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4 takeaways from Episode 1: Working While Black

In this episode we connected the abstract to the real world by exploring what it really means to work while Black and how working while Black can affect our professional and mental well-being.

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. No fancy editing or charming music. Just quick takes, a-ha moments, and lessons learned from my interactions with special guests in Conference Room C.

"When you stereotype someone, automatically placing them in a category based on your perception, you are reducing them to the lowest level of human comprehension..."

TAKEAWAY #1: Memo to organizations: Don’t do the bare minimum

As I listened back to episode 1, I clinged to part of my opener about how critical it is for organizations to avoid disguising compliance with legal mandates as evidence of inclusivity or equity. Congrats…perhaps you can’t be sued regarding your organization’s diversity practices. But I urge organizations to see that, in some respects, this may be the least of their worries. Especially in today’s global workforce where competition is fierce for the best and the brightest. Organization leaders should really, really be concerned with some of the softer aspects of diversity management (if you will). Dare I say forget about the business case for just a second! What are employees belonging to protected classes saying about your organization’s culture? Is there a power imbalance in your organization (either apparent or covert)? When a member of a protected class leaves your organization, was it at all because they felt they didn’t belong? This is just a start, just scratching to surface, but the point is that organizations need to move from being complacent with complying and start caring more about the wellbeing of their employees. Like I said, don’t do the bare minimum.

TAKEAWAY #2: Do better

I have to give two snaps to Dr. Don for dropping gems that would make any momma proud. When he shared anecdotes regarding being treated differently because of his age I FELT THAT IN MY SPIRIT! Chile, if I had a quarter for every time someone called me a “baby” in the workspace I’d be able to retire by now. Talk about a triple whammy! Young, Black, and a woman *whew* THE STRESS!! And when we spoke about stereotyping and how it stops you from truly getting to know someone I had to sit with that a while. I feel a bit immune to stereotyping now (unfortunately). I try not to let these types of interactions get into my psyche. But this episode brought a lot of raw feelings to the surface. Stereotyping is more damaging then we like to admit in real life. When you stereotype someone, automatically placing them in a category based on your perception, you are reducing them to the lowest level of human comprehension (your comprehension). How much talent and value are we missing out on when we do this? Just think. We’ve got to better.

TAKEAWAY #3: Was that a metaphor?

When Dana said that we “have to dress for the position that we want not the one we have” and that in doing so we may have to “challenge some of our thinking and behaviors” I had a mind explosion. I just felt like she was talking about waaaaay more than what clothes we wear on our bodies or even how we wear our hair. I felt like her statement could be a metaphor for how we choose to display our identities in the workspace. Now, I could be wrong but I’m going to roll with it anyway because how we show up at work is SO important. When we, as young Black professionals, are trying to climb the proverbial ladder (to get to the position we want) we have a lot of decisions to make. Including what we will metaphorically wear to work (i.e. which of our identities we will display). For example, will we talk in our natural speech pattern? Or will we code switch? Will we share perhaps unpopular perspectives that have resulted from our experiences? Or will we remain neutral? Will we stand up for other protected classes when things get murky or will it never have anything to do with us? Will we be our authentic selves even if it makes us stand out or will we choose to fit in? These are the heavy choices we make. In getting to that position we want we have to decide what to wear and what to tuck in a drawer (yes, that was another metaphor.)

TAKEAWAY #4: Knowledge for days…

Something became so clear to me after launching Conference Room C. An unintended consequence that I am just loving. I started Conference Room C as a virtual safe space for young Black professionals to explore all things working while Black. But through the conversations I am having with multiple rock star guests I realize that Conference Room C is also about promoting the experts that are among us. With every guest I bring into the conference it is more and more proof that the issue with Black folks advancing in certain sectors is not a pipeline issue. We out here!! And while allies will visit occasionally, Conference Room C will continue to be a place that displays the best and brightest Black talent.

FINAL TAKE: You are not alone in this juggling act called being young, Black, and a professional!

~Dr. A


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