eye, looking only for the distasteful aspects. The Impossibility Thinker looks for reasons why something won’t work, instead of visualizing ways in which it could work. So they are inclined to say “no” to a proposal, and never give the idea a fair hearing.
Impossibility Thinkers immediately, impulsively, instinctively and impetuously reacts to any positive suggestion with a sweeping, unstudied, irresponsible assortment of reasons: why it can’t be done; or why it is a bad idea; or how someone else tried it and failed; or this is usually their clinching argument: how much it will cost!
Impossibility Thinkers are people who suffer from a perilous mental malignancy I call the impossibility complex. They are problem imaginators, failure predictors, trouble visualizers, obstacle envisioners, and exaggerated cost estimators.
The Impossibility Thinker’s attitude produces doubt, stimulates fear, and generates a mental climate of pessimism and fatigue. They are worry creators, optimism deflators, and confidence squelchers. The end result? Positive ideas buried, dreams smashed, and projects torpedoed.
Possibility Thinkers, on the other hand, are people, just like you, who when faced with a mountain do not quit. They keep striving until they climb over, find a pass through, tunnel underneath – or simply stay and turn their mountain into a gold mine. Possibility Thinkers are resourceful people. Where there is a will there is a way. Why do they succeed? They have trained themselves to look for the possibilities in all areas of life.”
In whatever undertaking you pursue, be remarkable, be exceptional. If your work or work product is not remarkable, it’s likely to be mediocre and/or invisible. Want to learn more about this trait, read the book, “The Purple Cow” by Seth Godin.
Q: What is the top piece of professional advice that you’ve received from a mentor and why do you think that advice still applies to today’s business environment?
A: Your career is not a sprint, it is a marathon with highs and lows.
Q: What is the one thing you make time for in your daily life that helps keep you refreshed and positive?
A: I completely escape and enjoy a) power walking Martin Luther King Drive with my music blasting or sitting on a beach with my music reflecting…always with my music.
Q: Can you name a leader for whom you have great respect and tell us why?
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She embodies the rubber band principle because she is a woman who has always embraced and been willing to stretch. She believes as I do that we were made to meet challenges. Like a rubber band we were made to stretch. Further, I believe God created us to stretch. He did not intend Secretary Clinton or me or you to always be relaxed, always to maintain our present shape. It is by stretching that we are living up to our promise—our fullest potential. It is only by stretching that we become better. When you review Secretary Clinton’s amazing career you can see that with each new achievement she dared to look over her shoulder for the next wider and richer opportunity.