Chapter End of Year Message

Renita Griskel
2020 – 2021 Chapter President
WICT Southeast

Hello WICT Southeast Members!

What a year!  When “Connect to your peers, your industry and everything around you” was chosen as the WICTSE Touchstone for 2020, our Ruby Anniversary, no one had any idea how critical that touchstone would be for so many people.

My plans for the chapter were well underway when COVID-19 hit. The quick actions of the WICTSE board created a new plan of action allowing us to pivot from in-person events and programs to connect to all of you using virtual platforms.  While we all miss the one on one interaction, this necessary change gave many people throughout Atlanta, Knoxville, Nashville and Birmingham a chance to participate in all of our WICTSE programs. 

Members of our chapter were hit with unemployment, dealing first-hand with the severity of the virus and the uncertainty of what’s ahead. I am proud that one of the first things we did after the widespread onset of COVID-19 was partner with Feeding America to help feed families in need. Many of you supported this initiative and gave generously allowing us to surpass our goal and provide thousands of meals to families in our WICT Southeast footprint. 

The WICTSE response to COVID-19 is just one example of how the organization is in step with evolving widespread issues affecting our industry and community. Social injustice, specifically involving the black community is on the minds of many. I am so proud of how we addressed the issue with our Black Lives Matter: A Movement Not A Moment interactive panel discussion. We had the uncomfortable conversations and separated fact from fiction leaving participants informed and empowered!

We connected with all of you this year addressing the unique needs of 2020 along with the leadership development opportunities that WICTSE consistently provides. Global Mentoring, Tech It Out, Speed Mentoring and Resilience: Standing Strong showcased the mission of WICT to create women leaders who transform our industry. We did that as well with additional programs and events that targeted navigating the unprecedented times of 2020: Maintaining Motivation Through Uncertainty, Mind Your Business, The Art of the Staycation, WICT Happy Hour and of course S.T.I.R. Socialize, Talk, Interact, Remember. And we discussed the changing landscape of the cable industry with LGBTQ+: Exploring the Future By Learning From the Past.

This year we honored 7 amazing women for their accomplishments in the cable telecommunications industry during our first virtual Red Letter Awards. The gala was highly attended and well received. I am so proud of the honorees and the tremendous team behind the scenes who worked tirelessly to make this year’s gala one to remember! We also provided three chapter scholarships to this year’s virtual WICT Leadership Conference. WICT Global provided unparallel content, speakers, and workshops. I am happy that WICTSE was able to help three members attend for free!

While all of this was going on, we celebrated our chapter’s 40th Anniversary! We highlighted the work of the many women who came before us to lay the groundwork for the WICT Southeast Chapter. We learned about their journeys, challenges, and successes, through photos, interviews, and videos throughout the year.

So, as you can see, it’s been a busy and historic year. The pivot of events and programs was intense at times, but also an opportunity for growth. While there were challenges, our resilience is powerful! None of the work this year could have been accomplished without the help, support and expertise of the WICT Southeast board. I am grateful to have 31 talented women at my side committed to the mission of WICT.  Thank you all so much, I am truly honored to have worked with you! Thank you to Maria Brennan, WICT President and CEO and WICT Global for your tremendous encouragement and guidance. And thank you to the WICT Southeast membership for allowing me to be your president.  It was my privilege to lead the WICT Southeast Chapter this year and I look forward to what’s ahead for 2021!

Thank you!

 Renita Griskel

WICT Southeast President

Black Lives Matter: The conversation continues

The dynamics of being a Black woman in the workplace

by Ciji Townsend

Black Lives Matter is more than a moment, it’s a movement. WICT Southeast is committed to ongoing conversations that generate awareness for Black women in our industry. Our recent panel discussion and interactive session, attended by more than 350 industry professionals, focused on the impact of the heightened race awakening on Black women in the telecommunications industry.

Ciji Townsend
Cox Communications

It’s been a few weeks since the panel discussion and member, Ciji Townsend has had time to digest the stories and information. In the post below, she shares her thoughts and perspective.

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Black women in the workplace need your empathy, not sympathy.

The conversation kicked off with a powerful response from Dawn Douglass, Vice President Programming at Bounce TV, “When you see a news story, you sympathize. When I see a news story, I see people that look like my loved ones.” Dawn immediately set the tone and struck a chord with me. It was in that moment, that I thought about the countless times that I’ve watched a news segment and immediately thought to myself that the incident being covered could include my brother, cousin, husband or even me. Yet, when I arrived at work, the same new story was simply just a story discussed briefly at the water cooler. It’s in those moments that empathy is needed to break down the walls of understanding that accompany the cycle of systemic racism. 

Code-switching is real for Black women in the workplace.

After a brief explanation of code-switching, moderator Kenya Brock, Director of Digital Operations and Marketing at Katz Networks/E.W. Scripps, asked panelists to share a time they had to code-switch at work. “I’ve been doing it my whole life,” exclaimed Andrea Bibbs, Senior Director, Diversity & Inclusion Strategy at WarnerMedia News & Media. And I could sense the head nods from the other black women in the audience. Our experiences of worrying more about our hairstyles, tone of voice, posture and good manners in the workplace have an uncanny resemblance. Even worse than the worry, we all know that the time and effort put into code-switching can affect our performance and productivity.

But where do we start? Who carries the responsibility for change? 

It was mentioned by the panelist that change starts with leadership. And I couldn’t agree more. But I don’t think that change starts and stops with a company’s hierarchy. Change starts with everyone the minute that they are made aware. My hope would be that each of the attendees that were not familiar with the challenges that black women face in the workplace would take the newfound information and adjust their behavior and way of thinking. 

And just to be clear, Black women aren’t asking for a handout. 

What I loved most about the conversation rooted in “invisible work,” is the reminder that Black women work hard, many Black women work longer and harder than most of their peers. So, a handout is not the answer. The ask is that where credit is due, it’s appropriately applied. So many Black women are completing stretch projects and added tasks with ease and often don’t receive credit. Sonya King, Founder and CEO of Creator’s Architect said it best, “We’re given the work because we can do it, not because we should do it.”

Much of injustice stems from access to privilege

In the second half of the event, Sonya provided data for a deeper dive on the impact of privilege. She touched on access, education, earning power, mortality and home ownership. Seeing data explaining the path of privilege was beyond eye opening. Access to education leads to higher earning power which leads to easier access to home ownership. And learning that Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police was shocking but perhaps not a surprise.

#Sayhername

Dana Dawson, Lead Project Manager at Cox Enterprises, ended the presentation highlighting the countless women who have been killed by police, many names people hadn’t heard of. It was sad, painful and continues to be our reality.

Stay tuned and stay engaged

It’s clear this discussion was insightful, meaningful and needed for our WICT Southeast members and advocates. And we’re not stopping the conversation. Stay tuned for how we’ll keep the momentum going and for how you can be part of it.

We want to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment letting us know the most impactful part of the presentation for you.

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Ciji Townsend is a Pure Barre enthusiast, book club fanatic and the host of the being BALANCED podcast. When she’s not sharing her perspective with WICT SE members, she keeps her plate full as a Senior Manager of Internal Communications at Cox Communications.