Marketing leader discusses corporate experiences as part of Black History Month celebrations

Ally Mauch, Reporter

Lizette Williams discussed her experiences as a woman of color in corporate America, celebrating the concept of “black girl magic” in a speech Wednesday.

“Black girl magic is beauty and resiliency and tenacity,” Williams said. “Black girl magic is innate strength, and so we celebrate that tonight.”

Williams (Kellogg ’07), the multicultural marketing leader for multinational corporation Kimberly-Clark, spoke to an audience of about 50 people as the keynote speaker for the Black History Month events organized by Multicultural Student Affairs.

Williams, who grew up in the South Bronx, became the first person in her family to graduate from college and went on to work at IBM, S.C. Johnson, PepsiCo and, most recently, Kimberly-Clark, which manages brands such as Huggies, Kleenex and Kotex.

“The key tenant of black girl magic is that we lift as we climb,” Williams said. “We move up and we pull each other up as we do that.”

Heather Browning, assistant director of MSA, organized the event and said the goal of MSA for this year’s Black History Month was to offer programs that present different aspects of black identity, such as the intersection of race and gender. This intersection creates for women of color in business what Williams called a “concrete ceiling.”

In her current role at Kimberly-Clark, Williams works to include people of color in marketing initiatives. As an Afro-Latina woman, Williams said, her primary strength in the role is her ability to empathize and communicate with the diverse consumers she targets.

“My life and professional goal is to change the face of advertising and how people of color are depicted in the U.S.,” Williams said. “I owe it to the people who came before me, who allowed me to be in this position, and I owe it to the generations after me, to truly change how we are depicted and viewed.”

Princess-India Alexander, president of the Northwestern chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists and editor in chief of BlackBoard Magazine, ran the Q&A portion of Williams’s talk.

Alexander stressed the importance of having role models such as Williams who are women of color, particularly at a predominately white institution like Northwestern.

“Growing up as a person of color, you don’t always see the people that represent your future, and if you don’t see that it’s really hard to push through,” Alexander, a Medill junior, said. “Seeing someone like Lizette that has made it and that has had all these struggles is really encouraging.”

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