Inside: Q&A on finding your purpose, taking risks, and creating inclusive work environments with professor and founder of The Corporate Sister, Solange Lopes.
I’m beyond excited to introduce you to writer and professor, Solange Lopes! She’s a working mama, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and believer in the magic of fulfillment and purpose for all working women.
Solange finds joy in the classroom as a professor, using her gift for writing, and speaking to fellow women about working and living purposefully all over. Previously, Solange was a Certified Public Accountant in the corporate world. This was a safe and secure path, but not the one that was truly calling to her. Since making a big change in her career, Solange has found the fulfillment she wants to help other moms achieve.
When I first found Solange’s blog, The Corporate Sister, I was immediately drawn to her mission, her writing style, and her story. I know you will too!
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Introducing The Corporate Sister
Becca: Can you tell us a bit about The Corporate Sister? How did it get started; how you have seen it grow and evolve?
Solange: I started The Corporate Sister a few years back, when I was working in Big Corporate as a Certified Public Accountant (the corporate world as I like to call it), to answer my own questions about being a woman at work, especially around being a Black woman in the workplace.
At the time, I was desperately working to move my career forward as a working mama with small kids, a whole husband, no idea how to manage the tough and frankly sexist corporate environment, and my own sense of purpose, balance, and sanity.
I’ve seen The Corporate Sister grow from a small blog with short, sassy posts to a platform where I now get to have a conversation with other working moms, build a business, and learn so much in the process.
Finding Your Purpose
Becca: A big part of your message is finding your purpose. Can you say more about what purpose means to you and how others can find theirs?
Solange: You are right, my message is really anchored in a sense of Purpose, in owning your sense of Purpose.
It took me a long time to figure out Purpose is Power. I learned it the hard way when I had to walk away from my corporate career for lack of fulfillment, and a bizarre, yet strangely familiar sense that something else had been awaiting me on the other side of societal expectations and the need/desire to conform to what everyone else expected of me. Unbeknownst to me, my purpose had always been to teach and write, yet it took what felt like the biggest crisis of my life, walking away from a career, and disrupting everything I had ever known, to come to it.
Purpose is also very personal, but rather than finding it, it’s really a matter of uncovering it. I believe we all are assigned a Purpose, this sense that we are here for a reason, to carry out some not-so-secret mission with our time here. It’s often buried right under the surface of our gifts and talents, in our passions and desires, in our “different” way of viewing the world or doing things.
To anyone wondering about their own purpose, I would say, look within, look at your gifts and talents, look at the activities, tasks, and interactions that energize you, the dreams that give you life. Your Purpose is there, it’s been there all along.
Purpose also grows and evolves, as we ourselves grow and evolve. Depending on the season of your life, it may look like writing a book, or raising your kids, or completing your education. Trust your gut instinct and go where you find energy, meaning, and fulfillment, even if no one else but you can see it.
Becca: What is your biggest piece of advice for women looking to make a career change that might feel risky?
Solange: My biggest piece of advice is to do it afraid! Quite frankly, the fear never goes away, it just gets recycled into more determination and boldness to do the thing that scares us. If I could go back and tell my petrified self a few years back, that it was not only just going to be ok, but that what seemed like a disaster was going to put me on the path of my Purpose, I would in a heartbeat.
Of course, take your precautions. While I’m a big proponent of taking risks, I’m also a big fan of calculated risks. Put money aside, create a contingency plan and budget, and prepare yourself mentally, physically and spiritually, because it’s going to be a change, but in the end, you’ll be glad you did!
Managing Your Time as a Working Mom
Becca: Can you talk a bit about how you manage your time as a busy working mother, professor, writer, and podcaster? A lot of people will hear side hustle and hear “um, I’m already hustling all the time, there is no side!”
Solange: Right, there is no side here, it’s a full-on hustle, especially as a working mom! I still struggle with managing my time effectively, and probably always will, as a self-proclaimed multi-passionate and overachiever. I always start the day with 1,000 ideas of things to do, and have had to learn (the hard way) to budget my time and energy more realistically. For me, that means starting with my highest priority every day.
Now how do you define priorities as a working mama, right? For me, priorities are ranked in order of impact, not urgency. Everything is due yesterday, but what really matters? What is going to make a difference and lasting impact at the end of the day, the month, the year, or even the decade, or after I’m gone?
In my world, it’s making sure I’m spiritually in the right place (prayer first thing is a MUST), making sure my family is ok, that I write every day (even if only for 1 hour), and tackle the task with the highest impact for my work first. It’s also giving myself grace when I fall off the bandwagon and keep moving.
Creating Supportive and Inclusive Work Environments
Becca: I love your post on 7 questions you can ask to hold organizations more accountable for inclusiveness and diversity. What other advice do you have for working mothers advocating to create supportive and inclusive work cultures?
Solange: Thank you! I think a large part of it is fighting for equitable representation. Someone once said “You can’t be what you can’t see”, and I would say there’s a lot of truth in it.
For us as working moms, it’s so important to advocate for other working moms. If you’re in the room, and there is no one who looks like you or shares similar circumstances or your identity, there’s a problem. As women, we’ve been conditioned to believe that there is only room for one or a few of us at important tables. Yet, it’s crucial for us to fight to open the doors and make space at the tables we sit at for other women. When we advocate for our peers, we advocate for ourselves.
As a Black woman, it’s so important for me to hold that door open, to ask why there aren’t other Black women in the room, and how we can increase the representation at all levels in our organizations and society. As a mama, it’s paramount that I raise my kids in an inclusive home, where they can be themselves, and accept others as they are.
Becca: What’s your favorite piece you’ve ever written and why?
Solange: My favorite piece? That’s a tough one, I’m a bit biased towards all of them (smiles). I would say one of my most recent that spoke to me, especially in light recent racial justice issues and events is this one, Ain’t I A Woman?: The double-bind of Black women at the intersection of race and gender.
90’s Kids Raising Kids
Becca: Time for a little fun! I make A LOT of 90s references here as a proud elder millennial. Can we do some 90s favorites rapid style? Musician, TV show, fashion trend!
Solange: Wow! This is taking me way back! Ok, so my favorite musician from the 90’s, definitely Madonna! Fashion trend? My favorite were acid wash jeans, I was rocking those like no tomorrow! And can we just have a minute of silence for 90210 and my forever crush Luke Perry? (May he Rest In Peace)
Becca: Last question! Any piece of parental wisdom you’d like to drop on us? My go-to piece of advice is “none of us know what we’re doing” so it’s a low bar!
Solange: Well, I’m not too far from you here! My best piece of parental advice is that our kids would rather a happy mom than a perfect mom. My priority is to be happy with and for them. Perfection is overrated!
I already thought Solange was pretty amazing before peppering her with questions, but now I’m even more sold! I bet you are too.
For support and resources for finding your purpose, creating a fulfilling life as a working mom, and diversity and inclusion, check out The Corporate Sister. You can also subscribe to Solange’s newsletter and follow her on Instagram at @thecorporatesister. I’ll be seeing you there as we all follow along with Solange’s journey and soak in her wisdom.
Thank you, Solange!