Jordan J. Coleman
A Seat At the Table
- What motivated the founding of A Seat At The Table, and why do you believe now is the right time for an organization such as this?
A Seat At The Table was birthed out of my own adversities working in corporate America. I found myself being overqualified at most tables, but oftentimes overlooked. I watched women of color be classified as angry instead of passionate and oftentimes never given a space to lead. I fought for women who looked like me to have a voice and a seat at the table during my time in corporate, but it was not enough.
I had a thought; instead of complaining about not having a seat, why not create my own table? In 2018, I started A Seat At The Table as a conversation for women of color. This first event sold out and I quickly learned that I was not alone in this journey of reaching the glass ceiling.
I believe that women of color belong at tables that move change and eradicate structures that limit access to upward mobility for women. I am committed to creating safe spaces to address the barriers and create outcomes that will eliminate them.
I believe that women of color belong at tables that move change and eradicate structures that limit access to upward mobility for women. I am committed to creating safe spaces to address the barriers and create outcomes that will eliminate them. The first barrier that exists for women of color is addressing the lack of support and advancement from white women. Studies have shown that white women are less likely to promote or advocate for women of color. Yet, women of color are the creative beings that advances many organizations.
According to the article Women in the Workplace 2021, women of color are still facing the same microaggressions they were two years ago, and white women are no more likely to speak out against discrimination as it relates to women of color. This translates to women of color only accounting for 4% of c-suite leadership positions. Consequently, our workplace pay, creativity, and capacity to express authenticity are influenced, ultimately extending into our home environments. We are truly the blueprint for companies and the future. It’s important that we, black women, understand the power we truly have at the table and create space for other women at the table.
- You’ve outlined 4 core pillars in your organization, Why those pillars? Mental health, youth, advocacy, and period poverty.
Mental health is one of the most important elements when working with women of color, specifically black women. We experience microaggressions, discriminatory practices, and the constant reminder that we have to be twice as good and twice as qualified to get ahead. Being a black woman can be filled with a high amount of grief. I created Sis, Exhale as a space for women to come and heal. Working with teens is truly my passion! I have worked with youth since 2007 in some capacity. My work with teens is directly related to creating a safe space for them to be vulnerable and discover who they could be. I believe life circumstances alter our true purpose at times. I believe in providing a space where they feel seen and safe to evolve, holistically, into the best version of themselves. Sometimes this may simply mean helping them come to school everyday and participating in class. Maybe it’s refraining from getting into a fight.
The other 2 pillars are Advocacy and Eradicating Period Poverty. In the period poverty initiative space we help women and teen girls by providing clean (chemical free) feminine hygiene products at no cost. We identify those in need by connecting with local schools and community organizations. This work helps to eliminate the financial barrier of purchasing feminine hygiene products and providing relief to those in need.
Advocacy has always been the groundwork of our mission. Under this pillar we support women of color by creating spaces for women to discuss micro aggressions, systemic racism, the glass ceiling, and allyship. It has been proven that HR departments are not safe spaces for women of color. They fail to provide support and an environment conducive to understand one’s concerns.
- What values do you believe a good leader should possess?
Compassion, transparency, servitude, vulnerability, and the ability to be nimble. The best leaders are those who hold value in treating the janitor with the same respect as the CEO. A good leader is committed to serving their community and is always learning and willing to expand their knowledge.
- What has contributed to your commitment for women and girls?
In high school I was severely bullied. I remember girls following me home from school, waiting for me outside of my classroom when the bell rang, waiting in the parking lot until I got off work, and egging my car the day after I had heart surgery. I went through a period where I hated black girls because they hated me.
As I matured, I began to do my own heart work. I realized that our sisterhood needed healing and the best place to start was with teen girls. I love to help a young girl see her potential and overcome the need to live in a negative space, which is often a response to some kind of trauma that hasn’t been addressed.
Working in the corporate space enlightened me to the great divide between white women and women of color. Even more so amongst black women. My experience taught me that black women don’t always create a seat for you at the table, which I thought was rooted in malice. I came to understand that they are often engaged in their own struggles to secure their positions at that table. This realization deeply affected me. As a result, I am dedicated to uniting women of color and striving to dismantle the idea that having just one person at the table is sufficient.
- What’s been the highlight in doing this work?
I have a few, but I would have to say when I see women attend our mental health event and truly release. Another highlight is working with teenage girls. I pride my organization on creating a safe space. With teens you often don’t know if you are helping them because they won’t tell. One of my teens shared at our All Girls Day that I changed her life. It was heartwarming to hear because you sometimes wonder if the work is making an impact.
- Who are some of the women who have made a significant impact on your life?
I have had the pleasure of meeting some phenomenal women who not only support, but they also advocate for me. All of them left something with me that changed my life for the better. Carolyn Mosby attended my very first A Seat At The Table event. She was on time and I was running behind with set up. She walked in and I felt embarrassed that we weren’t prepared. She didn’t say anything negative, she smiled and sat down. After the event she emailed me to let me know she was impressed with my work and wanted to meet for coffee. Since then Carolyn has been a supporter of the work for my organization. Jennifer McCloud and Kim Bostic have taught me so much in a short period of time. During my time as an intern for the Indiana State Senate, I worked for Mary Linda Hays. I was in my junior year of college and still learning my place in the world. I worked in an internship program where I was one of the only black women. It was intimidating, but I showed up and did my best every day. I was selected to work on Mary Linda’s team, which was an honor. She spent many moments teaching me how to show up and how to be confident in who I am.
Everyday she affirmed me and never allowed me to believe I wasn’t qualified to be in the room.
Everyday she affirmed me and never allowed me to believe I wasn’t qualified to be in the room. She taught me about wealth and what wealth truly looked like. She believed that I would change the world and she created space for me to evolve into who I am today.
- What song can you be found listening to at any given time?
- Keep Your Head Up- Tupac
- Good Day- Surfaces
- You Mean The World To Me- Toni Braxton
- What book can always be found on your bookshelf?
- Lead From The Outside- Stacey Abrams
- We Are Not Like Them- Christine Pride & Jo Piazza
- Big Idea Food- Marlena Banks