WOCA 2022: Rising Through the Ranks of the Air Force as a Black Woman

When Colonel Yvonne Spencer finds herself in rooms full of scholars, educators, entrepreneurs and leaders, it isn’t often a room filled with women of color. As she began her session titled “Darned If You Do, Darned If You Don’t: Women of Color in Leadership Contexts That Don’t Love Them” at DiversityInc’s 2022 Women of Color and Their Allies event, she noted the makeup of the room she was in.

“This is an amazing sight that I have before me, so I want to applaud you for what you’ve done, what you’re doing and what you’re going to do,” the 28-year Air Force Veteran said. “I stand before you as one of 3,200 active-duty colonels in the United States Air Force, of which roughly 200 are African American and 68 of those are female. There are more than 350 that are white females. I’m no engineer, but that math doesn’t add up. We make up about 6% of one of the highest leadership chains in the military.”

The numbers paint a picture of the landscape that Spencer has spent her career navigating. As she began recalling her early days in the Air Force, she painted a picture filled with microaggressions and a lack of understanding of her experience. However, she was quick to note that she would not have risen to the rank and status she has achieved without the help of allies.

“The village that I sought out to surround me, to support me, to bounce things off of has propelled me to different positions, different career choices in life,” Spencer said.

Watch a clip of the session here and subscribe to DiversityInc Best Practices to watch the full video!

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