You’re recognized as a leader for your work striving for equality in the workplace. What prompted you to get involved in this cause?
“I always had plans to have my own consulting firm, but never thought it would be about diversity and anti-racism. The discrimination, harassment and bullying I experienced in the workplace are the reasons I work tirelessly for equality. Being myself—a Black educated woman—was viewed as a threat in the traditional nine-to-five space. I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder as a result of bullying and discrimination. Soon after diagnosis, I no longer wanted to be in a position where I had to compromise who I was for a leader’s comfort. Change Cadet started as a side hustle that I grew into the growing empire it is now so no BIPOC, woman or underrepresented person would feel the way I felt in the workplace. When I can help someone know their value or a company become a place of belonging, it makes what I experienced worth it!”
What’s something you’d like people to know about you or your work that they probably don’t?
“I love fashion! I style shoots and model from time to time. Fashion is an important form of expression and has been tied to poignant times in Black history. Fashion is storytelling. I live with an invisible illness and disability, so being part of a campaign is a form of advocacy; it’s intersectionality in an industry that is still figuring out diversity and inclusion. I love telling my story anywhere I can, in front of or behind the camera.”
Replace ‘trying’ with ‘doing.’ Trying sets the expectation for not having to follow through or commit to the action that is needed for change in 2020 and beyond. Use your privilege for good. Be uncomfortable. Do the work.
- Dr. Akilah Cadet
What are some of the obstacles or hurdles you’ve had to overcome to drive change?
“Even with all the privilege that I have with being a founder and CEO, I am still a Black woman. I am proud to be a Black woman and to have my own company. Unfortunately, even as a leader I experience bias and stereotyping. I have to be cognizant of how I’m perceived all the time due to racism. The very thing I am working to end can at times oppress my work. Being my true authentic self—sarcastic, funny and a proud nerd—helps melt away bias and stereotypes so that I can do the work that is needed for change.”
This has been a trying year, to put it plainly. How have you been finding or seeking joy?
“Well, I tell myself to keep being amazing every single day. That allows me to celebrate the little wins needed to stay connected to joy. This is not easy work. I help companies and global brands be anti-racist, as well as educate the public, all while dealing with being Black in America. Sometimes being Black in America means that there’s always some level of advocacy. I feel like I am always on. I remind myself and others that in order to see the change we seek, we need to celebrate ourselves continuously. In addition to my mantra, I set boundaries for when I work and when I have self-care. Being a Black woman and maintaining joy is also an act of resistance. I resist from Friday to Sunday.”
What advice do you have for others trying to advocate for change in 2020?
“Trying is not something I do, and I recommend the same for everyone. Replace ‘trying’ with ‘doing.’ Trying sets the expectation for not having to follow through or commit to the action that is needed for change in 2020 and beyond. Use your privilege for good. Be uncomfortable. Do the work.”