In Episode 3 of Conference Room C: Where the culture meets, I had a 1:1 conversation with Gabriela Taveras—the first Black Miss Massachusetts (4th runner up at Miss America), advocate, & experienced professional recruiter. I first learned of Gabby when she keynoted a conference I was speaking at in March 2019. She did such a great job empowering the audience with her story that I just knew I wanted to interview her someday. I didn’t know how or when but less than a year later here we are!
Welcome to Conference Room C: Afterthoughts. Every other week I will continue the conversation by sharing a no frills, from the soul reflection on the previous week’s episode.
"The bottom line is that at no point is it acceptable to assume that Black people are all the same. We are of many different nationalities, religions, skin tones, cultures, languages, abilities, and perspectives. And if you know the history of the transatlantic slave trade, then you know that Black people can be from anywhere (not just America!)."
During Episode 3 we talked everything from -isms in the workspace, the intersection of being Black & Latina, and how millennials (Y) and centennials (Z) can own their power at work. There were so many gems dropped during the interview that it felt impossible to pick just three to recap. It had to be done, however, so here goes the quick and dirty (stream episode here):
1. One more time for the people in the back
When Gabby described how she’s been treated as an Afro-Latina at work she exclaimed “I’m Black before I’m Latina. But still you can’t treat me as one and forget the other.” She talked about situations where people thought it was OK to use certain language because they didn’t think she identified as Black. And she has also faced situations where people would make disparaging remarks about Latinos because they didn’t realize she was Dominican. Not stopping to consider that she was very much both…or possibly just not caring (btw it’s never appropriate to sling racist ideology around the workplace…yea…more in Ep. 3). The bottom line is that at no point is it acceptable to assume that Black people are all the same. We are of many different nationalities, religions, skin tones, cultures, languages, abilities, and perspectives. And if you know the history of the transatlantic slave trade, then you know that Black people can be from anywhere (not just America!). What is the organization's role in spreading the word about the diversity of Black people? The answer to this is multilayered but it starts at the top. Leaders have to be aware and open to learning about the diversity within employees that they group together automatically. Sometimes we can’t help it because our brains just work this way. But leaders should be held to higher standard when it comes to ensuring safe space and inclusivity in the workplace.
2. Always Reflect Your Client Demographic
One of the most critical points about diversity in organizations came when Gabby described a recommendation she gave to her former employer. She urged them to pay close attention to the shifting trends in the global workforce. She used the example of a company that worked closely with hers hiring their first Latina executive and the potential value in mirroring their diversity. Organizations that understand the benefits of having a diverse workforce are the same ones that will more easily expand into additional markets. Imagine trying to expand into the Latin American market with no Latino people on staff who understand the nuances of Latin culture. You can use the same example broadly when organizations are looking to expand into Asian markets or looking to attract more women clients or LGBTQI clients etc. Of course organizations should commit to having a diverse workforce because it’s the right thing to do but let’s be real…the need for a business case is still very much alive and well for many organizations.
3. Equal Pay is Not a Moment it is a Movement
The Dear Dr. A segment led us to discuss the fight for equal pay. The story came from a young Black woman professional who felt she was stuck playing catch up because she was hired for way less than her non-Black male counterpart. She really wanted to get into a specific industry, so she took the offer to get her foot in the door. I have a similar story but with less of a pay gap than what the storyteller experienced. After listening to the entire story Gabby and I discussed the best courses of action for young Black professionals who believe they are underpaid. There were ideas about salary negotiation and this and that but these days... leaving may be the best option for some. Organizations should be on notice--especially in certain industries like tech and finance where competition for the best talent is stiff! And not only that, the millennial and centennial generations are generally more entrepreneurial and less worried about stability. If an organization doesn’t want to pay a millennial or centennial what they are worth, then they will likely keep it moving. The quest for equal pay is not a brief moment in time that will pass. It is a movement and at the core is young Black professionals (and other marginalized people) understanding their value.