A smiling woman leaning forward over a game of chess

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This morning, as I clicked “End Call” on my phone, I couldn’t help but smile.

I spoke with an editor at The Washington Post who was kind enough to offer career advice. Her almost three decade career spans 25 years at the Post, as well as time at The Detroit Free Press and The Boston Globe. We chatted about how to have a career with staying power and the journey of finding your voice as a woman of color in journalism.

She told me that while there is still much progress to be made, not to be discouraged. It was this small but powerful moment where it felt as though she was giving me a nod as if to say: You can do this. I’m rooting for you. Keep going.

You can do this. I’m rooting for you. Keep going.

I have felt this “silent nod” before. I felt it once at a career day where I spoke at an elementary school in South L.A. I was the only woman and person of color. Afterward, a group of Latina students came up to me asking questions about my career. I felt the nod again when I was volunteering at a reading program and a little Black girl clung to my arm, instantly best friending me. She gave me this look of admiration that I couldn’t shake.

This “silent nod” moment happens when someone sees another person who looks like them in underrepresented spaces. It is a momentary glance (often without words), where they say with their body language, “I see you. I see myself in you. I thank you.”

This “silent nod” moment happens when someone sees another person who looks like them in underrepresented spaces.

I saw it happen earlier this year when National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman spoke at the inauguration. I saw it during the 2016 Olympics when Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles lit up the gymnastics floor with the Final Five. I see it when Misty Copeland takes the stage as the first Black female principal dancer in the American Ballet Theater’s 75-year history.

As a Black woman, I often think about how I am someone’s dream. Like my grandmother’s grandmother dreamed of me. She dreamed of a day when she and her children could be free—when they could sit at a restaurant counter next to a white patron, when they could vote or when they would not be seen as property but as human beings. I nod to them—the generations before me that have broken barriers and made strides for racial justice and equality.

I often think about how I am someone’s dream. Like my grandmother’s grandmother dreamed of me.

I stand on their shoulders, and I know it’s my responsibility to build and make space for the next generation so that those “silent nod” moments continue.

With love,

Stephanie Taylor, Darling Online Managing Editor

Why do you think it is valuable for young women and girls to see people who look like them in places of leadership? What can you do in your corner of the world to encourage a young woman or girl?

Image via Angelo Sgambati, Darling Issue No. 13

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