Black women have always made a way, no matter what. There’s not a lane for us? We create it. There’s not a seat at the table of us? We build the seat and the table. That’s exactly what Lauren Wesley Wilson has done with ColorComm.
Wilson once worked at a PR agency and noticed there was an extreme lack of women who looked liked her when she’d go out to events to network.
“I noticed there was not one person of color in leadership,” Wilson said.
Instead of seeing this as a chance to be the only black woman in the room, Wilson took it as a challenge to fill that same room with the very black women it was missing.
“If you don’t have senior leaders who look like you, young talent will leave you,” Wilson said.
So seven years ago, Wilson hosted a luncheon for professional women of color who worked in communications because she needed to meet the women who’d help her move up, and shake up, the ladder.
And that, ladies and gents, was the beginning of ColorComm, the collective of women of color in communications who are all seeking like-minded women to connect, grow and create professional and personal bonds. It’s in these networking circles that women are able to share their experiences while learning the ins and outs of the industry from women who have been there or are currently there. Wilson has made dream careers more accessible for women of color.
“I left my full-time job three years ago to focus on ColorComm full time because the work of ColorComm was superseding my full-time job,” Wilson said. “It wasn’t initially part of the plan, but became part of the plan as we grew.”
She’s expanded the group beyond what she’s ever thought possible. ColorComm has a conference every year that’s usually in Miami, but this year, it’s in sunny Hawaii. As I type this story, women are landing on the beautiful island, excitedly checking in for ColorComm Conference 2018.
Before Lauren Wesley Wilson jetted off to Hawaii, I linked up with her to talk about the success of ColorComm, her golden business tips and what it means to be a black woman bossing up in business.
The Root: What does ColorComm’s growth mean to you?
Lauren Wesley Wilson: It means we are changing and impacting lives. When members share they got a new job from the ColorComm Network, or learned how to ask for a promotion or met new ColorComm contacts which led to business growth, this means we are on the right track and growing to fit the needs of a wide demographic in our network.
TR: How has ColorComm shifted from day one?
LWW: ColorComm started as a luncheon series seven years ago and has transformed into a national community connecting women in our industry from across the country. Today we are structured as the ColorComm Network (our professional annual membership network); produce C2NEXTGEN (Millennial Conference) and C2 Maui (Executive Conference); [have] a fellows program; and we’ve launched a community for Men of Color in Communications (MCC). Through our platforms, we reach more than 100,000 professionals working in communications, marketing, advertising and digital.
TR: What challenges have you faced as a black woman pioneering a movement/collective/conference?
LWW: Oftentimes I am in spaces and places where diversity is the topic, but the people in the room are not diverse. In those moments it can be challenging to convey our work, scope and influence. If we are discussing diversity in our industry and you’re not aware of ColorComm, then frankly, diversity is not a priority for you.
TR: What impact do you think you have had on the industry?
LWW: ColorComm has definitely shaken things up! We’ve created spaces for women of color—whether they’re black, Latina, Asian or anything in between—to speak their minds, to advocate for themselves and to belong to a community which feels like a good ole girls’ club.
TR: What are the benefits/setbacks of your youth and how you work?
LWW: Sometimes it’s being in spaces where you are the youngest person in the room. I’m often securing new business or fundraising from a demographic that is at least 15 years older. The upside is, people often want to be a part of something that is new, fresh and exhilarating. We offer a fresh approach to the conversations that are already happening.
TR: What are your three biggest, most effective business tips?
LWW: Do great work, be strategic and always think of “What’s next?”
TR: How do you think black women are regarded in business in 2018?
LWW: Oftentimes as the “underdogs.” If you read Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath, then you know “underdogs” not only prevail but achieve more than initially expected.
TR: What’s been your biggest lesson thus far in your career?
LWW: Never stop learning, researching and growing. Even if you think you know it all or mastered a skill set, then go master another skill. You can’t know enough information or enough people.
TR: What are your hopes for ColorComm?
LWW: For ColorComm to go international! I truly want to expand the scope of our reach.