Shana C. JohnsonBack to Blog

As a black American woman from a Jamaican immigrant family, I, too, am among the underserved communities of which I support. I feel a level of responsibility to set up the next generation of black women and immigrant families – to ensure they have the opportunities and exposure to the necessary things that will make them successful. It’s really important to me – if I’m not paying it forward then what am I doing? I sit on different boards that focus on this. One being a Board Trustee for KIPP New Jersey that builds free charter schools in underserved communities. I focus on KIPP Forward, which supports the high school kids of Newark and Camden get into college and beyond through mentorship, internships and job opportunities. I also serve within the finance and asset management industry by mentoring quite a few people in different ways, but namely through organizations which focus on black women in this industry of which constitute a tiny percent.

When I think about all the things my parents have done to provide for me – failure, for me, is not an option. It’s imperative that I am successful in rewarding my parents but also providing the best life for my family, my son, and my chosen family. The same way I’m my parents’ wildest dreams, my son is going to be that for me. Bob Marley has a quote: “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.” This is my mantra. I’ve always been incredibly ambitious and driven because I just don’t have a choice.

When I became a mom, it dawned on me that I’m now responsible for the development of a young black boy in America. I always say that children choose their parents – I owe him everything, he owes me nothing. So I have to do well for him. Parenthood also helped me to reevaluate what success looks like. Now it’s to be in a position that’s senior enough in an organisation that supports what’s important to me, which is my ability to be there for others – am I being a good mom, sister, friend, wife, role model? If I want to take the afternoon off to go see my son’s kindergarten presentation, that’s not an issue. It’s not taking away from my contribution to my employer or my boards. I want to make sure that success for me is holistic.