This past week I attended what is to be the first of many moderated discussions on diversity in the workplace. I was grateful to be invited by an old colleague/mentor. And to be honest, at first, I didn’t really understand what was the event was really about. But having gone, it was a necessary exercise in self-affirmation and self-love that all black people need.
I feel like it recharged my batteries and allowed me to refocus on building my career and our brand here at Objectivelyblack.com. The event was a speaker panel called “Going Beyond Diversity and Inclusion: Real Discussions about Race” and was hosted by the folks at Patients & Purpose for OmnicomHealthGroup. The name of the panel pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the subject matter of the event. The panel of speakers included some very dope and very accomplished black professionals that have worked their way to becoming industry leaders in the area of finance Advertising/Marketing, Media & Communications:
Danny Wright (Moderator) – Chief Brand Officer – Adweek
Romel Lherisson – VP, Graphic Design Director – Hyphen Digital
Lauren Pattani-Wright – President – The Scienomics Group
Claudia Sampson – Chief Diversity Officer – NYC Department of Finance
Calvin Butts, Jr. – VP, Agency Partnerships – BioPharm Communications
Make sure you look up these brilliant individuals. But tell ’em your boys at OB sent ya!
Now before I get into some of the topics we spoke on, I want to quickly comment on the makeup of the room. Now, I’m guilty of this as much as anyone else, but sometimes when we have discussions about diversity or the unique struggles with being apart of a minority, we leave out the majority group. This is natural, but sometimes in order to see change, we need to share our experience with other groups that may not fully understand our plight. That wasn’t the case here. The room was mixed with all types of people, so big ups to @OHGVoices for practicing the inclusion that they preach.
Now for the good part. Over the course of about 2 hours we went into deep conversation about topics that are very common to you if you are like us; black in predominantly white industries… So all of them, I guess?
Ok so did you know that greater diversity is directly correlated with financial performance across several companies worldwide? That’s what moderator Danny Wright opened with. It’s worth a greater read though, so you can truly understand the implications of not having a diverse workforce:
“The penalty for not being diverse on both measures persists. Now, as previously, companies in the fourth quartile on both gender and ethnic diversity are more likely to underperform their industry peers on profitability: 29 percent in our 2017 data set.” – Delivering through diversity January 2018 | Report | www.mckinsey.com
Here’s a little on what we touched on:
How many times have you heard:
“You sound white?” Or “You’re so articulate?”
How many times have you wanted to keep it real at work, but then remember that Dave Chapelle sketch (When keeping it real goes wrong)? Yeah, code-switching is something that we all have experience with. But the panel had some interesting views on this. Their feeling in general was that the ability to adjust to the conversations you have at work, vs. the conversations you have in other areas of your life is like having a 2nd language. You may as well use that “articulate” “white talk” to your benefit. But also know that this isn’t a practice unique to us blacks. There are are many different reasons why someone may play a part at work and not feel completely comfortable revealing their “real” selves in the office. So Go ‘head switch the style up, and if they hate then let ’em hate and watch the money pile up. – Buddha… I’m buggin, this was 50 of course.
The “Angry Black Women” Stereotype:
Why is it that when a male is unwavering, or headstrong he is praised, but when a female does it she’s labeled as a B****? Hmm. Seems problematic. But the situation is so much worse for our sistas. And judging by the nods in the room, this situation is a common one. The two esteemed ladies of the panel were able to shed light on this and share their experiences. One of them even told a story of being approached by a male counterpart with a balled fist during a heated exchange… That’s fucking unacceptable. We treat our sisters this way? Yeah I said WE. Lets not pretend that as black men we don’t participate in this behavior. We have to be better. Shout out to Gillette! – Although we’re Bevel brothas over here. The ladies were able to offer an approach to deal with things like this. They acknowledged how often they feel a sense of un-belonging, and even a feeling of imposter syndrome, but advised us to allow our expertise, knowledge, and our work speak for us. No one can argue with results. We probably haven’t seen the last of the stereotypes, but we can’t allow ourselves to be silenced just so others feel more comfortable. FUCK ALL THAT NOISE.
First Time in Corporate Spaces – Feeling Uncomfortable:
Each of the panelists took the time to explain their initial experiences with sexism and racism. I think this was important, but instead of summarizing each story, I’ll tell you that we all have these moments where we realize that we are either the only one that looks like us in the room or that we are one of few. I think its difficult to imagine reaching the goals you have set for yourself in place where you don’t see anyone else that looks like you. Especially if you’ve ever had discussions with other black people about how that world isn’t for you. But it was nice, no important to see all these successful black people on the panel as proof that your goals are not out of reach. That’s the takeaway.
Mentorship in the Workplace – Reaching Out.
I can personally speak to why mentorship is important. Even though my mentors don’t always look like me or share my culture, they push me to really take my career into my own hands. And that’s what this is about. We want to see you out here in these executive meetings killing it. You have a voice that needs to be heard. You have a unique perspective on the world that any company would be lucky to have. So how do you find a mentor? Well, if you are towards the beginning of your career, hopefully, someone in your company is out there looking for and reaching out to young people. If you’re not in a company like this, apply somewhere else NOW! If you are a more seasoned professional, black or otherwise, you should be reaching out, sharing stories, and bringing value to the minorities in your companies. Remember, mentorship prevents churn! Its good business.
So now, circling back to why we need discussions on inclusion on diversity in the workplace, with the racial tension in the country making people afraid to have even the most basic conversations about race and diversity, there’s something really special about seeing black professionals who are leaders in their industry doing so well and shining in their respective fields. This is the same reason representation is so important in TV, movies, and media in general. It serves as an inspiration. The same way seeing Michael B. Jordan, Serena Williams, and Barack Obama on TV inspires us, speaker panels like this can offer the same empowering message to today’s young professionals.
I dropped a few names above, but I’d be so wrong if I didn’t mention Ed Frankel who was the brains behind this gathering. Thank you Ed for everything you’re doing, we appreciate you fam. You the real MVP.
We encourage you to find or create your own discussions on these topics. And of course, share the article, subscribe to Objectively Black and follow us on social media for more topics like this.