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Removing barriers to leadership for women of color

The CEO of a Rochester-based leadership training and development firm says structural racism is shutting women of color out of nonprofit leadership roles.

Sara Taylor says the problem is not unique to Rochester, but it is evident in this community.

"People think 'Oh, you've got an African American mayor - we've arrived.' No; when you look at the non-profit organizations, some of them serving 70 percent minority populations, when you look at executive leadership in our community, I can count on one hand the female leaders of color," Taylor said.

The problem, she said, is not lack of education or lack of experience but systemic racism.

Reaction to an op-edshe wrote last year for the Democrat & Chronicle made Taylor realize she's not the only one who sees the problem.

"I heard from women all over upstate New York that have said, 'Me too' - women of color, Native Americans, Pakistanis, Asians, Latinas, that have said, 'I've tried and I've been unable to obtain the position,' "  she explained.

Ninety people were registered to attend a "Colors of Success - Food for Thought" initiative at Legacy Drama House on Webster Avenue in Rochester on Wednesday. The event, organized by Taylor, will have forums and training sessions for women, along with learning about mentorship opportunities.

"We also have women that are not of color who have joined forces with us who say, 'I understand white privilege. I'm a white woman and I get it,' " Taylor added.

Wednesday's initiative is a kick-off event. Taylor expects a follow-up event in Niagara Falls on April 30 and May 1 to draw women from across the state.

Registration for the Niagra Falls event will open this weekend on her company's website, Positive Steps.

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.