An interview with Amplifying Her Voice

At a time when Women’s rights across the globe are seemingly going backwards, and I’m directly talking TEXAS and its Senate Bill on the prohibition of abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, it feels like the epitome of a war on Women right now.

When men are making choices on behalf of Women & their bodies (regardless of whether they have been subjected to rape or incest – the physical consequences of which are because of assaults perpetrated by men).

When Black & Ethnically diverse and marginalised voices are fighting harder than ever to be heard, I wanted to share an interview I gave to the ‘State of Women’ platform on why I founded ‘Amp Up Your Voice’.

And why it is vital for Women and particularly Black and Ethnically diverse Women who are disproportionately affected by lack of safe choices, that we continue to have conversations, forums, and spaces to inspire positive action and make long term change.

Amplifying Her Voice Featured Speaker: Johanne Penney

As the founder and CEO of Amp Up Your Voice, it was only natural that Johanne Penney would be a welcome, well, voice to our summits. She spoke on the “New Global Benchmarks for Diversity and Inclusion” panel at Amplifying Her Voice: In Moms We Trust, and she’s back this month to join “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: The Father’s Role” panel at Amplifying Her Voice: Stronger Together.

As a trainer, speaker, mentor, and consultant on diversity; Penney works with businesses to help them become more meaningfully inclusive and trains with top-level executives to ensure corporations strive for equity in the workplace. She is especially focused on Black and ethnically diverse women in the workplace.

Before the summit we asked Penney a few questions. Read on for her thoughts on racism and discrimination in addition to the obstacles women face, being inspired by the resilience of loved ones, caring for ourselves so we can more effectively care for others, women supporting women, and more.

What inspired you to join Amplifying Her Voice?

I hope to collectively inspire like-minded women to reach and achieve their goals. I love to see all those, who want it, become “momtrepreneurs”! We are stronger together.

What most drives and motivates you each day?

To make societal change and achieve equity for my people, and to be present in mind and body for myself and for my children. Also, to continue to be the successful businesswoman I’ve always wanted to be!

Who is your role model, and why?

Maya Angelou. Her story, though heartbreaking at times, is one of such strength and inspiration to me. She never stopped achieving and growing her mindset. I have “Still I Rise” from her famous poem tattooed on my arm!

What cause, company, group, or movement are you a part of that you would like to share with us?

Black Lives Matter.

What do you think are some of the most pressing issues facing moms, families, and caregivers today?

The overriding concern and impact of COVID-19, and the challenges all of that brings in balancing work commitments and their home lives—without giving the impression they aren’t committed.

How do you think issues like poverty, violence, racism, oppression, and inequality intersect with motherhood and with being a woman?

Again, it’s the overriding concerns and dealing with issues whilst raising children and being their guiding force: making sure they are aware, educated—but above all, protected. It can be exhausting and needs a strategic approach to protect hearts and minds.

How do you feel being a mother is different now than it was in the past? What do you hope will change in the future?

I was a mother in the ’90s and became a mother again in 2012. I would say the difference now is that our little ones are so much more exposed to issues of concern due to social media platforms combined with the mass media. It’s so different from protecting them from a newspaper. Now they have access to so much. It takes a lot of explaining to outline the inequities of life and why they happen. I hope that we can make the shifts to ensure real equality and diversity for our kids so that they experience authentic equity.

What is the best advice you’ve received?

To always give 90 percent but hold 10 percent back for yourself. This sets expectations in your own mind and in the mind of others. We have to look after ourselves first and foremost—a bit like putting on your life raft first so you can help others.

What is something you would like to share with the next generation?

Discrimination of all sorts and racism are learnt behaviors. No one is born with it. Do your best to educate and learn in this continual journey of self-awareness, and challenge any biases that may arise.

Who inspired you as a child or young person, and how do you work to inspire the next generation now?

I was inspired by my three sisters’ resilience in the face of a lot of adversity. I never wanted to give up either. My work—my consultancy, Amp Up Your Voice—is one of educating and continuing the conversation on racism to make a tangible difference for the next generation.

What do you think is the most important thing for women to keep in mind in terms of caring for themselves?

Protect your mind, body and heart. You only have one of each—we need to take care of them like they are the last precious stones on earth. Ultimately, that responsibility lies with oneself.

What are your views on “work-life balance” for women? How should women handle the obligations of both professional and family life, and what messages does it send to the next generation?

It’s a consistent challenge. The overarching objective for women is to be able to have difficult conversations in the workplace to enable them to do both without being criticized or perceived negatively. I see this as an educational opportunity for men. It is saying to young moms you can have it all, but again this is a journey and we aren’t quite there yet.

What advice would you like to share with girls and women looking to achieve their dreams and lift up one another?

Support each other. There is definitely strength in numbers and my strongest ethos is “women supporting women.” Talk, share, be honest—if we all think everyone is getting it right, all of the time, it can be damaging. Demonstrate the scope to aspire.

Be an inspiration to whoever needs it!

We’re grateful to have Penney’s perspective and voice on our panels—and inspired to know advocates like her are working for equity and full inclusion for all. Sign up now for Amplifying Her Voice: Stronger Together to catch her next talk; as well as discussions on financial and economic inclusion, the space industry, positive masculinity, and much more.

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