Trailblazing Women Discuss How They Are Keeping the Door Open for Others to Follow Their Footsteps
Recently, we have seen women trailblazers making waves in various facets of society. From the White House, where Kamala Harris is now serving as the nation’s first woman and woman of color Vice President, to the boardroom, where Rosiland Brewer, new CEO of Walgreens, became the only Black woman to lead a fortune 500 company in March 2021, prominent examples of women stepping into leadership positions are growing. As we honor the ongoing strides women are making, however, how do we guarantee that the firsts we are seeing now are not the last? What resources are needed to ensure our collective gains trickle down to the most vulnerable and overlooked women who still live in the shadows of our society?
In a Lightning Bolt session during SPECTRUM: I’m Speaking, Amáda Márquez Simula and Yui Scribner shared their stories about being trailblazers in their respective fields and roles. Simula is the first Latina mayor of Columbia Heights, Minnesota, and only the second Latina statewide to be elected to a mayoral role. Scribner is Head of Operations at Impact America Fund (IAF). As a woman of color in the investing world — a field still predominantly made up by white men — Scribner and IAF are working to allocate investments in such a way that people of color can “experience true agency and participation in the American economy.” (Watch the session below!)
During the session, the two also shared their perspectives and insights on how to create more equitable and inclusive systems. Scribner said focusing on “how” rather than “why” is important because the answers to these “how” questions reveal the steps necessary to make progress.
“Asking how takes us out of the past and into the future,” Scribner said. “Asking how also assumes you’re in this effort with me.”
Simula focused her advice on engaging communities to empower marginalized folks and give them real power in the decision making process.
“Get to know your neighbors,” Simula said. “See women, see women of color, see people of color, see people with disabilities, see the LGBTQ community and people as leaders and ask them to run (for office) and then support them.”
At the end of the session, Scribner and Simula participated in a Q&A to answer questions about sustaining these collective gains, so that trailblazers can keep the door open for others to follow them rather than being isolated examples of progress. Scribner emphasized the need to work together.
“A lot of power lies in collaboration and coalition building,” Scribner said.
Simula added that these gains will not be given freely by established figures and systems, which are able to hold onto outsized power through their exclusionary practices.
“The system is not going to give this to us easily,” Simula said.