Who Is The Lawyer and Entrepreneur Empowering Black Women To Accelerate Their Careers?
Many Black women make the right grades, get into the right schools, and land the right jobs in the right careers. In fact, Black women have tripled their high school graduation rate, and lead both college enrollment and degree attainment at higher rates than any other group of women in America. Black women also have the highest labor force participation rates, and start companies at six times the rate of the national average.
Yet often, this high-achieving group of women find themselves overwhelmingly frustrated knowing they are technically doing everything right, but moving slower than expected thanks - in part - to implicit biases in the workplace, such as lack of engagement at networking events, not being identified by senior leadership, and of course, the (very real) pay gap, which substantially disadvantages Black women in comparison to every-other demographic group.
“Black women are the last people who get helped when it comes to advancing their careers.” Says Adeola Adejobi, founder of the Avant-Garde Network, a group of 3,000 of the top mid-level New York City Black professionals. Avant-Garde Network’s latest project - the Women’s Empowerment Collective – is dedicated to empowering Black women towards advancing their careers.
The Women’s Empowerment Collective has two verticals that enable their WEC members to advance their careers. The first vertical helps WEC women develop tools and skillsets they can use to successfully navigate career acceleration (such as negotiation tactics, peer networks etc.). The second vertical helps connect WEC members with career advancing opportunities.
“Our goal is to hone midlevel talent and work with these companies to say, we actually have binders full of women who are qualified and use it as a way for Black women to get promoted and excel in their careers,” Adeola says.
Adeola’s passion to advance WOC (as well as Black men) through the Avant-Garde Network comes from many of her own frustrating experiences coming up in her career.
“Really it’s a lack of promotion, a lack of mentorship, a lack of feeling of belonging.” She explains. “Even for me, I felt it when I was young. I felt like I was always the one expending myself, and that was never reciprocated.”
Adeola’s own background is exemplary. Hailing from Oakland, California, Adeola entered Spelman as an undergrad and became the student body president her senior year. She went onto Cornell Law School, where she specialized in International Legal Affairs, eventually landing in New York City as a practicing lawyer. But her experiences within law – a profession whose composition of black attorneys hovers around five percent - made Adeola realize the how important community is in gaining opportunities and access for career advancement.
From this insight, the Avant-Garde Network was founded. Originally positioned as a networking group for Black attorneys in New York City, word of the organization spread around the city. More and more people from outside the law profession began showing up to the events. Adeola quickly realized there was a real need for a networking group like the Avant-Garde Network across industries.
Adeola began to develop the company and its program offerings into a 3,000 large organization. Currently, the Avant-Garde Network is the largest Black networking group in NYC. It provides multiple services to help members advance their careers in largely, self-directed ways. For example, in addition to their new Women’s Economic Collective launching this fall, additional programs the Avant-Garde Network offers includes Entrepreneurship, Economic Empowerment, Career Advancement, Diversity and Inclusion, Law Tech & Innovation, and Africa 2030.
Avant-Garde also provides services to connect large companies with the group’s talent, proving a mutual benefit to organizations looking to hire and promote diversity, as well as for Black professionals looking to advance their careers.
“With some companies it’s not that they don’t want to do it. It’s that they don’t know how to do it. Some of the ideas that they have are antiquated. Based on their subject matter or based on this topic, I’ll help them identify what is best for their group.”
Despite holding down a fulltime job as an attorney and advisor, Adeola’s dedication to building and sustaining a thriving talent pipeline for the future Black leaders is led by her belief in the capabilities of Black leaders impact on our future: “My perspective is that all of these professionals are either one connection or one skillset away from really changing the world in whatever their industry is or whatever they want to do.”