“What does it mean to have a seat at the table?” was the theme for The Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce’s virtual Women in the C – Suite conference on November 4.  Décor Interior Design Chief Executive Officer Ronda Jackson moderated the hour-long discussion that centered on the topics of what it takes to maintain a successful career, open doors for other women and propel the next generation of women leaders. Panelists included Sydney Kamlager, Assemblywoman, 54th District; Kim Carter, partner, Kelley Drye, LLP; Christine Keith, resident, Elite Auto Network; Tameka Raymond, founder, Cult De Jour; and Halleemah Nash, founder, Rosecrans Ventures.

“It’s not an understatement to say, Blacks – particularly Black women – are the backbone and moral compass for this country,” said GLAAACC Chairman Gene Hale, during opening remarks for the conference.  “For the past three years, we’ve hosted this conference to acknowledge the contribution of Black women leaders and provide an opportunity for them to share their knowledge.”

Southern California Edison (SCE) has been the presenting sponsor since the first Women in the C-Suite event in 2017. Support for this event is part of SCE’s commitment to supplier diversity, including $20 million in charitable giving to support organizations in the areas of emergency preparedness and response and environmental stewardship education and civic and leadership engagement.

Representing SCE, Principal Manager of Government Relations Qiana Charles, welcomed viewers by quoting poet and activist, Maya Angelou. “Each time a woman stands for herself without knowing it, possibly without claiming it, she stands for all women and we know that when women support each other, incredible things happen.”

Moderator, Ronda Jackson is a certified interior designer, licensed contractor, entrepreneur and small business advocate.  Jackson led the panel discussion with a well-rounded series of questions, ranging from mentorship and sponsorship for women leaders, to career lessons and traits for success and career-defining moments.

A self-described people strategist, panelist, Haleemah Nash, launched Rosecrans Ventures, a talent development firm that provides coaching, and program design to assist Generation Z with career development, in 2019.  In charting a career path, Nash noted it is important to distinguish between a mentor and a sponsor.

“Mentors are the people that really guide your success. They give you direction and show you what the pathway should be,” Nash said.  “A sponsor is a person that ensures your success.  They put their network on the line to ensure that you’re in a successful space.  My sponsor was the person that brought my name and my talent into the room.”

Designer and fashion stylist, Tameka Raymond, warned women to be careful how they react to career challenges.  As a personal stylist, Raymond has worked with many top entertainers, including Lauryn Hill, Jay-Z, Usher, Toni Braxton, Ciara, Patty LaBelle and Nas.

“Don’t major in the minors. There’s the thing that happened and then there’s the way you react to it. You’re the one in control of your reactions.”

Raymond also noted that a huge hinderance for African American women is a mindset of scarcity.  She encouraged viewers not to shy away from referring or elevating other women.

Labor and employment attorney, Kim Carter, is a partner in at nation-wide law firm Kelley Drye, LLP.  Originally starting out as a tax attorney, Carter found her niche in labor and employment and has been working in that practice for the past 15 years.  She advised women to take time to reflect on what they are doing and if it is the right path for them.

“You can be on the road for a very long time and not truly appreciate that this may not even be what you want to do,” said Carter.  “Be still and appreciate what’s going on around you and focus on what your goals are.”

Elite Automotive President Christine Keith said a valuable lesson she has learned is to ask “why” when outcomes aren’t in her favor.  Managing the fleet division of an automotive brokerage agency, Keith regularly submits proposals to public agencies, municipalities and corporations.  Each time she is not awarded a contract, she requests a meeting to discuss the reason and how the proposal could have been more responsive or a better fit for the client.

Representing the 54th Assembly District since 2015, Sydney Kamlager has been focused on issues of equity and the criminal court system.  Kamlager said “remaining respectful and listening is crucial for men and women in the workplace.”

“You don’t have to get along.  You don’t have like someone, but you should certainly treat everyone with respect,” Kamlager said.

“Once again, GLAAACC has gathered a panel of women who are at the top of their game in Corporate America and in the public sector, to share stories from their journey as a way to keep each other encouraged and shine a light on the path for the next generation of women leaders,” said GLAAACC Vice chairperson and JKH Consulting CEO Jamarah Hayner.

GLAAACC’s Women in the C-Suite was presented by Southern California Edison.  Sponsors include Southern California Gas Co., California Resources Corporation, Union Bank, and Valero.   To learn more about GLAAACC events and networking opportunities, or to become a member, visit GLAAACC.org.