The Oct. 10 Women’s Leadership Summit in Jonesboro was kicked off by speaker Shunqetta Cunningham. Cunningham is the CEO and lead strategist for KHARIS Group Consulting and the founder and board president of Over a Cup, an advocacy initiative geared toward Black women in the entrepreneurship space.
Cunningham noted that women often have dreams and goals as children, but abandon them as life gets in the way.
“In our society, culturally and professionally, life happens, right? But my job this morning is to tell you that you can be that woman starting today,” Cunningham said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re 21 or 60, you can reach the ultimate purpose of your life because you have breath in your body.”
Cunningham summed up her advice into three Ts: time, team and trust.
“The number one T and the most undervalued is time,” she said. “Time is the greatest currency all of us have. It is the great equalizer.”
Cunningham made a point to remind women that “no” is a complete sentence.
“Every one of us has a time and a season to do certain things,” Cunningham said. “Many of us want to advance our careers and start the business, but we’re being pulled in so many areas.”
Cunningham then asked audience members to turn to each other and say, “Sis, don’t volunteer for another committee,” and “Sis, you don’t have to be the one responsible for throwing all the retirement parties.”
While the exercise got laughter, Cunningham expounded on its importance.
“What are we doing with our time when other participants are in the boardroom making decisions? We’re in the conference room hanging up balloons,” Cunningham said. “In order for us to ‘get it done,’ we have to treasure the time and space we’re in.”
The second T in Cunningham’s lineup was team. She said women are dying faster to stress-related diseases because they are relying too heavily on themselves.
“People say there is no ‘I’ in ‘team,’ but we are capitalizing that ‘me,’” Cunningham said. “You need a team. You need a village.”
She then encouraged women to “let go of the cape and stop trying to be Superwoman.”
“We have not because we ask not,” Cunningham said. “You need to ask for the support you need. You need to ask for the promotion you deserve. You need to ask for the loan that will help you start your business.”
Building on the concept of teamwork, Cunningham's third T involved trusting one another.
“We have built false narratives that we can’t build community and do things together because women don’t get along. Who said that?” Cunningham said. “I’m centered around women every day that support and lift me up. But we must learn to trust each other.”
Cunningham said with the three Ts and some perseverance through obstacles, goals can be obtained.
“Will you get knocked down? Yes. Will life have its own crooks and turns? Yes. You’ll have some paths to take and some courses to chart,” Cunningham said. “But please know that whatever it is that you decide you want — women, you can get it done.”