Raising women of color to power seats
Sage Ke’alohilani Quiamno comes from a long line of community activists and leaders. She co-founded Future For Us to continue that legacy of lifting up marginalized voices.
Only 2.2 percent of venture capital funding went to female founders in 2018. Less than 1 percent went to women of color, despite the fact that Black and Hispanic women-owned businesses are growing at a much higher rate than white women-owned businesses. We’re not grooming women of color (WoC) to level up. That’s why I co-founded Future For Us.
Future For Us is a platform dedicated to advancing WoC through community, culture, and career development. Our growth has exploded in just under two years with 10,000 members dispersed across the country. We have focused on building community, uplifting the culture of WoC, and seeing career mobility for our members through two sold-out conferences, a seven-city national tour, more than 15 town halls and, more recently in response to COVID-19, free webinars that offer leadership and career advice in the midst of the pandemic.
Our success helping the WoC community has resulted in amplification through Forbes, Vogue, and Geekwire, along with traction that includes over 10 million online impressions and 45 percent month-over-month growth across social platforms. Through the resources Future For Us offers, we’ve helped members secure their first job, secure leadership positions, receive raises and promotions, start companies, secure funding and expedite career transitions.
No one understands how much a platform like Future For Us is needed more than me. I crowdsourced $36,000 to start the company, which by the way, is the average amount a WoC raises to start her own company. I am part of the WoC statistic! When the pandemic hit, our sponsorships went dry. We had to pivot and raise $80,000 in two months. I reached out for help, which led to funding from tennis pro and activist, Serena Williams through a partnership with Vital Voices Global, and Stuart Weitzman.
Our vision is simple—women of color deserve to lead at the highest levels across all sectors, and Future for Us exists to make that possible. I have worked for and supported several women’s organizations—and plenty of them exist, however many were started and led by white women. Women of color were included but still on the periphery despite our population being the most marginalized.
There needs to be a lot of healing within the community of WoC professionals. That healing starts with being seen and being heard.
My mentor and one of Seattle’s most influential, Aparna Rae, and I decided to create a company that really talks about the experience of WoC in the workplace. What are the challenges? What are the barriers? How do we build community and actual programming and professional development curriculum to help? We do that not only through a community of professionals but also through diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training for companies who are sponsoring us.
There are many DEI programs, but most are led by white women. The question becomes, how do we bring our experiences to the table? Our webinars, internal panels, and DEI programs are created from the lens of women of color.
One of the true benefits about Future For Us is that it’s not solely for women of color by women of color. The platform is for women of color by all. That’s why we engage men into our conversations; we engage outside communities; and we have programming for allies. Our resources are not solely focused on the responsibilities of WoC but on how do we collectively solve the issues WoC face?
Building community is at the core of our foundation because it helps women understand their self-worth and what attributes they bring to the table. These lessons I learned from my ancestors, who were labor activists. My great grandmother was a Chinese immigrant who worked in the pineapple fields of Hawai’i and negotiated for higher wages to help support her family, which included 12 siblings. My grandfather worked in construction and was a leader in the labor movement in Hawai’i, fighting for better pay and healthcare.
Their passion lives in my soul, which is why I started my career helping WoC achieve pay equity. I have provided 4,000+ women with the tools and resources they need to advocate for themselves at work and, as a result, helped them negotiate $500K in salary increases and secure 150 promotions. Future For Us extends pay equity advice and guidance through its regular programming.
There needs to be a lot of healing within the community of WoC professionals. That healing starts with being seen and being heard. I am ecstatic about the progress Future For Us made to date. As long as we can challenge one another to have truthful and healthy discussions, even more progress can be made to advance WoC into the positions they deserve.
Sage Ke’alohilani Quiamno
Future For Us
A native Hawaiian, Sage started her career in pay equity. She provided 4,000+ women with the tools and resources to advocate for themselves at work, resulting in $500K in negotiated salary increases and 150 promotions.
Sage is an amplifier, advocating for womxn of color at work in top publications and organizations—from Forbes, NPR and GeekWire to SXSW, the Women’s March, Microsoft, Starbucks, and more. Recent accolades include Rising Star Awards from Seattle’s National Organization for Women and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, KUOW Radio’s Boss Tactician Award, University of Washington’s Community Leadership Award, and a nomination for Forbes 30 Under 30 Class of 2019.