Meet the former social media manager for luxury fashion brands like Prada and Barney's who's launching a new virtual mentorship program for Black professionals
- Candace Marie Stewart spent some 10 years in the corporate world before starting her own social media consultancy for luxury fashion brands.
- Over the course of her career, she encountered systemic racism.
- Specifically, she recalled having to work harder than her white colleagues for the same recognition and being passed up for promotions or jobs she was more than qualified for because she lacked a connection at the company to vouch for her.
- To help other Black people navigating the corporate world, Stewart is launching a virtual mentorship program called Black in Corporate.
- She also runs an Instagram account by the same name that offers career advice aimed at people of color.
Before Candace Marie Stewart started her own social media consultancy, she spent 10 years in the corporate world. She had a brief stint in finance and worked at a few media outlets, including Essence and Refinery29, before pivoting to direct social media for brands like Barney's and Prada.
Though she successfully built a name for herself at a young age, the experience trying to climb the corporate ladder tested her willpower.
Without disclosing specific company names, Stewart said there were numerous times in her career when she felt like she had to work harder for the same recognition as her white colleagues. She also discussed repeatedly being passed up for jobs or promotions she was more than qualified for. And she often found herself without a mentor at the office.
The experience left Stewart feeling "distraught," she told Business Insider.
So the millennial decided she wanted to help Black people who find themselves without mentors at work. She created a virtual program pairing Black professionals with seasoned leaders and executives.
"I for sure feel that systemic racism made it so that it took longer for me to get to where I am," Stewart told Business Insider. "I feel like the actual time frame would have been shorter to get to where I am now, had I had more available to me."
Women of color are the least likely to have mentors or sponsors (someone who actively advocates on their behalf) in the workplace, according to joint research by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org.
A 2019 study titled "Being Black in Corporate America" surveyed more than 3,700 professionals of all races and found that 58% of Black people indicated they felt racism at play in the office. Black women, specifically, are also less likely than other women to feel that promotions are fair and objective.
The virtual mentorship program, called Black in Corporate, is meant to help fill this gap. Stewart and a team of millennial Black women have assembled over 50 senior leaders in a range of industries — from the nonprofit sector to finance — who will each mentor two young Black professionals over six months.
"I really feel there's a lack of mentorship in the corporate sector for Black individuals that don't come from wealthy or very connected backgrounds," she said.
Not having equitable access to networking and mentorship opportunities can lead to burnout for Black individuals, Stewart said.
Perhaps, this is why demand for the program has been "overwhelming," according to Stewart.
"The virtual mentorship program is growing so rapidly," Stewart said. "We received applications even before we even promoted it on social media."
When asked what her ultimate goal is, she responded that she hopes the program results in authentic, life-long connections.
"I want there to be a purposeful relationship that comes for both the mentor and mentee," she said.
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