In late June last year, I made a promise. I committed Athena to getting its membership to 37.6% women of color. At the time I made the promise, we were at just 13% women of color in Athena – a far cry from where we needed to be if we want to champion underrepresented women on the path to the C-suite and the boardroom.
Since I made that promise, I’m proud to report we’ve made significant progress. I’m sharing it here because I want you to continue to hold me to this progress. Read on for a quick overview of what we’ve been up to – and what’s ahead – for diversifying Athena’s membership and, in turn, diversifying leadership around the world.
That number is understated; not every woman who has joined Athena is reporting back to us on their ethnicity and diverse background. We’re constantly working to get more accurate data, and simply more data. Here’s the latest breakdown:
22.94% of our population has self-identified as White. 42.70% of our population has not informed us of their racial or ethnic diversity. And please note that while these numbers are not all attached to women of color (we’re reporting on LGBTQ+, for example), we want to be intentional and inclusive as we grow. Our desire is for any woman who feels underrepresented to feel like she has a place in Athena.
We are working diligently to address three areas that seem to be lagging behind in growth: Hispanic or LatinX, Native American or Native Alaskan, and LGBTQ+.
I also want to be clear that at Athena, we are by no means reducing women to numbers or looking to cap the percentages each diverse population holds in our membership. You cannot improve what you do not measure. We are measuring to ensure we are where we need to be. We’ll also begin to measure other elements of diversity over time. And of course, we realize there are some very personal aspects of diversity that we may never be able to truly measure – sexuality is one of those areas, as is economic diversity, as well as neurocognitive and physical diversity.
I look forward to the day where we don’t have to measure, because it just is, and simply continues to be.
Achieving big things takes big effort. The problem we’re solving is not just an Athena issue but a societal challenge. How do we diversify the top so that the top ranks of business can represent all of society? How do we most effectively lift other women up? How do we create racial equity in the C-suite and the boardroom? Going into this, I knew we could not do it alone.
I’m enormously grateful to the leaders and brands who stepped up to tackle this challenge right alongside me. A huge thank you to Bank of America for responding to my call for help in just a few hours’ time.
Bank of America wasn’t the only to respond to my call for help. Scott and Jane Maxwell, Michele Bettencourt, Yvonne Wassenaar, Lloyd Taylor, Alembic, and Workfront have all generously contributed to what is now the Athena Rising Foundation (learn more about the Athena Rising Foundation here). Through the Foundation, women of all colors and underrepresented backgrounds can receive $0 Self-Service Access to Athena Alliance. We refer to this as the “Access Fellowship.”
Referrals have also poured in from my team of incredible executive coaches, from Athena members, and from my board.
When we announced that we were splitting from the non-profit entity, thus forming Athena Alliance, Inc. and Athena Rising Foundation (two separate organizations), that opened the opportunity to form strong, diverse boards for each. For Athena Rising Foundation, we opened the opportunity exclusively to Athena members. Yasmin Davidds (Latina) and Beverly Cole (Black) have officially joined the board. I’m confident that they’ll add immediate value as the Foundation continues to raise funds, scale its impact, and delivers innovative ways to support underrepresented women.
When we transitioned to a commercial entity (official January 1), the Athena Alliance, Inc. Board of Directors went into effect. We have two board directors in addition to me—one a woman of color Rhonda Mims (Black). Rhonda is joined by me and Liz Tinkham (White). I know these two remarkable women will add so much value to Athena as we continue to build and iterate on our product and develop rich resources to support women from all backgrounds, perspectives, colors, groups, and abilities.
In addition to the Access Fellowship ($0 membership into Athena) through the Athena Rising Foundation, we’ve also just launched the application process for the Accelerator Fellowship. This fellowship gives 30 existing Athena members the opportunity for an upgraded membership experience. Accelerator Fellowship recipients will receive Concierge Service, 8 hours of one-on-one coaching, and a Brand Package. (Note: If you’re an existing Athena member who is an underrepresented woman and you’re interested in the Accelerator Fellowship, applications are now open! The deadline to apply is February 15, 2021, and you may apply here.) Recipients will be announced by March 31, 2021.
Within our team. Within our backgrounds. Within our perspectives. The Athena Alliance, Inc. Leadership is 25% racially diverse and 25% LGBTQ+. We come from all areas of the world – from South Africa and Morocco to Mexico City and Costa Rica to Washington State, California, and Texas. Together, we work hard to deliver exceptional service and support for our members.
Tracking diversity within our team will be crucial to our growth plans this year and beyond.
In the meantime, I’m holding on to our progress, and I’m holding on to it tightly. We’re living in volatile times. Despite the new year, we’re dealing with a lot of pain and challenges as a nation, in our companies, within our families, as individuals. Our progress is a bright light for me, shining strong through so much uncertainty. It’s a demonstration that great things can happen when individuals work together.
I see it when I view our membership reports. I see it when I tune into Athena’s Virtual Salons and see color in the faces across my screen. I see it when I log in to Athena and browse our member directory. Women of color. Women spanning all ages. Women of all functional areas of expertise. Women of all ambitions. Of vastly unique perspectives.
Hundreds of stories and voices and strengths and perspectives. One community.
Change is possible. This is what progress looks like.
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