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Brenda Lawrence Talks Women and Politics

The first African-American and woman mayor of Southfield weighs in on the ups and downs of being a female leader, and sees room for more progress

The first African-American and woman mayor of Southfield

"There has been many times in my position as a woman mayor that I've been the only woman in the room.

"There are three women mayors in Oakland County. And there was a time, when I was elected mayor, I was the only one. And it has varied up and down over the years, but I am probably the longest-serving one. But there are peaks and valleys."

Mentoring other women leaders

"There are still times when you walk in the room and you change the room because you are a woman. It doesn't intimidate me. Sometimes I am glad to be in that position. I am seeing more executives as women in my corporate settings, where before, I would say 13 years ago, there was not a lot of women in the executive boardrooms. I am very excited about the possibility of a woman president. Very excited about that possibility."

Lawrence says she views her achievements as an opportunity to be a role model for other women to follow.  

"I am glad to be in the position to mentor other woman. I am sensitive to how I conduct myself and what I do in handling conflict and disappointment, to be able to show the tenacity and the strength of women in leadership. We are emotional beings; it is not something I walk away from."

She continues: "There was a time when I had to speak at funerals. I've learned how to give that speech, and there might be tears rolling out of my eyes, but I can still deliver my speech. I've learned to walk into a room with children and see young people be really impressed that I am girl.

"The little boys still go, 'You're a girl.' And I am like, 'Yes, I am girl. And I'm the mayor.' I have the little girls saying, 'Wow, you're the mayor!' And I say, 'You can be too.' I work really hard to be present and show up and do the work."

Breaking more ground for women

"I am very sensitive to what my legacy will be. And I want to be one of those women who don't close the door after I leave. I want the door to be open for other women."

She adds: "You know, as I age and as I've been given so many different opportunities in leadership, I think it is extremely important as a woman, to plant my feet solid. Because I have to be prepared to carry other women on my shoulders. And I will do that with high heels on."

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