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5 things I learned from...putting diverse women in the spotlight

By
Nicole Sara Sivens
August 2, 2018
5 min read
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Karina Cabrera Bell is the Founder and President of the Reach Mama Network, which helps to increase moms of color in positions of leadership. She is also the Host of the Reach Mama podcast which exclusively features high-powered women of color moms.

A relentless champion for women and girls, Karina Cabrera has over 15 years of political and governmental experience. Most recently she was an Obama Political Appointee serving in the White House and the Department of Energy.

A native New Yorker, Karina holds a Master’s of Science in Urban Policy from New School University and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with minors in Business and Public Relations, from Mount St. Mary College.

Karina resides in San Francisco with her husband and two daughters. We chatted a bit about what she’s learned from her role in bringing women of color into the spotlight, here are the lessons she shared.

Diverse perspectives innovate

I firmly believe that the world would be a better place if we had more mothers of color in leadership positions. These women are master multi-taskers and creative problem-solvers. They are determined and resilient. They care deeply about the future their children will inherit. And they bring the kind of diverse set of perspectives that every organization needs to innovate and improve performance.

During my time in the Obama White House I saw firsthand how important having women of color and mothers of color in leadership positions. These women were moving the needle on important issues for our community.  

Strength is the common denominator

A common thread is strength. Think about it: women leave the house every day and enter a society that constantly tries to devalue them with less pay, with fewer promotions, with the way they are portrayed in magazines and talked about on TV. Yet through all of this, women get things done. We keep fighting and advocating for a society that values every human equally. It takes a lot of strength to do that.

Showing up is more than half the battle

Keep showing up and sharing your best self. At times, it is overwhelming when there are barely any women of color in the meeting room or at a work event. It’s disconcerting when many of our leadership structures don’t have women of color to look up to. And the truth is that some of us stop asking for those bigger roles, stop putting ourselves out there or, in some cases, give up completely.

I say, keep going, persevering and giving your best effort. While your work may go unnoticed at times, it’s important to consistently show up and bring your best contribution to the table. That’s the only way progress – in your own life and in the world – will happen.   

Instincts trump doubt

To trust my instincts more. When I first started I was overthinking everything, even my decision to start my business. I kept second guessing myself. I kept over-adjusting after getting different opinions. But I quickly realized that if your mission is aligned with your passion – and there is a clear market – then really incredible things can happen. Of course, I value the advice coming from others. But I’ve also learned that what makes my work special is the different perspective I bring to it and to never lose sight of that.

Kids need to see it all

I don’t just share the triumphs with them – I also share the challenges.  I want them to know that success isn’t a straight path. I try to instill that no one can escape mistakes or failure and that the most important thing is to get back up and try your best.

Working in Obama’s White House opened my eyes. At that time, I was pregnant with my second daughter and realized how important it is to showcase stories of successful moms of color. More women and girls need to see that these stories are possible. I want them to see me as one of those stories.

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