Letting Your Light Shine Bright
To be a powerful female leader, you should collaborate and delegate; Wonder Woman is a fictional character. You don’t have to do it all, embrace differences within one another.
Last month we hosted a Women’s History Month-inspired webinar panel with Nneka Chiazor and Delceno Miles, two powerful women who exude positivity for women.
Both ladies worked vigorously to get to where they are today, so it’s no coincidence they made it to the top. Nneka, a driving force with Cox Communications as their Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and Delceno Miles, a well-known CEO of The Miles Agency in Hampton Roads.
During our Let Your Line Shine Bright event, we learned so much; from letting your voice be heard, to making decisions not just as a woman, but as a leader.
We are all leaders, no matter your gender, race, age.
Leadership and empowerment
“A leader is a leader. Certainly, women tend to have a different leadership style, a more collaborative approach. Being a servant leader is my philosophy,” Delceno said. “We’re here to serve others and regardless of your gender, race or background we are making things better for those we’re serving. To me, an effective leader truly sets the example, provides the guidance and resources for those they are leading. Collaborate and delegate; Wonder Woman is a fictional character. You don’t have to do it all, but set the tone and culture, a safe culture to share and listen, and embrace differences within one another. It’s important to be respectful regardless of your opinion, political affiliations or background. As a leader, I embrace that and encourage that.”
When it comes to women helping women, Delceno finds one of her superpowers in mentorship. “I mentor others in multiple ways. Sometimes all someone needs is a word of encouragement, or a connection to someone, or a resource that they couldn’t make on their own. I love the idea of mentoring the next generation of leaders. I learn as much from them as they learn from me,” she said.
“Hidden bias in good people is where women leaders come from,” Nneka said. “The bias is that most of the images we see on screen whether on a TV show or in a movie, men are in leadership positions. We have to say ‘women in leadership’ because our society isn’t accustomed to speaking of leadership as a female. At Cox Communications, we define leadership as someone who can inspire others to do great things that they normally wouldn’t do. I know so many women who would do that. Think about the women who inspired you to get into your industry.”
Empowering other women “drop the superwoman cape, find your North star, and collaborate. It’s important for us to get in that space under the umbrella of women helping women,” Nneka said.
Ongoing DEI initiatives
In the past year, the importance of DEI initiatives has taken center-stage for many companies, including Nneka and Delceno’s. And it comes as no surprise that these two spoke passionately, “We have an initiative at Cox called Empowered People, the principles that are governing how we work and how we show up. It infuses DEI, champions inclusion, unleashes potential and shapes the future. Do the best you can to embrace transparency, be transparent and authentic in the way you decide on a matter. Respecting differences is another piece of champion inclusion, be able to agree to disagree and have those courageous conversations. Last, and my favorite, value the voices. As communicators, we understand better than most the importance of the voice, so value every single voice,” Nneka said.
Nneka’s new motto is, “’if you want to fly like an eagle, don’t hang around chickens or flock with peacocks.’ It’s powerful and it made me realize that you must accept at times that there are those who will not be in your corner, and that’s okay. You have to find people who are in a position where you want to be, and they can help support you.”
Delceno has also placed importance on DEI efforts within her company to, “To continue on the path we’re on by partnering with like-minded organizations who truly get it that DEI is not a sound bite or a box to be checked, but a cultural shift in your organization that embraces differences,” Miles said.
What these two ladies want to be remembered for
“I want to be remembered as an ambassador for inclusion. I want to be known for the work and living a life that is an inclusive one, that has meaning and gave meaning to others. I empower by giving everyone a voice, giving them an opportunity to tell their stories in a way that’s comfortable for them to share their words and be authentic regardless of the media they are on,” Nneka said.
“Helping others to reach their potential and keeping them encouraged,” Delceno said.
These two ladies were a true joy to get to know, their thoughts toward empowering everyone, not just women, men, boys or girls, but everyone resonated with us. They will stop at nothing to give a voice to each person they come across, they believe that letting your light shine is so important.
So, let’s shine, embrace the light and carry on their message.
Before you go, a little backstory on these ladies
Born in Newfoundland, growing up between Montreal and Lagos, Nneka’s international upbringing revealed the criticality of access to social and financial capital. It inspired her migration to the United States in pursuit of the American Dream.
As one of three girls in her Computer Science Undergraduate class Nneka is no stranger to being a female in a predominantly male industry. After graduation she started with Optimal Robotics, “we created the first self-checkout system that you see in grocery stores! My role was audio visual design where I helped to design the buttons and the feeling of pressing a button and the sound even though you’re just touching the screen. Out of 40 people, I was the only woman, the only African American woman and I loved working with that team.”
Then she had an opportunity to work for Bell Atlantic and make the move to the states which she had yearned for her whole life. Nneka said, “I had an opportunity to come to the states and work for Bell Atlantic, which ultimately turned into Verizon. My journey went from software developer to account management, and eventually network project management and I was one of the first to work on the Fios project!”
Delceno graduated from Stanford University and went on to opening her own agency in 1989. She was the elected as first African American and only the third woman to service on the Chamber of Commerce in 2002 and still serves on that board today. She was inducted into the 2013 Inaugural Hall of Fame by the Hampton Roads Black Media Professionals. She believes “we want to show young ladies that any path they choose is available to them. This is our time as women, whether it’s owning a business, leading a nonprofit or being president. It’s important to encourage women and young ladies.”
She says her special sauce to success is, “God, family, passion for what I do. My mother who reared three kids as a single parent on a cook’s salary instilled hard work, faith in God and giving back to the community in all of us. We carry those lessons learned.”