Are you “leadership material”?

Source: The Girls’ Index

As a girl and young woman, I didn’t identify as a leader. Much like the statistic above, I was afraid to lead because I knew the risks.

From my gender identity, I didn’t want to be perceived as bossy or unladylike. (Even though I like to say that the “b-word” is an acronym for Being In Total Control of Herself, I don’t like being labeled one.)

From my identity as a person of color, I didn’t want to stick out any more than I already did. My brown skin and Asian features caused enough stares, in the classroom growing up and now, in the conference room.

And as a woman of color, I didn’t need any more reasons to be vulnerable. The intersection of these two marginalized identities were a double whammy, making me even more susceptible to criticism and judgment.

For me, the answer to the question, “Are you leadership material?” depended in large part on my identities. My gender and race, specifically. And the answer to that question was always “no.”

But over time, it was precisely because of my identities that I was called to lead. They were the reason that I wanted to lead.

From my gender identity, I was able to see that the world of work was incredibly difficult for working mothers. Parental leaves were too short, daycare costs were too high, and work schedules were too hard to balance.

At first, I thought it was just me. (Self-blame is a common trap for people with marginalized identities.) But eventually, I realized this was a systemic issue, and it was one that I wanted to change.

I started by talking to new moms, sharing resources, and connecting them with each other. Then I worked with other women to create workshops and trainings, and eventually, a woman-centered blog. At work, we came together to create a lactation room in our building and advocate for a flexible work arrangement policy. And now, there’s Amplify.

My path to leadership is not a traditional one because I am not a “traditional” leader. I was not born with identities that are generally associated with this role. (At least not yet anyway.*)

But what I was born with – the identities that I do posses – gave me important and unique insights and perspectives. They allowed me to see places where our organization could do better. And they gave me the strength and courage to create change.

What insights and perspectives do your identities provide you? Where could your organization do better for people like you? How might your identities give you the strength and courage to create change?

The answers to these questions are the ones that matter. So rather than asking, “Are you leadership material?”, a better question might be, “Do you have leadership material?” Have your identities given you the insights, perspectives, strength, and courage to lead?

If the answer is “yes,” then Amplify is for you.

Through this program, you will learn ways to redefine leadership so that it works for, not against, your identities. You will connect to a community of other women at your place of work who are on a similar path. And you will begin to create change in the Advancement profession.

The application due date is Wednesday, January 15, 2020. To learn more and apply, click here.


*Amplify contends that while gender oppression is everyone’s problem, those best equipped to solve it are women. Women who are leading from every seat, including the top. Women with diverse identities and experiences. Women like you. Check out the “State of Women” slideshow to see why and how women are changing the leadership paradigm.

Amplify contends that a hidden force undermining women is internalized oppression. This plays out as the oft-cited Imposter Syndrome, where women feel like frauds regardless of their competence, to the conflict women experience around their identities and life choices. Amplify will provide tools to recognize and change our perceptions of ourselves and other women. We hope you will join us. Click here to learn more.

Alexis Kanda-Olmstead is a lover of books, Beyoncé, and really sharp #2 pencils. She leads talent management and employee engagement efforts at Dartmouth College and coordinates Amplify, a CASE D1 venture-funded women and gender initiative. Alexis holds a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Studies from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree in College Student Personnel from Bowling Green State University, and a certificate in Organization Development from Colorado State University. She is a certified StrengthsFinder Educator and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Practitioner, TEDx speaker, and feminist mommy blogger. She doesn’t have any hobbies per se, unless you count trying to change the world for women and girls.

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