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Q&A with Sandra Hunter

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Sandra Hunter , CEO and Owner @Wild Women Leaders of Color WBENC

How could you describe your career path in few words?

I’ve been a professor of Critical Thinking and Creative Writing for nineteen years and loved teaching. But throughout my years of teaching, I’ve faced consistent racial and gender bias. I also witnessed women of color colleagues, as well as administrative, custodial and maintenance and operations staff go through the same.

Most troubling was seeing many women of color graduate students who were bright, creative, and well-credentialed. They knew how to interview and score the job but would then struggle to transition into their careers as they faced the same gender and racial bias. Consistently receiving biases undermined their job productivity and deeply affected their ability to develop professionally.

I decided to do something about this gap between educational institutions and the early vulnerable stages of young women’s careers. I pivoted away from teaching and launched Wild Women Leaders of Color and the Stealth Auntie Network. WWLoC teaches professional women to release workplace induced stress using somatic techniques. They learn how to re-establish ancestral connections so they can be centered in their story and authentic self-worth. They learn how to deflect overt and covert workplace biases that are other people’s stories—not theirs. Having learned how to manage their bodies through stress and being rooted in self-confidence they can train as Stealth Aunties -- mentors -- and are introduced in mentorship relationships to young school and college leavers. Stealth Aunties operate individually, and do not work for young career women’s employers. With a professional and objective perspective, Stealth Aunties help young women transition successfully into their workplace, passing on body management and centering strategies, as well as their professional hard-won wisdom so that young women can gain crucial traction into strong career trajectories. Stealth Aunties can also help young career women target and approach sponsors, usually upper management or consultancy, who can introduce them to other influential people, and advocate for them in job reviews or in board meetings where decisions about raises, bonuses, professional development and promotional opportunities are decided. And we know that all bonuses are not created equal so having someone to advocate is critical. As a team, the Stealth Auntie mentor and the sponsor provide the critical substructure for the success of young career women—and can effectively help to reduce the overall impact of workplace stressors.

What was your most challenging experience and it has changed your mindset?

Starting my business! Like many entrepreneurs, I didn’t know what I was getting into. I had a dream – a passion. Also, I started a business when I was meant to be retiring gracefully from teaching. Having a dream and make it a reality are two wildly discrete concepts. I learned:

  • I had to have a Facebook business page, a Facebook group page, an active LinkedIn account. I drew the line at Instagram, Twitter and Tik Tok.

  • how to handle marketing – which was new and, frankly, unpleasant. I hated being the “seller” of programs, and having to generate chirpy pre-event and post-event emails.

  • how to use Canva, Calendly, AWeber, Eventbrite.

  • how to write blog posts and articles with what’s known in the business as “valuable content.”

I also had to learn how to give talks. I thought my years of being a professor would help, but even students who don’t have their cameras on aren’t as intimidating as that camera’s tiny green light. Who was I talking to? And was anyone there? The single overwhelmingly positive factor was—and is--meeting and working with the women who come to me with stress induced by workplace biases, conflict management, parenting, health, and leadership. They are not victims: they are powerful, innovative, collaborative and endlessly generous women who have been undermined and critically reduced and disempowered. My job is to hold up a mirror and remind them of who they actually are and what they can achieve. Starting a business changed me from thinking I had to succeed at everything – which I definitely didn’t (and don’t) do -- to understanding that the vicissitudes of running a business were just that: changes. And that instead of feeling afraid of what my family or other people might think, I found strength in vulnerability and being prepared to be myself. It’s a relief that I can lead a workshop or teach a program and not have to “perform.” And the cohort of friends I’ve met during marketing trainings, programs and conferences are my cheer-leading team.

Based on your experience, what’s the key success factor for a female leader / manager?

For me, the most important factor to being a leader is knowing that leading isn’t about being in front or being on a platform above everyone. Often, the women in my programs and I are learning concepts at the same time. I’m currently in two training programs, Shirzad Chamine’s Positive Intelligence and Resmaa Menakem’s Somatic Abolitionism. Often I’ll share concepts with my clients I’m learning. For example, self-actualization is the most so you’re able to look back and ask: who did I become or how did I treat people? Similarly, women I work with bring ideas and wisdom to group or one-on-one sessions. For example, we’ve discussed Veda Austin’s The Secret Intelligence of Water, a blend of art and science. Whether or not we agree about water having intelligence, we are open to exploring something that, individually, we might dismiss. It’s my job to synthesize information and ideas, and open doors into new possibilities of problem-solving. Our groups are like being a collective, well-informed and well-decorated hermit crab!

Leadership is, primarily, about vulnerability and the ongoing ability to learn rather than being entrenched or blocked by anxieties or past hurts. Insisting on one methodology for problem solving or conflict resolution can be damaging for everyone. It’s crucial to learn how to reframe what might be considered a disaster into a creative opportunity for change or, as Shirzad Chamine says—a gift.

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