How Women of Color can Redefine Power in Corporate America — Cynthia Plouché

4 min readJul 19, 2022
Image from Unsplash by Christina @

I recently established The Alzenia Project, a not-for-profit (NFP) resource whose goal is to leverage the impact of other NFPs committed to helping young women of color to achieve personal and professional growth. I recently read an article on Fast Company, How women of color can redefine power in corporate America by NEXT BIG IDEA CLUB. It was a fascinating read as it highlights how women of color can help corporate America.

This article had Deepa Purushothaman (cofounder of nFormation, a membership-based technology platform created by women of color, for women of color, to build a community that provides a safe, brave space for WOC) shares five key insights from her new book, The First, the Few, the Only: How Women of Color Can Redefine Power in Corporate America.

  1. Corporate America is facing a crisis, and WOC are the new power brokers

“More people are questioning what their work is in the world, and WOC are asking these questions with even more urgency and frequency.

“Women of color are tired, feel undervalued and unseen, and are ready to demand more; at the same time, we are more sought after than ever before. This is our moment to ask new questions about what we want, where we want to spend our time, and how much we are willing to conform, perform, and produce to get ahead.”

WOC bring unique experiences to the workplace from their personal experience of forging new paths in environments. WOC can be the workplace innovators, bridge builders, leaders, and designers of what comes next when they are given the opportunity to showcase their talent.

2. Corporate America is not a meritocracy

“Meritocracy suggests only the best rise, so if we don’t rise, there is something wrong with us. WOC end up overworking ourselves to fit into a system that doesn’t always see or hear us.

“Systems show up differently for different people. These differences are evident in how WOC are hired, advanced, and treated in their day-to-day lives.”

Purushothaman’s research shows that the workplace is harder to navigate as a woman of color. They are often asked to do more culture-building and unpaid work and deal with high rates of racism and stereotypes daily. It is time to challenge these traditional meritocracies because ignoring does not make the problem go away.

3. Workplaces are making people sick

“Many women of color were taught from a young age that they must work harder and do more to be treated fairly, or even be in the running.

“When women of color stuff down the pain and frustration that come from unfair work practices, it pushes them to work too hard to live up to expectations.”

Women are starting their own businesses and changing jobs to create a work environment, a culture where they feel comfortable. If WOC are going to find their voice, they need to reclaim their health. In order to process work trauma, they need to be able talk about it in a safe environment. Part of finding power is doing the inner work to get healthy, but part of forging power is finding others to heal with.

4. The pie doesn’t have to be redistributed — it can grow

“Scarcity makes us believe there are limited seats for women, and even fewer seats for women of color. Many WOC feel that white women had been the most vicious in blocking their advancement. Scarcity even makes women of color compete against each other.

“We need to erase the idea that corporate America is a glorified game of Musical Chairs, in which one must run as fast as they can, and push the next person to the floor to get a seat.”

We need to grow the overall set of opportunities if we want inclusion to take root.

5. We have the power and permission to undo anything that came before

“The events of 2020 and 2021 created new ways of thinking, especially around the fragility of our world. The last few years have given us space to figure out what’s important. We can remake power so that it is collaborative and energizing.”

“If we’re going to solve the most entrenched issues facing our planet today, we must move from exclusion to inclusion; from privilege to generosity; from scarcity to abundance; from the first, few, and only, to the many. Together we can remake power, success, and leadership.”

Now is the time to work to undo the outdated attitudes, policies, and practices of the past.

If you want to know more about how women in color can help redefine power in corporate America, click here to read the full article.




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