‘The CLIMB,’ a virtual career summit for Black women on the corporate climb

Vanessa Handy | 9/24/2020, midnight
Career development company I Choose the Ladder will host its second annual “The CLIMB” career summit Saturday, Sept. 26, all ...
Two businesswomen Photo created by prostooleh/Freepik

Career development company I Choose the Ladder will host its second annual “The CLIMB” career summit Saturday, Sept. 26, all virtually. Starting at 8:30 a.m. the eight-hour event will feature diverse programming to help Black women like her take their corporate careers to the next level.

At the forefront of this event is Watchen Nyanue, senior vice president of marketing partnerships for the WNBA team in Chicago and founder of I Choose the Ladder. At 37 years old she has amassed numerous internships and full-time positions at top companies like NBC and Yahoo Inc., consistently climbing the corporate ladder to reach where she is presently.

The first “The CLIMB” summit spanned two days in March of 2019 at the University of Phoenix downtown campus in Chicago. This year, approximately 175 women will convene for a one-day virtual summit experience.

“We will try to incorporate some of the elements that people are accustomed to in a physical event into the virtual event,” Nyanue said “All of the attendees will actually get a physical box of all kinds of cute things for the summit. We don’t want people to have to be using their brain in deep thought all day so we’ve incorporated some spots in the summit where we can have a little fun and talk about Black culture in a way that lets you get to know other people.”

The 2020 “The CLIMB” summit comes amidst the coronavirus pandemic and pervasive racial injustice that has polarized the nation. Nyanue and her team took these issues into account when planning the event, adding sessions like “Jobs in the Time of COVID,” “Racism: Silent Killer of Careers?” and the closing session “#BlackJoy” which Nyanue is particularly excited about.

“The Black joy session is gonna be pretty amazing,” Nyanue said. “I’m looking forward to the end of the day. Just getting to relax and hang out with like-minded people. To celebrate us making it through the day being Black people in America.”

Both the summit and Nyanue’s company are informed by her 15 years in the corporate sphere and the rare advantages that helped her find success as a Black woman in corporate America.

“I got called out by my own friends on my privilege,” Nyanue said. “I’ve always had amazing mentors. I’ve had people who have opened doors for me and I assumed that was the reality for everyone. Then talking to some of my friends they were like ‘Yeah, no, that’s not the reality for everyone’ and especially not Black women.”

This awareness presented a challenge for Nyanue, she wanted to find a simple way to give back to Black women in the corporate world. The solution? I Choose the Ladder, which began in 2018 as a podcast for Nyanue to interview senior-level Black female executives. Since its inception I Choose the Ladder has evolved into a career development hub for—as stated on the company’s website—“Black women on the corporate climb.” As the company grew, the sense of community in I Choose the Ladder was palpable for Nyanue. “The CLIMB” was a way for this community to be realized.

“Three months after we started I Choose the Ladder the idea of a career summit came up,” Nyanue said. “We planned it around the questions that we kept getting asked as we talked about corporate and we thought about how we could provide resources for closing those gaps for Black women within the corporate space.”

With this year’s summit a little more than a week away Nyanue is optimistic and hopes that the event will be a reprieve from the stress of everyday life. Likewise she wants to inspire attendees to take action to propel their careers forward.

“I want them to feel cared for.” Nyanue said. “I feel like a lot of times Black women tend to be an afterthought. I want them to come and feel like every part of the event was thought with them first.”