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Women are on the rise in the corporate world, pushing against the glass ceiling in new ways, from new CEOs to rising young entrepreneurs. Here to chat with Bernardo about female advancement, connection, and community in the business world is Columbia Business School graduate and #boldlybound champion Ashia Johnson, aka @ashiasydneyj. She's an influencer making waves throughout the marketing community while rocking truly awesome fashion and bold style.

Let's start big picture. What are the challenges of being a woman, and a woman of color, in the corporate world?

I can’t speak on behalf of all womxn of color working in corporate environments, I do believe there are many experiences and cycles of feelings that WOC collectively experience during the journey. For example, the feeling of discomfort that many are now feeling during this unprecedented time is a feeling that is all too common for many WOC. Advocacy is a big part of the experience, for me, and it begins with myself; no one is going to fight harder for you than YOU.

Who has inspired you most along your career path?

I’m fortunate to have two amazing parents who have carved their own corporate paths, defeating the odds to build a life they could only imagine for themselves. I’d like to call-out my mom for being the first Black female superintendent at one of General Motor’s assembly plants in Ohio. I remember days when she would rush home to ensure my brother and I were settled into homework and preparing for bed, then she would get called back into work late into the night. Based on her example, I’m reminded to stay rooted in what matters and to think about the importance of being human-centered as a leader.

Mentoring young people and especially young Black womxn is important to me and today, I mentor through programs like Built by Girls and the Seattle Girls’ School Mentor Program

How do you see women supporting other women in the workplace? 

I love seeing womxn supporting other womxn through the amplification of perspective and voice including reposts, collaborations, etc. A beautiful example of this is through the work of Future For Us. Today, there are many platforms where womxn are creating content and connecting with the world while creating space and opportunity. I’m a strong believer in the idea that when we see each other, when we uplift and support one another, we all benefit and prosper. 

In light of what’s happening throughout the country right now, what black-own businesses do you look to?

Gaining perspective is so important during a time like now and frankly always. We should always seek diverse thought leadership and seek to better understand. The simple act of seeking to better understand can result in increased empathy for someone, driving us to be more human. Furthermore, to change behavior, we must be intentional, not only from the business perspective but on a personal level. Being intentional means thinking about the books you read, the media you consume, the businesses you support, the relationships you cultivate, the spaces you occupy.

There are many great resources to help those along their anti-racism and perspective-building journey, including podcasts such as Code Switch and Still Processing, books such as The Color of Law, So You Want to Talk About Race, and Between the World and Me, and films such as I Am Not Your Negro. I’ve always admired Aurora Jamesfor her brand mission and support of small batch production, and even more so now as a leader of the 15 percent pledge.

As a brand dedicated to sustainability, talk about what it means for you to support sustainable brands. 

Over the past five years or so, I’ve been more drawn to the feeling of discovery when shopping small and second-hand as well as supporting local and Black-owned. When it comes to sustainability, I look for brands that are socially-conscious and aware, placing emphasis and value on the people making the products. Naturally, I’ve consumed less overtime and have limited consumption to things that spark joy across all product categories and especially clothing. Now, if I purchase clothes or fashion pieces, oftentimes I’m more sold on the founder story and the mission than the product alone. These purchases make me feel I’m contributing to something bigger than myself and a broader community.  

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