Charlotte Seck & the New Feminist Normal | Leading Like a Lady

My Leading Like a Lady series was inspired by an article I originally read in Forbes. The article pointed out that, in the middle of the worst global pandemic in modern history, countries with the least number of deaths from the COVID-19 crisis had women as heads of state.

Ironically, that article is now a perfect example of the new normal I hoped we’d avoid if we learned the right lessons in leadership.

Charlotte Seck, a Senegalese writer, claims the Forbes article was ripped off of her piece published in the francophone African magazine AMINA:

Finding the “receipts” (see below) that support Charlotte Seck’s claim was frustrating because it looks like it would make “leading like a lady” sound like a joke. But there’s an opportunity here to address the other elephant in the room of gender politics: feminism.

Amina’s article, published 3 days before Forbes.

Seck’s article, posted on Amina Magazine’s Facebook page 3 days before the Forbes article.

The Forbes article.

In the old normal, lifting material from lesser-known content creators was happening too often. What’s fascinating is that celebrities or influencers doing this thought that they could get away with in, in the internet age where everything is Google-able and screenshots/timestamps is all too easy to find as proof you did wrong.

What’s incredible is how this seems to happen more to black/African women. Sadly, it’s other women who are guilty of doing this to them. Even the black women who coined the academic term for this behavior have their names conveniently left out of work that never cites them as the source of their research.

I wasn’t one of those who worried about using the word feminism as a black woman. Unfortunately, this Forbes issue is forcing me to reconsider this or frankly any other word that tries to generalize women empowerment.

It’s clear now that the word feminism stressed the rights and value of white women without paying enough attention to the double whammy women of any other race experience. Bluntly, black women didn’t think feminism fully described the situation of being hated or ignored not just because you’re not a man, but because you aren’t white. Speaking from the American perspective, there’s clear evidence that black women suffer the most inequities when you compare data on our net worth, annual salaries, mortality rates, and investment opportunities to the data on white men. In a speech I gave almost a year ago, I brought up how African women fare even worse because speaking up on gender rights is a literal threat to their lives.

Leading like a lady won’t lead us anywhere until we grapple with this. More reason for the introspection I talked about in my last post. Nothing in the new normal will be revolutionary if we don’t deal with the weakness inside of us that finds it more convenient to cheat and steal than to build and let grow.

There’s no reason why Ms. Wittenberg-Cox couldn’t give a few words of encouragement (or thanks) towards Ms. Seck for starting a conversation, while building on that conversation with the experiences that shape her opinions on the matter. As someone who touts herself as a successful CEO with mentions in some of the most prominent platforms, she would lose nothing and gain more by sharing her stage with someone who’s clearly her equal in mindset.

At this rate, the new normal is looking extra cannibalistic. I personally don’t have a taste for eating people alive. But with situations like these, I’m worried I’ll have to build up that appetite in order to survive wherever we’re heading to next.

Or (and I pray this is the case), we can use the collective pause we’re on to do the transformative work we didn’t feel we needed or had time to do when the old normal consumed us.

To build our attitudes from scratch, looking at how our old normal got us into this mess and building a new framework that gets us out of it while preventing it from ever happening again.

To let new thought leaders grow and share their ideas, especially when we see enough value in them to adopt (or forge) as our own.

I only heard about Charlotte Seck was because someone in my women’s professional group found Seck’s Facebook screenshots and shared it with us. At the time I’m writing this, there’s no statement (apology or otherwise) from Forbes or from the women alleged to have copied Seck’s work while trying to promote women’s integrity in positions of power.

Thankfully, this controversy isn’t in the examples of women leaders recognized in Seck’s article. If there’s going to be any value in recognizing them and the differences between women and men in leading under pressure, the new feminists also need to call BS on the women that make this work harder than it already is.

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