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Why BIPOC Women Need Their Own Leadership Development Space

There is a multitude of leadership programs available for budding entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and nonprofit leaders. Oftentimes, these courses offer resources based on the dominant (usually White male) perspective without taking race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ableness, cultural or religious norms, or other intersecting factors into consideration.

It's exhausting to always swim upstream, codeswitch, and uphold "respectability politics" to be accepted and succeed in White dominant workplace culture. It's even more frustrating to seek out opportunities to build on your nonprofit understanding only to find that continuing education or leadership programs also center dominant and Western perspectives. Although the nonprofit and philanthropic community is beginning to understand the value of cultural competency, the vast majority of tools are created for White-led organizations to diversify their spaces rather than providing culturally responsive nonprofit tools from a BIPOC, woman, or another non-dominant perspective.

As part of Talem's ongoing effort to uplift the leadership and voices of women of color leaders in the nonprofit community, we are building a space where BIPOC women (including non-binary and gender non-conforming women) in nonprofit leadership roles are able to have honest and authentic conversations about their challenges and successes without fear of retribution, psychological harm, or microaggressions that come from dominant or male identities that may seek to diminish or dismiss these lived experiences. We intend to share effective resources and tools that reflect the work that BIPOC women are doing within their own communities - focusing on nonprofit management, fundraising, and organizational development tools that center cultural responsiveness.

The Inclusive Leadership Program is a 12-month cohort that aims to support women of color leaders to advance their professional development and leadership goals. Through the program, 5-8 women per cohort will participate in monthly 3-hour facilitated sessions focused on peer support, skill-based learning, and long-term transformation. Participants will also receive monthly one-on-one support sessions and a private discussion space to share questions and receive support.

The cohort asks participants to reimagine a nonprofit sector that is free from harmful ideologies and enables its stakeholders to advocate for sector-level changes that will create more equitable environments for us all. Areas of discussion will include:

  • The Power of Community: Ensuring nonprofits are effective, impactful, and working in collaboration with the communities they serve including partnership building and fundraising.

  • The Value of Maintaining a Diverse and Inclusive Board of Directors: Sharing the key roles and responsibilities of the governing board, relationships between the board and executive director, and understanding the power differentials at play in this space.

  • Your Personal Leadership Journey: Reflecting on each person's skillsets and natural work/learning preferences in order to support team development, effectively use employees, build strategic partnerships, and engage with your community.

  • Creating a Healthy Work Environment: Promoting an environment that attracts, cultivates, and retains the people that move your mission forward from paid staff to volunteers, including essential legal aspects of human resources.

  • Culturally Responsive Fundraising Techniques: Understanding cultural norms to successfully fundraise in communities of color, strategies for donor materials, monetary asks, and reaching new communities.

  • Nonprofit Management Skills: Examining nonprofit topics that are key to a successful organization such as understanding your organization's financials, building effective program metrics and evaluation, developing and executing culturally responsive fundraising strategies, incorporating community organizing and advocacy into the organization, and implementing strategic marketing and communications.

  • Strategic Planning for the Future: Examining proven strategic tools to assist in assessing and navigating your organization's course by looking at the theory of change, systems change to address systemic barriers, and methods to implement systemic change.

  • Harnessing the Power of Intersectional Identities: Building an organizational culture that prioritizes diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, belonging, and justice.

  • Strategies for Self Care: Focusing on finding a work/life balance, setting boundaries, advocating for yourself and others, prioritizing spiritual/mental/physical/emotional health and growth, time management, and conflict resolution.

  • Practical Wisdom for Leadership: Overcoming discrimination, microaggressions, and other barriers in organizations and communities that prevent you from thriving.

  • Approaches to Leadership: As traditional, top-down management approaches are not always effective, this will look at culturally different management approaches (co-CEO, horizontal, intercultural/comparative, etc.).

Understanding that many BIPOC-led organizations do not have large professional development budgets, we built a program that is cognizant of budgetary restraints for small to mid-size organizations and is also accessible to individuals who are paying out of pocket. The cost of the 12-month program is $1,800 which can be paid in full or in $150 auto-pay monthly installments.


The Inclusive Leadership Program is supported by three facilitators:

Saadia Ahmed, Operations and Community Communications of Talem Consulting, is a community and thought leader in Dallas/Fort Worth. She is the founder and advisor to numerous nonprofit and community initiatives some of whom include Gem Advisers Mentorship Program, Define 360, Masjid Al-Islam, Texas Muslim Women's Foundation (TMWF), DREAM DFW, Strong Muslimah, and Yaqeen Institute. A Bangladeshi-American, Saadia has also worked in the policy and advocacy space as a Senior Fellow at Wendy Davis for Texas Governor, Deputy Director at Bangladeshi Americans for Biden-National Council, and Advisor for South Asians for Obama.

Saadia leads informal and formal workshops for young people to build their leadership capacity and understanding. She does this work through:

  • GEM Advisers, whose vision is to support the next generation of strong, engaged Muslims in community-building and leadership development.

  • TMWF's Youth Leadership Program, which aims to empower through service and knowledge by engaging youth in fun activities, meaningful community service, and education about each person's responsibility to the community.

