Being a minority in Corporate America, specifically for black women, can be very challenging. Even with the recent successes of women advancing to the C-Suite, black women still make up less than 1% of executive positions at Fortune 500 companies. There are currently zero African-American women running Fortune 500 companies since Ursula Burns departure at Xerox in 2016. Ursula was the first and only black woman CEO to run a Fortune 500 company.
“Even with black women graduating from college in record numbers, ‘not enough are coming out of the education system to get them all the way through to the C-suite,’ says Burns. And the black women who do make it often end up in support positions rather than the operational roles that lead to CEO jobs.” Minorities Face Numerous Challenges On The Path To The C-suite
Since post-grad, I’ve had the chance to catch up with many of my friends from college to discuss ‘life after’ and most of us share one thing in common, we are the only women of color within our work environment. Being the one and only comes with its share of hardship as we consistently battle to break through stereotypes to prove rightful ownership of our seat at the table within male-dominated industries. So how do we follow our ambitions if we keep getting knocked off the ladder?
While the odds may seem like they are stacked against you, I encourage you to change your perspective. It’s easy to throw in the towel and look for a more suitable company that is diverse in thought, people, leadership, and practices, however, I want you to realize that you ARE actually in a position of power.
Know your worth.
We live in a society where success is not directly correlated to your work ethic. For some it can be inherited, for others, it’s survival of the fittest. A mindset shift needs to take place regarding women, more specifically minority women, in the workplace. It is so easy to feel under-valued, under-appreciated, and overworked.
“When anyone in business — from entry-level to CEO — feels demoralized, that’s a hard feeling to shake. It can derail the progress of promising young professionals and lead them to take their talents elsewhere in search of career development. Research by talent management firm Catalyst showed that this feeling can be common for black women, as McGirt details in her Fortune story.” Minorities Face Numerous Challenges On The Path To The C-suite
Do not get discouraged by your situation. One importance of being the one and only is to educate your co-workers. It is our responsibility not to tolerate, but to respectfully push back on our counterparts who have failed to see our value and worth. Do not run in the face of adversity, but instead speak up. You are a Queen. You should get paid what you’re worth, have the resources you need to do your job, and be treated with respect. Do not accept anything less. You will be surprised at how even the slightest pushback can change the game.
Be who you are to change the narrative.
God placed you where you are for a reason. He wants to use you to reach others, to make an impact and promote change within your environment, just as you are. Be yourself. If you are an introvert, don’t feel the need to put on a show to be this outspoken person if it makes you uncomfortable. If your truth is your work ethic, keep working, people will notice.
In a world full of stereotypes and labels, it is important to stay true to who you are. Our perspective on life and the people within it is first inherited as children. This only changes when we live life for ourselves. Be who you are to change the narrative.
Once you’ve made your mark, don’t forget to open the door for others.
Some people get funny about this. Sometimes we make it to the top and forget how difficult it was to get there. To create a lasting impact and continue your legacy, you must pay it forward.
“At the end of the day it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished…it’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.” – Denzel Washington
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.