Leadership starts with a woman

Hang Black, activist for women in the workplace, honored at the inaugural Eileen Peters Farley ‘68 speakers series

Neha Seenarine, Associate Arts & Life Editor

Quinnipiac People’s United Center for Women & Business gave business leader Hang Black the Impact Award for her positive influence on female leaders. Photo contributed by David C Lee Photography.

A powerful leader striving for a better future walks through the door. Who did you imagine? Did you see a white man in a dry-cleaned suit or a Vietnamese woman with purple hair?

Hang Black is the vice president of global revenue enablement at Juniper Network. She advocates for leadership for women in the workplace, restructuring the way women should be included.

“There’s been a lot of effort (improving the workplace for women), a lot of programs have been designed without the target audience included in the design,” Black said.

The Quinnipiac People’s United Center for Women & Business honored Black with the Impact Award at its inaugural Eileen Peters Farley ‘68 speakers series on March 30. The series was in memory of Farley’s legacy in the Quinnipiac community as one of two women that took business classes in the mid-1960s.

Farley’s daughter, Jessica Geis, expressed the impact her mother made.

“Her superpower was not only in her relentless work ethic and her incredible resourcefulness but also in seeing the amazing potential in others and giving them the courage to believe in themselves and take risks while she cheered and paved a road to success,” wrote Geis in a LinkedIn post, reflecting on the speaker series.

Farley paved the way for women in business, and Black is doing the same decades later advocating for women to be heard in the workplace.

“These ladies of QU had attended the Converge Technology Solutions EmpowHer event I moderated last year,” Geis wrote. Our keynote speaker was Hang Black. (Dr. Kiku Jones, Dr. Julia Fullick-Jagiela and Hannah Hejmowski) read Hang’s book and unanimously voted her as the esteemed recipient of the Impact Award.”

Black encourages women to embrace their unique identity in the workplace even though the corporate world was not made with them in mind.

“Meritocracy works for a while when you’re an individual contributor,” Black said. “It is really important to think about networking and branding which is uncovering uncomfortable … I’ve just learned to do it in a way that’s not only authentic but vulnerable and compassionate. This is the benefit of having more females in leadership, this is what powerful feminine adds to the equation.”

Black learned to throw out the formulas that were written for white men to succeed. She emphasized networking with who you know and climbing the ladder. She overcame adversity by navigating through the dark without inheriting access.

“What do brown people do when they’re not succeeding? Put your head down and work harder,” Black said. “I worked myself to the (emergency room) twice. On the cab back, I was like, ‘OK, no more. Something’s got to change.’ Life is giving you signals that I’ve just not been listening to. These formulas for success out there don’t work for people like us, because they were not written for people like us by people like us, who share our human experience.”

Black did not stop fighting when she was hit with a whirlwind of obstacles — her parents’ deaths, three layoffs, a move across the country, involvement with a lawsuit and a few burglaries. She decided enough was enough.

“I really disliked the phrase ‘Don’t be afraid to fail,’ it’s a very privileged statement,” Black said. “With the adversity that I’ve had, I cannot really afford to fail, but what I would say to my younger self is it’s OK to experiment.”

Each guest from the event was given a copy of Black’s book, “Embrace Your Edge.” Black noted that someone without access must establish trust and competence.

“Mistrust of misfits is biological,” Black wrote. “And the only way to fix it, is to flip the script … As a minority woman without access, you’re already starting on the backfoot … You can’t control bias, but you can definitely control your output.”

Black emphasizes that the journey to success is not given, but earned.

“(Access is) not an invitation to the room, and inclusion does not ensure access,” Black said. “Do you know your role in the room? Are you serving? Are you sitting? Are you speaking? And for me, I’m standing for myself.”