Black women getting started in the fields of business and politics often have a difficult time finding and accessing mentors that look like them. This is the very issue Francesca Uriri encountered in her own personal journey as a young woman in her 20s. Now serving as internal and executive communications lead of Diversity and Inclusion at Meta, Uriri recalls feeling the need for guidance from mentors she could relate to—Black women with similar life experiences.

Being unable to find any resource or platform that could provide her access to these women, she decided to create one herself.

“It occurred to me that if I had a need for guidance, motivation and inspiration, then there would surely be other young women like me with the same needs,” says Uriri.

The corporate and inclusive communications leader started her non-profit organization, Leading Ladies of Africa (LLA), 11 years ago with the primary aim of creating a platform that amplifies and celebrates the achievements of women of African descent. It serves as a means of inspiring a new generation of African female leaders and changemakers.

“As the organization evolved, our work also now includes pushing for gender parity and equality by building a community that includes diverse African women who thrive in the areas of business, career and leadership,” explains the DEI exec.

Through a mix of programs, mentoring, content development, and targeted storytelling, LLA provides its community of women with the skills they need to thrive in their businesses, careers and leadership circles. The organization continues to work toward its goal of increasing the participation and representation of Black women in business and politics, and building a diverse and inclusive community of women equipped to lead Africa forward.  

"Like the Nigerian proverb says: 'There isn’t only one road that leads into the market.' By equipping them with the skills that they need to provide sustainable solutions to Africa’s most pressing socio-economic, and cultural challenges, they move from being passive participants in the affairs of the continent, to being active drivers and facilitators of change," shares Uriri. "This will directly increase and impact the level of participation and representation we see not only in the fields of business and politics, but also in the workplace."

The Meta exec points out that in addition to increasing the participation of Black women in business and politics, expanding their involvement in all aspects of society helps create a more equitable and just world.

“The goal is to make Black women ‘mainstream,’ so we are shaping more of the worldview and impacting society across the board, and that includes business, politics, science and advocacy. There is a ton of value that we bring to the table, and the world at large stands to benefit when our insights are included,” shares the founder of LLA.

Uriri shares with EBONY the following tips for Black women and girls who are just starting out in business or politics, or who aspire to.

Be intentional 

“Be intentional about how you show up and navigate the world,” she advises. “Build competencies, skills and develop capacity that ensures you are ready when opportunity comes your way.”

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want

“You may not always get it each time you ask, but it’s a reminder of the value you bring and the impact you make,” shares the communications leader.

Don’t be afraid to fail

“You learn so much more from failure than success,” explains Uriri. "And like India Arie says, "'there’s a blessing in every lesson.'"

Be kind to yourself

“In a world that ascribes undue strength and resilience to you, make sure that you are taking care of your body, soul and spirit," says Uriri. "And realize that strength can also be gentle, soft and easy.”