Saadia graduated in International Studies from Austin College and is pursuing a master's degree in Islamic Studies from Bayan Islamic Graduate School. For her work, she received:

  • Trailblazer award by Texas Muslim Women's Foundation

  • Community Leader of the Year award by CAIR D/FW

  • Unsung Hero recognition from Radio Azad, as the first recipient of this honor

Saadia has served on the American Muslim Professionals of Dallas (AMP'D) Advisory Board (2020-2021) and Faith in Texas Board of Directors (2021-present).

As a woman of color who is a self-taught nonprofit and community leader, I wish there had been a space to develop my leadership skills through culturally competent nonprofit tools as well as receive peer support to address the unique challenges we face and a safe space to listen and learn from each other’s experiences as well. Every woman leader has their own toolkit of practical strategies and best practices that can serve as a resource to uplift, support, and empower other women.

Mona Kafeel, CEO of Texas Muslim Women's Foundation, is dedicated to empowering women and their families. Originally from Pakistan, Mona graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor's in Economics before moving to Dallas, Texas in 2000. Her other educational accomplishments include certificates in Nonprofit Management and Nonprofit Leadership Development from SMU. She is an alumnus of the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute (AMCLI) and Leadership Plano.

Mona has led courses for the University of North Dakota (UND) School of Social Work, University of Fresno, and the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) Naveen Jindal School of Management. The coursework includes how to start a nonprofit from a social services lens and entrepreneurship to support undergraduate students who want to start their own businesses.

Her community work spans educational and policy initiatives including:

  • Committee member of the Public Policy Commission of the Texas Council on Family Violence

  • Committee member of the Asian Advisory Committee to the Congresswomen Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30)

  • Senior Advisory Board Member to the Mayor of the City of Plano on issues that are important to seniors living in Plano

  • Steering a youth-led initiative in Dallas high schools to prevent teen violence

  • Creation of the Environmental Education Program for children in Plano ISD schools

  • Developing community programs for at-risk children, seniors, and unemployed adults through Texas Interfaith

She was selected as "Education Mentor" of the Year by the City of Plano for her work.


Rachel Branaman, the Principal Consultant of Talem Consulting, a national, woman-owned, full-service diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) consulting firm established in 2011 focused on ensuring organizations have the tools they need to build capacity, fundraise, and dismantle systems of inequity. She served as an executive director of Alley's House and in fundraising/development roles at Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Jewish Community Center of Dallas, Dallas Heritage Village, and Dallas Children's Museum.

Rachel graduated from Austin College with a BA in French and from Regis University with a Master's in Nonprofit Management with a capstone project in Cape Town, South Africa. She is an alumnus of Leadership Texas and has served on the board of directors of:

  • Association of Philanthropic Counsel (APC) as an executive board member

  • Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington DC (RPCV/W) as secretary

  • Journey of Hope Grief Support Center as strategic planning committee chair and executive director search committee member

  • Humanitarian Hands Charities as an advisory board member

Rachel leads numerous educational workshops each year for nonprofit professionals through groups such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) DC, Virginia, and New Mexico chapters, APC, American Muslim Community Foundation (AMCF) Social Impact Accelerator, CAIR National, DonorSearch Masterminds Series, Coalition on Adult Basic Education Conference, and the Money For Our Movements GIFT conference.

Her recent community work includes:

  • Evaluating grant proposals and making funding recommendations to the City Council of Takoma Park, MD through the city's Grants Review Committee

  • Advocacy around healthcare, Peace Corps reform, and national/ international civil rights policies.


Edited to note: The Inclusive Leadership Program cohorts are open to all BIPOC women. The first cohort includes a specific focus on BIPOC Muslim communities (particularly Southeast Asian, African, African American, Arab, and Latinx). Muslims made up about 1.1% of the total U.S. population and the community is more racially and ethnically diverse than the public as a whole:

  • Almost one-fifth of American Muslims are Black.

  • The Latinx Muslim community is estimated to be between 40,000 and 200,000 in the U.S. A 2011 study conducted by Pew Research Center showed that Latinx Muslims accounted for an estimated 6% of the U.S. Muslim population.

  • More than a third of Muslim American adults (37%) were born in the U.S. Within this group, more than three quarters are either first-generation immigrants (63%) or second-generation Americans (15%), with one or both parents born outside of the country.

  • More than six-in-ten (63%) Muslims over the age of 18 were born abroad. Foreign-born Muslim Americans come from at least 77 different countries, with no single country accounting for more than one-in-six Muslim immigrants. Pakistan is the largest country of origin, accounting for 14% of first-generation immigrants, or 9% of all U.S. Muslims.

  • In terms of regional origins, however, the largest group is from Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa, representing 41% of foreign-born U.S. Muslims, or 26% of all Muslim Americans. The South Asian region – including Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan – is second, accounting for about a quarter (26%) of first-generation immigrants, or 16% of all U.S. Muslims. The rest are from sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and elsewhere.


As the Inclusive Leadership Program expands, we intend to add future cohorts which will prioritize intersecting BIPOC woman identities. As those cohorts are created, we will include support from facilitators from those communities. If you would like us to consider a specific identity-based cohort, please share those with us and let us know who would be a good facilitator to support this training!


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