Aisha Holder’s parents inspired her at an early age to live life with “grace, integrity, and decency.”
“They reinforced the importance of using my talents to be of service to others and create value,” she said.
As a black woman who rose to the rank of vice president in corporate human resources at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Holder triumphed in the difficult climb through an environment that is predominately white and male.
But she knows of many women and minorities who have plateaued in their careers for lack of networks and role models, unable to realize their full talents.
“Often times, women and people of color don’t get that opportunity to meet with power brokers or others with influence,” said Holder. “And if you are from a historically marginalized group, you don’t always have a sponsor or mentor who looks like you.”
As she graduates today with a doctorate in counseling psychology from the Graduate School of Education (GSE), Holder hopes to combine college-level teaching with clinical work and corporate consulting. As the child of a professor and as a 13-year veteran of the corporate world, the Brooklyn native has a deep affinity for both areas.
Holder earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Georgia’s Spelman College—a historically black women’s college—where she found role models and mentors on campus. While at Spelman, she interned for three summers at JPMorgan Chase (JPMC), where she received professional development in “things that are important to learn when you are 18 years old.”
“I learned how to dress in the professional workplace, how to help facilitate a meeting, how to approach problem-solving . . . skills you learn when exposed to certain experiences,” said Holder.
The Phi Beta Kappa graduate joined the Human Resources Associate Program at JPMC and completed rotations in areas such as employee relations, compensation, and training and development. Holder said she had a dream to pursue a career in academia. However, joining the corporate world first was the “best thing that could have happened to me,” she said.
At JPMC, Holder said she enjoyed advising employees on ways they could realize their full workplace potential. She noticed employees also came to her for assistance with personal matters, which sparked her interest in a career in counseling psychology.
So Holder went back to school at night. She earned two master’s degrees from Teachers College. She joined GSE’s doctoral program, eventually giving up her full-time job to fulfill the yearlong fieldwork requirement.
“Being a success at both school and the job required working seven days a week,” she said. “What also made this possible was having tremendous support from the faculty at Fordham and my managers at JPMC.”
In the fall, Holder begins a postdoctoral year at Columbia University Counseling and Psychological Services. Her dissertation, “Racial Microaggressions and Coping Strategies of Black Women in Corporate America,” has been accepted by the Qualitative Psychology journal.
She hopes her work can bring more multicultural awareness to managers and more coping strategies to those who feel marginalized.
“We all have biases. If we can come to the table and talk about them in a respectful way, it would be transformative.”