Minda Harts built her own table and invites countless women of color to join her for a feast. She’s the founder and CEO of The Memo, a career subscription platform designed to advance women of color professionally through mentorship, educational tools, and networking. Her work is featured in several major outlets including NBC, Forbes, and ESSENCE, just to name a few. Minda was nominated in 2016 as a Change Maker at the White House State of Women Summit.
The Southern California native moved to the Chicagoland area as a teen. She later earned a Bachelor’s degree in communications and a Masters in business administration. In 2017 she established an Endowed Scholarship for Women of Color at Western Illinois University and serves as a mentor at the General Assembly in New York City. She travels across the country facilitating workshops and serving as keynote at corporations like Time Inc.
She’s a one-woman show sharing the spotlight with women of color.
Tyler: What experience(s) in your life led you to devote your time and mission to help women achieve their professional goals?
In 2012, I was experiencing some ugly truths in the workplace that were new to me, like negotiating a higher salary, navigating workplace politics, and all those career-related things that can become frustrating. I remember thinking, I wish there was a career platform for women of color; one that addresses our needs in the workplace. I wanted to know what other women of color were experiencing as they climb the ladder; be it good or bad I could learn from them. And that’s what sparked, The Memo. I wanted a space where women of color could hear and share experiences and have access to career tools that would help them move forward. It’s hard to be what you can’t see. I didn’t launch our first career boot camp until a couple years later, but the wheels started turning!
Tyler: Name a few of the hurdles WOC encounter in business and in the workplace.
Women of color face many challenges in business and in the workplace. First, the wage gap. We make anywhere from 58 to 68 cents on the dollar. We are doing equal work and sometimes working harder, and receiving less pay than white men and women. It can be a bit overwhelming, as we are the most educated group in the country, yet, we don’t have proper representation in many spaces. These are hurdles, but just like Flo Jo, we are capable of jumping over them. I always look at hurdles as a new opportunity. We have to figure out how to make these challenges–opportunities. Acknowledging they are real, but not allowing these challenges to stop us from our finish line.
Tyler: Studies show women of color are less likely to be promoted to senior positions than other women and their male colleagues. What are your tips for overcoming workplace bias?
I am glad we are having more dialogue around unconscious and conscious bias in the workplace because it’s a thing and one that can’t be ignored! The other part of this narrative is one that we don’t talk enough about…our power! Sometimes we work so hard to get a seat at the table, that we never consider is “this table” the best table for us. Perhaps “our table” is in another state or across the street. Know when it’s time to leave and never be afraid to walk away. There will be some environments that you will never be able to change and don’t waste your good years in a company that is not invested in your success. We hold more power than we might think!
Tyler: Tell us about your inspiration for The Memo.
After Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg came out I realized we need our own version and decided to step up to the plate and work toward equality for women of color in the workplace. Everything I do comes from four places: balance, generosity, integrity, and resilience. My favorite quote is, “They ask me what I do and who I do it for…” My answer is women of color. They inspire me to keep fighting for us!
Tyler: What can subscribers expect after signing up?
The Weekly Memo is our career and inspiration “memo” that comes out every Monday. Then we have a suite of career boot camps, live and pre-recorded to help women of color advance in their career. Our main product is Memo in a Box. A digital Career Subscription that sends a new career boot camp to your inbox each month.
Tyler: Where do you see your platform in the next five years?
In five years, I want The Memo to be the premier career site for women of color. Whatever their career needs are, we can help them solve it. I envision, when a WOC says, “I have a problem with x in my career” and the other woman says, “Girl you better get The Memo”. But, all jokes aside, we are launching an enterprise vertical that helps companies engage their women of color in the workplace. We want to help women of color and companies close the gap on workplace politics and create a culture that advances women of color.
Tyler: In 2017, you locked down your first book deal for THE MEMO which debuts in 2019. How did you land the deal and what is the book about?
I am humbled by the opportunity to write a business book for us by us and tell our stories as women of color in the workplace. I feel a great sense of privilege to share stories that might never get told. It all goes back to reading Lean In and not feeling like I was part of that narrative. I wondered if there were other women of color that felt the same way. As Toni Morrison said, “If there is a book you want to read, but hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” There were a lot of moving pieces, but by May 2017, I had a literary agent, by the end of the summer I finished the proposal, and by December 2017 we closed a deal. As I reflect back on this process, God was doing his thing. As a first time author, it’s not lost on me that book deals don’t happen every day for black writers. I want to write a successful book that also helps open the door for future women of color. The process happened fast, but the conversations that led up to it were very difficult. That is another book!
Tyler: Tell us about the women that have inspired you both personally and professionally.
I am inspired by the women in my family each and every day. Outside of them, I am inspired by everyday women. The women that get up and make it happen without the fanfare or the followers. The women who quietly plot their moves and execute them. I am inspired by women who care about the impact over the fame. Those are the women I draw my inspiration from.
Tyler: What advice can you give women struggling to find their life’s purpose?
Mellody Hobson has a TED talk and she said, “Just add bravery.” Whatever you feel is your calling, you owe it to yourself to go down that path to see what awaits you! And that process requires bravery.
Tyler: On your toughest days or in the moments when you’re feeling defeated, what keeps you motivated?
Psalms 23. The part in verse four, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” We all have valleys and hills, that is called life, but if you know you have a higher calling, it helps you get through those moments.
Tyler: Finish this sentence. I am most confident when ________________________________.
I am helping other women get closer to their career goals.
Tyler: Which quote or mantra best describes your life’s journey?
“Revolution is not a one-time event.” -Audre Lorde
Tyler: What advice can you give to women who are out there hustling, pounding the pavement yet feeling discouraged because they haven’t had a breakthrough?
Never underestimate your ability to execute! You are your best resource, talent, and advocate. Don’t be afraid to bet on you!
Tyler: Why do you feel it’s important for WOC to collaborate and build our own ecosystems?
I am a huge proponent of collaboration. The best songs are the ones that had the right collaboration. Business is no different. Fabolous said, “Everybody calm down, there’s enough to go around, you just gotta say how much you want.” More women of color need to grab a hold of that gem and stop functioning in a scarcity mentality in 2018. That way of thinking is expired! There are systemic issues in the workplace, and they all can’t be solved overnight. In the meantime, never be afraid to level up and enhance your skill set. And, when you make it to the table, it’s your duty to create a seat for another woman that looks like you! That is how we change the ratio!