How Exceptional Black Women Lead — A Conversation With Dr. Avis Jones DeWeever

Dr. DeWeever’s latest book helps black women realize their full potential

Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever’s latest book, How Exceptional Black Women Lead: Unlocking the Secrets to Phenomenal Success in Career and in Life acts as a guide for black women to take charge and defy the obstacles that often get in their way.

Dr. DeWeever is no novice to issues facing minority women. In April 2015, she founded Exceptional Leadership Institute for Women, a firm with a mission of helping entrepreneurs and career executives find further success in their careers and overall lives. Three years ago, she also became president of Incite Unlimited in 2013, a DC-based consulting firm that helps women with communication strategies and research. She’s also the youngest person to serve as the Executive Director for the National Council of Negro Women from 2010 to 2013.

Dr. DeWeever explained a major point in How Exceptional Women Lead is helping black women to develop a ‘sistah mind-group,’ meaning a mindset of power, strength, and encouragement of other women. Some main topics of advice including how to become power communicators and avoiding the ‘angry black woman’ stigma. She also lays out tools women can use to fight the unfairness and bias they face for just being themselves.

“I, like countless others, read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and knew immediately that it was not my story.  As Black women, we’ve always ‘leaned in,’” Dr. DeWeever said. She went on to say black women have the highest labor force participation rate out of all American women and they the highest career ambitions out of any demographic, including white men. “But when it comes to obtaining leadership positions, we find ourselves rarely at the top.”

In the words of Dr. Weever, “Action moves mountains.” That theme echoes throughout her book as a means for black women to take control of their success.

Throughout history, black women have played a dual role, the role of matriarch in the home and organizer in the community. Dr. DeWeever believes these historic roots equip black women to be leaders. It just takes a change in mindset, a paradigm shift to one of self-empowerment.

The book emphasizes that perceptions of the norm have to be thrown out the window to effect real change. Dr. Deweever writes that the modern black woman must embrace the pain while finding new beginnings with each opportunity. This extra push allows her to fight for success, particularly in the workplace.

Gains in the corporate arena tend to have a blanket approach, demanding that black women take more of a stake demanding their fair share and attaining success. But many of the obstacles women face have to be overcome within themselves.

Dr. DeWeever reminds black women that in accepting the reality of cultural victimization, they can then overcome it. She only hopes her book will be an inspiration for Black women to pass on the sistah mind-group down to the next generation.

Despite all the systemic problems going against women of color, conquering fear is the most challenging step– but it can also be the most uplifting. Several instrumental tips in her book include:

  1. Developing a vision
  2. Having a specific goal for future success
  3. Embracing risk with a courageous mindset
  4. Putting in more hours than anyone else will keep track of.

Following these steps will enable the black woman to present herself as a strong and viable candidate for leadership in any field, in any career.

Through networking, self-promotion, and hustling to achieve goals, a woman of color can forge success in her career. At the same time, she must face the inevitable challenges of racism and sexism, learning how to work around them instead of being defeated by them.

Dr. DeWeever argues that the path to leadership is difficult but achievable. And it’s up to women of color not only to push themselves as individuals but to lift each other up.

“As Black women, we need to face and correct those harms we perpetrate against one another,” she said. “We can’t ultimately achieve all that we are capable of becoming unless we vanquish those internal challenges that hold us back.”

This book is a testament to the infinite potential of the strong black female: we are exceptional, we are worthy, we are ambitious, and we are on the rise.

“Recognized or not, Black women have been leading for centuries,” Dr. DeWeever concluded.  “It’s time for us to finally receive our due. It’s time to take our rightful spaces at the top.”

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