Lynette Ingram has traveled to 39 states – but Omaha, Nebraska, is her home.
It’s where Lynette attended Clifton Hill Elementary, Robbins Elementary School, Monroe Middle School, and Benson High School. It’s where she grew up on 45th and Pinkney, and where she finds her family. It’s where she believes institutional change must happen.
Lynette is an Omaha professional that has long championed and supported Nebraskans. She’s worked at Bellevue University, now works at the Women’s Fund of Omaha as the Adolescent Health Project Director, and volunteers with the Women’s Center for Advancement and SAVE (Students. Activities. Values. Education.). She has a bachelor’s and graduate degree — and is ready to address systemic barriers in Nebraska.
“There’s a lot of systematic and individualized racism that exists [in Nebraska],” Lynette states.
It exists at all levels, Lynette explains. It begins with hatred at home, but people carry this into their professional lives, allowing the racism to impact systems.
A study entitled “Being Black in Corporate America: An Intersectional Exploration” found major challenges for Black professionals in the workplace. 79% of black professionals in the Midwest say they have experienced racial prejudice at work, compared to 66% in the West, 56% in the South, and 44% in the Northeast.
“It’s not in anyone’s imaginations,” says Lynette of referencing racism in the workplace. “There’s issues that exist.”
This racism further impacts the ability of Black professionals to rise into leadership positions. A study by Lean In found that Black women are promoted at far lower rates than their White male counterparts — despite seeking promotions at similar rates.
One solution Lynette offers is allyship.
“Allyship is going to play an important role,” she says. “People have to be courageous and speak up and say something and do something. Those in areas of authority have abilities to make decisions on leadership and mentorship.”
Organizational allyship can extend to other areas — including medical institutions that have historically, and currently, failed and fail Black women and women of color.
According to the CDC, the pregnancy-related mortality ratio for black and AI/AN (American Indian and Alaska Native) women over the age of 30 is four to five times higher than it is for white women.
Lynette cites this disparity as well and offers a few solutions: targeted trainings for medical professionals to listen and learn from Black women, understand the backgrounds of African American men and women, and the improvement of bedside manner.
Listening and building positive relationships at all ages is an important part of Lynette’s experience. One of the lessons Lynette learned from her mom is the power of giving your time to others.
Lynette both serves on the board and volunteers with SAVE, a program that assists Greater Omaha youth in grades 3-8 pair education and extracurricular activities.
When volunteering, Lynette was once pulled aside by one of the students – they were considering transitioning.
“I just want to know, when that times comes, will you help me?” the student asked Lynette.
“There was something that she saw in me, and she had me crying like a baby,” Lynette said. “That’s a connection she will have for the rest of her life.”
This level of care from Lynette echoes her insights on Black women in leadership connecting with youth.
“We as Black women play a critical role in that — when they are able to see themselves in you and then hear your story, they are taking bits and pieces of what they are experiencing.”
These bits and pieces can come from larger inspirations, as well. The recent nomination of Vice President Kamala Harris and the presidential inaugural poem read by poet laureate Amanda Gorman sent a message to young black girls worldwide says Lynette: anything is possible.
“It takes not only a certain level of commitment and to be driven, but also to be compassionate, dedicated, and very open,” she says. “It’s something that really aided in Kamala Harris being chosen — she’s not like this cookie cutter mold we’ve seen before.”
While Lynette was in disbelief when she found out Kamala was on the ticket, she cried when she and Joe Biden were elected.
“When you look at all the presidents and vice presidents from the beginning of time, there’s no one who looked like me until these past ten years or so. That really speaks to Black women and young Black women.”
As she champions change, Lynette Ingram lives her life as a true advocate: one that sees where change must be made — and works to make it happen.