On LinkedIn, I wrote about the challenges and perils of speaking up as a woman of color at work.
The first step in addressing a problem is acknowledging it. Check. So now what? Where. Do. We. Go. From. Here?
On the practical side, it can help to have some responses queued and ready, so that you’re prepared when you face bias at work:
Interrupted in a meeting? “Just a sec, I’m going to finish my thought.”
Some dude sharing the idea you just put forth? “Yes Bob, I said the same thing just now. Glad we’re on the same page.”
Keep hearing someone else (a woman of color) being interrupted? “I’d really like to hear what Ria has to say, so please let her finish.”
Getting microaggression-y comments about how you’re so aggressive/strong/assertive? “I’m glad you appreciate the way I advocate for myself. I take this same approach to advocating for my team/peers/customers/students...too.”
No matter how ready your comeback, it’s so wrong to have to put up with this.
And yet. And yet.
You know what to do: you keep on speaking up, knowing that you’re confronting harmful stereotypes. Inclusive leadership is rarely glamorous and never Instagrammable. Rather, it’s leading by example, even (or especially) when you’re overworked, fed up, or heartbroken.
Is it exhausting? Yes. Is it unfair? One hundred percent. But if there’s any silver lining to this heavy cloud, it’s that pushback proves that we’re doing it right. And the more of us push to create a culture that celebrates women of color’s voices, the more normalized it becomes in our culture.
We’re here. We’re taking up space. We’re defying stereotypes (though we shouldn’t have to!) We’re producing brilliant, game-changing work. We’re not sorry.
We’re making the workplace — and the world — brighter and easier for the people who are right behind us.
I hope that gives you fire in your belly, just like it does for me.
What obstacles have you faced when raising your voice at work as a woman of color? How do you support yourself to keep going? Hit reply and let me know — I would love to hear your stories.
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