We are living in exceptionally advanced times. This is the 21st century, an era of exceedingly rapid science and technological development where all the information in the world rests in your palms. Access to knowledge has never been this simpler. The global population is aware, informed, and enlightened, yet detestable issues like racism, inequality, and sexism continue to exist. It makes one wonder; why are we choosing to let such enormities occur? It is indeed time to raise our voice and stand up for what is right so that women can secure a seat at the table.
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Bias Against Women Of Color
We need to put an end to the severe and offensive injustices women, especially women of color, experience daily. Women, in general, suffer gender-discrimination in many fields of life. However, women of color do not just encounter gender-discrimination but also face racism topped off with stereotypes to overcome.
The workplace today, despite being modern, is prejudiced against women of color. Lesser career-advancement opportunities, leadership positions, and a substantial wage gap hinder the journey towards the success of a talented woman of color. It is high time for us to acknowledge race but not let it result in a biased environment.
Secure A Seat At The Table
In this episode of Let’s Humanize The Workplace, Vivian Acquah, the Workplace Wellness Advocate addresses yet another significant issue. She sheds light upon the subject of racism combined with sexism creating an unequal workplace environment for women of color. The guest speaker for this episode is Minda Harts. Minda is the CEO of Memo LLC, a career development platform for women of color. She is also an assistant professor at NYU Wagner, the author of the best-selling book The Memo; What Women of Color Need To Know To Secure A Seat At The Table, and has been featured at MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Fast Comp.
To uplift the human factor at a workplace, we need an environment that is fair and equal for all the people that make up a workplace. This means increasing awareness about serious issues, getting out of your comfort zone, raising your voices so that you are heard and standing up for yourself. These are steps that everyone in the chain of command needs to take, especially women of color who wish to see themselves in leadership positions.
When questioned about what humanizing the workplace means to her, Minda Harts stated:
“Humanizing the workplace is really about seeing everyone is human, showing empathy for even people who don’t look like you but for me, it is about making sure that women of color, black women are seen as humans with dignity inside of the workplace so that we can advance.”
Minda Hart’s book is an excellent source not only for women of color who are looking to secure a seat at the table but also for leaders to learn about how they can help enhance the workplace and support women of color acquire representation at leadership roles. Since there are not many women of color at leadership positions, aspiring young women of color tend to find themselves alone amongst a crowd of people who do not look like them.
Talking about her own experience as the only black women in a corporate office and the reason behind writing her book Minda Harts asked herself:
“Am I just going to keep being the lonely only, or am I going to do something that creates change so that the next woman of color doesn’t have to be by herself? So I had to write a book where women of color are the center of the career narrative. Most books tend to have sweeping generalizations of women, but they’re not always talking or including all women, that intersectionality lens.“
When there is such a low representation of women of color at workplaces, these women are burdened with being responsible for their entire race. If one woman of color makes a mistake, it reflects poorly on all women of color. This is a huge pressure to be under for any human being.
The Memo is a book that can help women of color greatly. It depicts a relatable picture and allows them to learn about the experiences of other women of color and also receive validation of their emotions. Moreover, The Memo is for leaders to understand what women of color go through and figure out strategies to increase their inclusive diversity. Most women of color feel that their managers are not interested in seeing them thrive in the workplace.
According to Minda Harts: “When I interviewed women of color, over 70% of them said that they felt like their managers were not invested in their success. Managers need to understand how to manage diverse talent, how to build relationships, and how to have important conversations.”
People find it easier to make friends or be comfortable with other people who look like them. In Minda’s words: “We tend to gravitate toward people who look like us.“ We, as individuals, need to comprehend the fact that everyone is different, has a diverse talent, and brings different values to the table. Only when we get to know people around us can we realize that not everyone has the same skill set, same needs or career desires, but everyone has a strength.
Know Your Self Worth
The ongoing pandemic is indeed a novel situation, but you should not let it obstruct your progress towards prosperity. Find a way to gain recognition. Working from home does not stop you to secure a seat at the table. As Minda Harts says: “Make sure that you’re articulating your value and quantifying your worth to those who need to hear it.”
For anyone to flourish at a career, they need to know their worth; they need to know what value they bring to the table. Before you let anyone criticize you, be sure to know your self-worth rather than believing what other people say. “ So know your value and know what you bring to the table before you let somebody’s words become your own.”- says Vivian Acquah when talking about self-worth.
COVID-19 is an opportunity for businesses to show their employees that they care. While employees are less likely to leave their jobs right now given the pandemic crisis, once this blows over, if managers are unable to create a thriving work environment, they are likely to face a huge employee turnover. As Vivian Acquah says: “Even though people are not leaving now because of financial security, but within two years you will have a “talent leakage” if you cannot validate them.“
An essential question to be asked is, what can women of color do to break the glass ceiling and secure a seat at the table? Minda Harts answers this question quite eloquently: “Find equitable work environments. Invest in ourselves and make sure that we’re advocating for ourselves building strategic alliances because success is not a solo sport.”
Support Each Other
Women of color need to support each other, help each other, and look for role models around us. We are always surrounded by inspiring women of color in all shapes and forms; all we need to do is find them. “Let’s all continue to be role models for each other and use our integrity and our empathy to pass on to the next generation,” -says Minda Harts when discussing role models. It is of great significance to remember that to shine brighter; you do not need to take away someone else’s light. If your colleague is experiencing adversity, do not diminish it. Be there for them, listen to them, and do not dismiss their emotions.
“Beware of feeling like you are not good enough to deserve it.”-Minda Hart’s favorite writer, Audrey Lord. Self-doubt is a menace for career-development. As an ambitious woman of color, you need to have faith in your abilities and believe that you have the talent and professional prowess to progress. “ We need to create an environment where we can thrive, not just survive,“– says Minda Harts about fighting for women to secure a seat at the table.
More Diverse Tables
It is time to adopt a growth mindset that allows you to stretch and grow your brain and learn from your mistakes. Ending this energetic conversation on a hopeful note, Minda Hart expressed her wishes for the future of workplaces:
“I hope and pray that in 2025 that we will see more diverse tables that we will move women of color into leadership roles, we will see more CEO, roles, presidents, etc.
We will have an equitable workforce. I hope that we’ll see more women of color leaving environments that don’t serve them any longer.
And they end up where they need to be. I believe that we need to stand up and say something about it.“
Host: Vivian Acquah
As a Workplace Wellness Advocate, Vivian advises managers on how to keep their team members healthy, happy, and safe by using a holistic approach called workplace wellness. She is also the digital strategist for this live stream production.
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