From a Double Minority to a Double Threat: An ode to women of color on the global stage in honor of Women’s History Month

World-savviness, cosmopolitan qualities, and a Raigan's blog 1well-traveled resume are the essentials to carry along in your briefcase on your journey to a career in global affairs.  As women of color, we’re already equipped with a high level of finesse, confidence, and magic, so the world is ours to conquer…better yet, to change! It’s time we change the label of “double minority” to “double threat”; being a woman X being Black, Latino, Asian, Arab, etc. It’s imperative to make the most of opportunities that cultivate us into the global leaders we aspire to be. Inclusion and representation for women of color in the global development sphere are essential.

Whether your goal is to be a global citizen or leader, international experience on your resume it a key differentiator that employers use to weed out candidates. Global experience in the form of study abroad, internships, or service learning, like the Field Fellow program offered by Profugo, can heighten your global/social awareness. As a woman of color, a little glitter sprinkled over your credentials never hurt.

Diverse representation in the realm of foreign service and global development is much needed. Women of color are breaking glass ceilings and diversifying the field in the process. Harriet Lee Elam-Thomas is a retired U.S. ambassador with over four decades of experience in the U.S. Foreign Service. From 2000 to 2002, she was appointed as the U.S. ambassador to Senegal.

While in college, Elam-Thomas visited France in 1962. “They welcomed me in such a way that I had not been welcomed like I have value…I felt really empowered. I was 18 or 19 at the time,” Elam-Thomas tells the Minnesota Spokesman Reader. This experience led her to partake in global career opportunities, seeking to change the professional perception of African American women and other minorities in the process.

In her 2017, memoir Diversifying Diplomacy, Elam-Thomas describes her experiences as an African American woman in the foreign service and understanding societal values in the U.S. and abroad.  She continues to advocate and provide opportunities for women in globally-focused careers, despite not having an example of a woman of color in her field when she was younger.

Elam-Thomas says, “Every new Secretary of State…for the last 40-some years [has] merely given lip service to the whole idea of diversity,” as she told the Minnesota Spokesman Reader. She also continues to bring awareness to the lack of diversity in foreign service which has been evident for years and is not new, even among the opposing views of the current presidential administration.

Double threats, like Elam-Thomas, continue to trail blaze Raigan's blog 2the path for women like myself. In my own right, I am a double threat and a global leader. To me, the term “double threat” is a fierce remix on the stereotypical term “double minority”. As an African American woman, born and raised in Baltimore, MD, I was always surrounded by people that looked and talked like me. Baltimore is a diverse city, yet it is very segregated in which ethnic communities live within their own clusters throughout the city.

I always felt as “other” when I entered non-Black spaces and conversations. I was, and still am, conscious of what the world would think of me based on the color of my skin, the kink of my hair, and the slang of my speech. Although I always dreamed of traveling, my insecurities developed by systems of oppression and discrimination blocked any real efforts to experience life outside of my community, the Black community.

It wasn’t until college that I had my “coming of culture” moment. I attended Morgan State University, a historically black college or university (HBCU). At Morgan State, I was finally the majority. I felt more at home than ever before. My culture, ethnic phenotype, and accomplishments were celebrated and nurtured. During my sophomore year in college, I felt that I grew to be confident, unapologetic, and outspoken. Thus, I was ready to embark on an adventure into a foreign land and community where I’d now feel empowered to be seen as “other”.

My global experiences have exposed me to more than I could ever imagine. My way of thinking and views of the world have evolved. I feel like a re-born person in terms of my beliefs, values, and practices. These experiences are the precursor to my future, professionally and personally. I truly believe that exposure equals mentality. Before partaking in any global endeavors, you must consider how confident and secure you are in your personal journey of self and cultural acceptance before experiencing another culture.

It is also important to consider the unspoken connection you Raigan's blog 3have to other cultures through the plight of racial discrimination and systemic oppression. Though these are not the most positive of connections, it can certainly deepen your perspective on how these issues stretch across cultures. In order to respectfully navigate a country and culture different from your own, it is imperative to be culturally and socially aware.

Life as a woman of color can be exciting and challenging all at once and so can international travel. The thought of leaving the comfort of your own community can add to the anxiety of embarking on a journey that takes you around the world. In the process, you’ll gain rich and fulfilling experiences that shape your personal perspective and professional goals. Taking the opportunity to expand your views of the world, global awareness can ultimately be reached.

In our quest for a globally-focused society, it is important to continuously question and reject systems of oppression and racism. As global citizens and leaders, it is our job to advocate and push for minority representation. In closing thought, we are dismissing society’s label of double minority and turning it into a double threat. Women of color are twice the force to be reckoned with!

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