Spelman College recently hosted its 11th annual Women of Color Conference (WOCC), themed “New School Leaders in the Digital Era,” at the Georgia International Convention Center. For a day-and-a-half, the women in attendance interrogated and discussed the significance of an ethnic minority female presence in an evolving, everchanging digital ecosystem.
The summit was comprised of interpersonal panel discussions, intimate breakout sessions and town hall meetings to address the lack of diversity across the digital space. Leaders from Atlanta’s preeminent all-female HBCU stressed from the beginning how important it is for black and brown women to think of themselves as a trendsetting community of leaders, entrepreneurs, consumers and influencers.
“A new school leader knows how to effectively incorporate traditional best practices with cutting edge strategies to lead successfully,” says Spelman College President Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum tweeting from her iPhone. “She must have a keen knowledge of digital culture and how it affects our society economically, socially and developmentally.”
Thirteen Spelman students paid tribute to Dr. Tatum by highlighting 13 changes the highly reputable administrator made to transform the campus into a more digitally savvy environment. The 13 changes also represented Dr. Tatum’s tenure as president, which will end this summer as Dr. Tatum retires.
Executive Director of Spelman’s LEADS program and WOCC’s convener, Dr. Jane Smith (C’68) added, “A new school leader is a multigenerational trendsetter who has successfully integrated technology into her global leadership vision. She is poised to capitalize on the vast opportunities enabling her to identify, reach and impact demographics beyond her own.”
Among the topics covered at WOCC this year were diversity in gaming and entertainment, developing brand identity, technological determinism, using social media as a tool for civic engagement, coding, getting young girls involved in STEM and the importance of women in converged and mainstream media.
For the first time at WOCC, the audience full of predominately black female baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials were able to access a mobile app to navigate through all of the activities, speakers and special guests. All of the ladies were encouraged repeatedly to listen, learn and engage with each other.
“If we can explain these things through regular conversations while we also learn to use the digital instruments,” says Dr. Smith, “we should be able to walk away with some specific outcomes.”
Typically taking place around the time of commencement, WOCC is widely attended by generations upon generations of Spelman’s change making alumnae. Lauren Wesley Wilson (BA ’07) is the president of ColorComm, Inc., a membership organization for women of color in communications. She was an inductee into this year’s Academy of Game Changers.
ColorComm was founded originally in 2011 as a series of invite-only luncheons in Washington, D.C. Then working as an account supervisor for a major public relations agency, Wilson wanted to gather other women in a room who looked like her. Wilson can certain attest to being in the company of both Spelman alumnae and women professionals of color as a vehicle that can create various communities of networks.
“Stop looking at women as competition and start utilizing each other as resources,” says Wilson. “It’s still important to be open, to share information, connect and help others around us.”
“You can’t just live in a bubble and expect to learn all you need to know,” she adds. “Start connecting with women and people who have similar experiences and different experiences. That’s the way you learn and grow.”
Entertainment Weekly columnist Nina Terrero attended WOCC for the first time this year. The Latina media personality was one of the panelist on the women in media talk. It was important to the journalist that she spoke out on the importance of ethnic women finding their voices in publications, newsrooms and on social media.
“Although there are specific issues that pertain to each audience,” says Terrero immediately following her panel, “the fact is we are all underrepresented. We all deserve to have our stories heard. There’s tremendous pressure to be all things to all people.”
Terrero, who grew up idolizing broadcaster Peter Jennings, remembers not having any journalists to look up to who remotely resembled her. She hopes her presence in various media outlets and at WOCC can motivate other young women of color to follow their passion and make that into a career.
“My greatest hope will be that a little girl will turn on the television, maybe see me doing a segment and be inspired to follow a similar career path,” says Terrero. “With social media, you can be at all places at all times. Conferences like this allow us to have a bigger conversation and collectively figure out how we can best achieve our mutual goals.”
This post was written by Christopher A. Daniel, pop cultural critic and music editor for the Burton Wire. He is also contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.