In response to the continuing absence of people of color in top corporation and nonprofit positions – and even fewer women of color, NeighborWorks America has launched a new training and mentorship program. The NeighborWorks Strong Leaders Pilot Program, with support from American Express and First Republic Bank, helps mid-management workers of color prepare for senior roles by building confidence and connections and providing access to opportunities.
The 19 participants join peer group calls, sharing obstacles and how to overcome them. They meet with mentors, buoyed by NeighborWorks’ collaboration with the Mel King Institute’s Alliance for Racial Equity’s Community Development Mentoring Program. Participants also take NeighborWorks management-related training courses.
Recently, NeighborWorks commissioned a report examining barriers to finding and retaining staff for network organizations, especially amid private-sector competition. Recommended “next steps” included recruiting a diverse group of entry-level candidates and developing the capabilities of mid-level staff. Amid a tsunami of retirements, recruiting, training and developing staff is imperative to ensure that we have a pipeline of leaders who can take over steering the ship for years to come,” says Christie Cade, a program mentor and NeighborWorks vice president, Southern Region.
Carolyn McGee wears many hats as an economic specialist, housing counselor and more at Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corp. She signed up for the program to improve her skills “and stretch myself as far as I can go.”
“There are a lot of takeaways from the program,” she says. “One is just seeing my potential and knowing how to navigate.” With her cohort, she’s discussed how to advocate for herself and others and how, as a person of color, sometimes it takes more to showcase your skills, to get people to see you in a different light.
NeighborWorks’ Cade, McGee’s mentor, says she found her own mentors in many places. Often, mentors saw she was one of the few Black people in the arena “and we sought out each other to provide support, encouragement and comradery.” Her hope is to provide others with the type of help she received along the way.