We know from our Ready to Lead report that Black and Latinx girls are the most likely to self-identify as leaders, practice leadership skills, and aspire to leadership compared to girls of other races. Our research also found that racial and gender bias specifically from teachers hinders the leadership of Black and Latinx girls, while mentors — mothers specifically — are key sources of support for their leadership aspirations.
We are so delighted to share an interview with one of our Black leaders, 16-year-old Imani, about her perspectives on leadership. Imani participates in Power Lab at one of our partner schools
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What is your experience with Girls Leadership like?
The Girls Leadership Club at my school is an opportunity to talk about everything from slut shaming to positive bodies to books we have read — anything that comes up that we want to talk about that we don’t feel comfortable talking about elsewhere. The environment feels safe and welcoming, very much like a sisterhood to come together and talk about race, feminism, identity, and more.
Who taught you to be a leader?
My mom. I grew up watching her lead, whether she was connecting with people in the community, supporting members of the Black community, or working in the neighborhood garden. I also felt that I kind of had to be a leader, as the oldest of four siblings!
What is one of your favorite leadership moments, or a moment when you felt most powerful?
Around second grade my mom and grandma were helping with an event, and they had me stand on a table in front of people and talk to people. I sometimes was shy so stepping into public speaking and that moment was both scary and powerful.
What do you want to do with your leadership?
I want to be a veterinarian or a medical doctor, and I want to be the one in charge — that’s important to me! I like animals, and I want to help people in my future career.
In your opinion what is one of the most important qualities of leadership?
I think to be a true leader you need to not try to be dominant over other people. Instead, you need to show you care and be a mentor. To me leadership also means being respectful and leading people in the right directions.
What is your message to younger girls?
When things are hard, it can feel very lonely. I want young girls to know that there are more girls who understand what you are going through — you just need to find a person you trust; that you can do it. There are people who care and will help you.
Do you have advice for girls of color struggling with gender and racial bias?
These thoughts may seem opposite but are both important. First, have friends who are your same race — they will understand what you are going through. Second, your friends don’t all have to be the same race. It’s good to spread out and hang out with all kinds of people because this helps you learn different perspectives and experiences.
Feature photo by Chloe Jackman