Where Are They Now? Alicia Canady Adamson '03

September 23, 2015

Alicia Adamson

We hosted the Next Generation Women of Color Summit by The National Black Women's Society. We chatted with Alicia, founder of the NBWS!

What was your major at Simmons and what is your current job title?

I studied marketing. Currently I work for United Way of Mass Bay (UW) as Senior Director of Affinity and Industry Engagement overseeing a team of staff that engage donors who are women, young professionals, retirees, real estate professionals and private equity and venture capital professionals. I'm also the Founder of the National Black Women's Society Inc (NBWS), formally Young Black Women's Society.

What's a typical day like at your job?

Lots of meetings! I have 5 people on my team so I typically have weekly one-on-one meetings with them to check in with their projects, get updates on their success, coach them through any challenges and update them on organizational things. If I'm not in meetings, I'm out meeting with donors. Specifically women who are members of the Women's Leadership Council. These are mid to senior level women across sectors who give their time, talent and treasure to United Way. I'm trying to learn more about what motivates them to give back and how I can help them make a difference in the community. When I get home, I'm checking emails for NBWS, possibly jumping on a conference call with the incredible leadership team or working on projects for NBWS.

What was the job application/interview process like for you?

It was so long ago. I've been at UW for 7 years. Basically I went in for a marketing role as I was previously in marketing at Reebok International. Then as I was walking out the door I ran into someone who told me about the women's engagement role. There was no job description -- just a vision and the opportunity to plan and execute the annual women's leadership breakfast each year. I had been to that event through Reebok and I was sold. I interviewed the next week! It was an interview in July and I wore my lucky all white pants suit and walked in confident and assured that I could rock out in that role! I pitched my passion for women and empowerment of our community.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love working with our donors. They are amazing. Meeting each of them and hearing their stories and inspiring them to be change makers! I also love being a manager and coaching staff towards excellence.

How did you know the organization was a good fit for you?

The reputation of UW and the work that is has done over the past 100 years to transform communities and partner with the best agencies on the ground. In addition the role really attracted me. I never imagined a career in development but the work I do is inspiring. I'm able to do what I love.

What inspired you to found the National Black Women's Society?

It was a divine assignment. To whom much is given much is required. I had no clue I would found an organization! Being a young, black, educated woman who grew up in Dorchester with a vision for her life that was big and bold and seeing that my friends shared the same vision for their lives. As Viola Davis recently said, "The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity." There is an opportunity gap and I wanted to ensure that a platform was created for the next generation of women of color leaders in Boston and beyond to be empowered, fostered, nurtured, receive validation -- and grow professionally and personally.

What are the goals of the NBWS?

Strengthening the spirit of leadership in women of color to provide access, equity and empowerment through:

  • Leadership development -- preparing women of color to be effective leaders in the workplace and community
  • Civic engagement -- empowering women of color to effect social and economic change
  • Networking -- connecting women of color and their communities to the people, places and things that matter to them

How has the NBWS grown since its founding?

We started as the young Black Women's Society in 2005 with 5 founders and a membership model. Over the years we've had between 50-100 members and then we shifted our focus to leadership development and really carving out programming that impacts women of color between 25-40. Through our events, programs, members and collaborations over the past decade we have impacted the lives of at almost 1000 women and girls. This past May we changed our name to National Black Women's Society. We are looking to expand to other cities and states across the nation over the next 10 years. Membership is now available online for those who want to be members. We are looking to scale and grow our work of leadership development. We launched our scholarship last year for girls and women to support education and entrepreneurship.

What was your favorite part of the NBWS Summit?

The welcome is always inspiring. It's a mix of speakers from the NBWS, Simmons and local community to get us excited. I love the reflections sessions where participants reflect on the day so far -- it's really emotional and up lifting. I love hearing from the high school students and seeing the camaraderie of women. 

How can Simmons students get involved with NBWS?

After they graduate they can become members. If they want to start a college chapter that would be awesome! NWBS members can come and talk to student organizations, we can collaborate on events when possible and provide volunteer opportunities.

What's your Simmons Moment?

The Black Symposium, BSO, Diane Hammer, Dr. Bailey, Bartol Hall, Paula Sneed, Jaye Smith, Quad Side Cafe and the SOM. All these events collided into my Simmons experience and they are why I am going to make huge gift one day.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

In ten years -- traveling around the world to inspire women and girls from all walks of life to live a life of truth and authenticity. I see myself empowering women on a global level.

What advice would you give to the current Simmons undergraduate students? 

Always search for the reason why you were created. That will lead you to living the best life you can live because you are living on purpose. We all have a unique purpose beyond our degrees, beyond our class, race, gender and anything else. We are part of a big puzzle and we each play an important role in making the puzzle complete. Don't waste your life trying to create your own puzzle. Figure out what your piece is and know that you are part of a greater purpose and design. Once you do that you will find the journey of life more fulfilling because we are all here to serve a greater purpose. Be mission driven always.

Photos of the Next Generation Women of Color Summit taken by Diane Hammer. 

Left: Alicia Canady Adamson. Middle: Dean Renée White and Professor Gary Bailey. Right: Conference attendees