Meet Anti-Racism Activist Monique Kelley
And learn how she's pushing for more equity in corporate America
When I put out the call to hear from more anti-racism activists I could feature, Monique Kelley was one of the first to respond. With deep and wide experience in promoting equity, Monique is passionate about using her voice to promote meaningful and lasting change. Please meet Monique…
Monique, what made you become an anti-racism activist?
I grew up in a multiethnic, biracial, dual religion, dual socioeconomic class and dual political affiliation immediate household outside of U.S. Army and Air Force bases in South Jersey. Diversity is nothing new to me. It's all I know. I leverage it as my super power to see who often times feels invisible to others and see what I can do to offer my support.
After moving from NYC, where I worked for 12 years, to Boston, MA, my advocacy and mentorship were requested by Black and other employees in underrepresented groups who faced everything from microaggressions to bullying at work and other macroaggressions. So while I am a Black-Iranian, first-generation American woman and someone in underrepresented communities myself, I have been able to leverage my seniority, voice and influence in the communications industry to support others as well as myself when equity, inclusion and safety were not provided to me.
What anti-racist cause are you most passionate about, and why?
I support inclusion, equity and safety in Corporate America. I have seen first-hand when these are not being served, despite being called a "transformational" leader and senior team member and having the results and impact to show for it. It's 2023. Those before us worked hard enough to earn what we should have never had to fight for. What we are still fighting for now, sadly.
What form does your activism take?
As an Associate Professor of the Practice - Strategic Communication at Boston University, entrepreneur/business owner of Monique Kelley Consulting, LLC, as well as a Founding Member of Chief (Boston), I leverage all of my affiliations and networks to advocate for inclusion and equity in the public relations industry. Change will not come easy. We need to be willing to go against the status quo and speak out if inclusion, equity and safety are not being served. The industry had 1% of black leadership (Harvard Business Review; 2018). If we don't evolve our ways of working to become more inclusive, equitable and safe for all, the statistic won't change. More about my upbringing and professional experiences are in this podcast:
What response have you had to your activism?
I do not have a website intentionally; I consult based on previous clients and referrals. I choose to work with inclusive, equitable and safe companies where I can give my best and help refer others in my network. I have no business working anywhere I do not feel has the best interests of all people, including those in underrepresented groups. Since launching my business, I have had clients seeking me out, some acknowledging my advocacy and support of purpose over the big paycheck.
In terms of anti-racism content, which are your top three articles or social media posts?
The Born On Third Podcast was with the President of Verna Myers' consultancy, Tim Kaelin, someone who is an advocate from New England who believes in doing right by people
This was a social post that I wrote on a Sunday morning last year when I was finally fed up with the disturbing treatment and comments I received at a former job. It resonated with over 5,700 women and supporters and validated for me that I had this privilege of getting up from the table that no longer served me or people who were like me: Two non-negotiables.
This was a recent podcast that I participated in to kick off the new year where I touch on this notion of knowing your worth: Leading with your values.
Share one anti-racism article written by someone else that really made an impact on you.
I often cite the Forbes article by Dana Brownlee reporting on McKinsey’s and LeanIn.org’s 2022 Women In the Workplace Report on "the Great Breakup." Brownlee urges for more support of black women in Corporate America. We are leaving in record high numbers and creating our own businesses, because we feel we have to. It's both inspiring and disappointing at the same time.
In relation to racism, what is your vision for the future?
The more of us leaders who are willing to speak out, stand up for ourselves and others in underrepresented groups - combined with those in the majority who have skin in the game (accountability) to serve as sponsors, mentors and change agents - the more we will see BIPOC and other employees in underrepresented groups advancing in spaces that embrace us, not alienate us.
Is there anything I haven't asked you that you'd like to add?
DEIB will never work unless we do. We all must do our part and treat this like any other business goal - what doesn't get measured doesn't get done.
Thank you, Monique. Folx, I hope you got a lot from this interview. Please feel free to connect with Monique Kelley on LinkedIn.
Thanks for reading,
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That was a powerful Sunday "Note to self". I have to say that the LinkedIn commentator "bros" who chimed in with their what-aboutism, missed the point: THEY don't have the worth diminished simply because of their gender.
Thanks for this interview. It's good to know so many are fighting the good fight.
Inspiring, good for her!! This was the drop mic moment for me:
“The more of us leaders who are willing to speak out, stand up for ourselves and others in underrepresented groups - combined with those in the majority who have skin in the game (accountability) to serve as sponsors, mentors and change agents - the more we will see BIPOC and other employees in underrepresented groups advancing in spaces that embrace us, not alienate us.”