Shantera L. Chatman is a powHERhouse in the corporate world and beyond. As the president of PowHer Consulting, founder of HERWay Retreat, founder and executive director of the Chatman Women’s Foundation, and writer of the books “emPowHering YOU: 12 Tips for Finding Your Voice,” “PowHer Play: A Women’s Empowerment Guide,” and “Transformative Ally Framework,” she brings a lot to the table.
She graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Information and Operations Management, and she says, “I had a plan to change the legacy of my family.” She did just that by climbing her way up the corporate ladder, leading women’s foundations, and, most recently, creating a professional development and self-care retreat dedicated to Black women. We sat down with Shantera Chatman to discuss the highs and lows that got her to now.
You have built an empire. What were you like as a young girl?
When I was younger, I was that kid who loved school so much, I didn’t want to go home. I was the one who wanted to teach the other kids. I wanted to be the teacher; I wanted to stand in front of people and tell them what I knew.
You loved school so much, what was the environment like?
It was mostly people of color. In middle school, we moved into a better school district; it still had a lot of Black students, but it was all white teachers with honors classes.
I had to test into those classes even though I was a straight-A student. They put me in the remedial class; . Until I tested into those classes, they wouldn’t even put me in regular classes.
When it was time for me to test, they sat me in the hallway. They did everything to distract me, but they couldn’t. About a week later, I tested in all of the honor classes.
Tell us about your time at Texas A&M University?
I was synced up with the Department of Multicultural Services. If I ever had a question, I knew where to go to find that mentorship and safe space. During 1994–1998, Texas A&M had the largest number of Black kids on campus and we were only two percent of the university’s population.
What was life like after college and going right into corporate America?
My first job was as a consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton, and I worked with NASA. I didn’t have anyone to lean on in my home office.
But, I did have someone who was a partner at the firm Reggie Van Lee. He was in D.C., and, when he heard I was hired, he flew back to meet me. We still talk to this day. He mentored me from afar. When I could visit D.C., he would invite me and show how he lived a luxurious life, and he’d tell me, “You can also have this. If you work for it, you can have it.” If I had issues, he would help me navigate it through; he helped behind the scenes for 13 years.
Mentorship and community really helped you along your journey. Were you mentoring other women as well?
Yes. It was whomever I saw. If it was a woman that I thought I could help, I would help; that’s why I started my women’s foundation. Some people don’t have anyone to call. I always had someone, and I wanted to be that for people.
Your mentoring is what led you to the women’s shelter. Tell us about that.
I volunteered at the women’s shelter for a couple of years. I got attached to the women, and I asked if they needed anything else — besides my company’s money. They said they needed someone to help them teach assertiveness.
On Tuesday nights, I would teach. They eventually gave me the classes because they said the women were coming for me. They said before me there were only three students. When I started teaching, there were 30. That class led me to doing a women’s conference which turned into the foundation.
How did the HERWay Retreat come together?
George Floyd’s murder stimulated the retreat. With my women’s foundation, I work with women who are finishing their education, and women who are starting a business. Back then, I never had catered corporate women.
I said, “OK, Black women are going to get hit hard because they are going to want them to fix everything.” My friends started calling me like, “Can you send me some diversity moments?”
Their bosses wouldn’t pay for me to come and do it. They didn’t want to allocate funds for me to do it professionally. These ladies are tired; they are not getting paid the way they should. I prayed about it.
I messaged one of the ladies, Minda Harts. I asked her if she was in; I wanted to keep it small, to make it luxurious. I wanted to do it MY WAY. I wanted every lady to show up HER WAY. So, we called it the HERWay Retreat — where everything is done her way.
What can the ladies experience?
From the moment they step in the door, I wanted them to feel like queens, period. If they drank, they would have champagne with their names etched on it, and, if they didn’t, they would have sparkling cider; they would have little gift boxes; every little thing was curated for them.
We would have a welcome reception that Friday evening, and they’d have a moment to be themselves and just hang out. By the next day, we could get into our sessions and wouldn’t have to do introductions; they would already be open and ready to talk and share. We’d have a playlist for the whole retreat the ladies could download coupled with a lot of breaks so the ladies could have time to process.
We usually have ladies from corporate America, entrepreneurial women, and women who are climbing the ladder, CEOs, and those who aspire to get to that level. So, the mentoring happens on different levels.
It sounds like a dreamland. What can the attendees expect from this year’s retreat?
Self-care. This year, we will dive into breathing techniques. The ladies want to know how to create a safe space, and close out the world. With a therapist, we will discuss why therapy is still taboo.
It starts Friday evening, at 7 p.m. and it goes until 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. This year, people have the opportunity to upgrade their experience. If they want to stay an extra night to process the weekend, the resort is offering a wonderful deal.
With self-care being a focal point of the retreat, how do you take care of yourself?
There are three things that help me release.
- Massage chair. My husband bought me one like the ones from the middle of the mall. I have it in my room next to the window. I set aside half an hour, or an hour to sit in it.
- Coaching. My friend is a Deepak Chopra self-care instructor and she helps.
Lastly, please share a HERWay Retreat review that warms your heart.
After the first session, a lady walked up to me and said, “That’s my money. If you don’t do anything else, I got my money’s worth; all my money for the weekend has been well spent by 9 a.m.”