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Rising Stars: Meet Dr. Elizabeth Carter

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Elizabeth Carter. 

Hi Dr. Carter, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
Having leadership qualities all my life, I understand the challenges in maneuvering through life trying to ‘fit in’ but still ‘stand in’ one’s uniqueness. From scraping my childhood dream of becoming a lawyer, to selling life insurance, to working in retail management and banking, I finally landed in Corporate Finance in the insurance industry. My 25+ years in this industry has not been without a struggle; in addition to always being a minority Finance leader, I had a desire to cultivate my passion for training and talent development. Because I was determined about my calling, I self-funded my PhD., and even continued while I was unemployed for 15 months. My unique combination of financial acumen and knowledge empowerment has made me a resourceful solution for talent initiatives and keeps me in my zone of genius. I am often called upon to speak or facilitate sessions that support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and/or to showcase the career possibilities minorities have in non-traditional insurance roles. 

To “Break the eight percent”, is the mission of my company, AAPPEAL, LLC. The company was birthed in 2016 after I was laid off from my job. It embodies my “Absolute Passion for Performance, Engagement, Analytics, and Leadership” to empower ambitious African American females like me to stop feeling unseen in the workplace and be more “appealing” to their companies. Enabling clarity of how these four pillars are necessary in the trajectory of one’s career, my tips, tools, and resources illuminates the presence and increases the promotability of my clients. I strive to move the needle on the US Bureau of statistics which shows a trend that less than 8% of Black and African Americans hold managerial roles in organizations. 

Being bloody and bruised, many women of color have become frustrated and have jumped out of the corporate environment and into entrepreneurship. While having those same experiences, I remain in corporate and play both roles; energized, encouraged, and entrenched in the crux of the change in the trends, and share real-time experiences with my AAPPEAL clients. My recent promotion to a Vice President role provides not only new insights to share, but to show others that elevation in corporate is possible. Not everyone is destined for entrepreneurship, and major corporations need our voices at their strategic tables. 

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Besides what I mentioned above, there have been two types of struggles, one internal and one external  

  • Self-doubt and confidence, which only recently has been coined ‘imposter syndrome’. I was always working hard and not seeing results, to the point that when I did get recognized, I battled in my mind thoughts of deservedness vs luck. It wasn’t until I secured mentors who uplifted me and told me the truth of my strengths and areas of improvement (weakness is an imposter term) that I realized my greatness and got over my limiting beliefs
  • The second is what is called the ‘glass cliff’, when a Black leader gets promoted into a role that company leaders do not expect to succeed long-term and/or that requires borderline heroics. Another new term and I realize this happened to me over 20 years ago. I jumped through extra unnecessary hoops to get a promotion, only to find out that they wanted me to basically performance manage out the entire team. It was posed as a ‘them’ or ‘me’ option. A few left on their own accord, but it was very difficult for me mentally, and I did eventually leave the company. I haven’t had that situation since, but now as there is more pressure for companies to provide equity to minorities, there are several articles being written to address this issue.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
My professional work and my business are intertwined. I have always been a servant leader, and now I am the ‘resource I needed back in the day’. It was later in my life that I understood the need for mentors and sponsors, and that I will always be the only one that looks like me in room if I don’t work to change that. Being in finance, which is a STEM role, it has been a challenge working to recruit women of color because this is not a popular major in universities. I have been on campuses for events, and not only is there limited interest in finance, the insurance industry has an extra stigma in our communities which makes the attractiveness little to none. So, my work to bring more minorities into corporate is focused on all disciplines, not just finance and STEM. What many don’t realize about insurance is that a graduate with any major can be successful, we are more than sales and claims. 

I also talk with employees inside the organization about their journey and the additional tools needed in elevating their career. The common thread is opportunity, being given a chance. Going back to my glass cliff statement, there are ways to create low-risk/high-growth projects for these individuals, as we see that being done for the majority. Sometimes we need to bring the suggestion to leadership, as they may not have the foresight to do so on their own. My company, AAPPEAL, provides these types of hints and talking points, and I have personally benefitted from that type of strategy. 

If we knew you growing up, how would we have described you?
Grew up the suburbs of New York, Dad’s side from Trinidad, Mom’s side from the South, both enforced good grades on my younger brother and me. Parents got divorced so we struggled a bit, but that is my motivation for always being financially independent, and knowing that my education, experience, and exposure will always get me back on my feet if I fail. Was always busy in school, I was a musician, student leader, played/supported sports, was a Girl Scout. I remain busy, serving on Non-profit boards, speaking, writing, and mentoring others. 

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