Even in the year 2016, women, particularly women of color, often face discrimination during their careers and are often stereotyped in the corporate world based on existing prejudices in a white-male dominated workforce.
However, in today’s world, there is increasing social awareness, and companies are taking initiatives to promote more diversity in the workplace – now is the time to step up and take advantage of the opportunities for career advancement!
Here are some tips for how to combat stereotypes and overcome challenges regularly faced by women of color during the career progression. Remember that you are not alone.
Keep Things Professional and Positive
A large part of the image you project to others is based on how you carry yourself and the attitudes you bring to the workplace. Instead of being on the defensive, seek positive interactions with others around you, even if your co-workers are mostly white and/or male. You have just as much right to be in the workplace as any of them – if you ever feel that you are being discriminated against, speak out in a professional way. Dispel the myth of the “angry black woman”, and show that you are just as open, assertive, and communicative as any model employee would be.
Find a Mentor, Be a Mentor
You will not be the first person to encounter discrimination from potential employers or co-workers, nor would you be the last. Utilize professional networks and build connections. Find someone who has been in your position, and learn from them how they handled certain challenges and were able to have a successful career. A professional mentor can help your career advancement in a big way.
Also, after you have had some work experience, you can also think about providing guidance for other young women of color who are starting out with their own careers. Offer your insights, share your unique stories, and give the advice and encouragement to help them succeed – it will be much appreciated!
Expand the Rest of Your Network, Too
The majority of the people you encounter in your workplace will be very accepting of who you are and the fact that you belong there just as much as they do. One way to gain your co-workers appreciation is by being a great listener and remembering the small details that make a difference. There are hidden rules at the workplace for building relationships with those around you – for example, remembering birthdays or sending a get-well note for a sick co-worker. Congratulate your peers when they accomplish significant milestones or complete difficult tasks. When your work community enjoys and values having you around, it makes going to work so much more fun, and also will help your career by gaining positive referrals for the future.
Work Hard and Know Your Worth
As a person of color, you have probably heard the adage, “To be noticed, you have to be twice as good as those around you.” Unfortunately, there are still lots of office politics going on, and sometimes managers play favorites when it is time to give out promotions.
Though this may be frustrating, the best way to respond to this form of subtle discrimination is to hold your head high and continue to produce quality work. Eventually, this will be noticed by the people who matter and you can only gain stellar references by working hard. Even when you might feel that an employee does not value your contributions, the most important thing is to know your own worth, and believing that your perseverance will pay off in the end.
Climbing the corporate ladder to success is never without challenges, and this is particularly true for women of color. However, there are plenty of success stories of women of color who worked hard to become executives and even CEOs – and there is no reason why you cannot join their ranks if you take the right approach to your work, and don’t let the remnants of white-male dominated workplace discrimination culture bring you down. You have just as much of an opportunity as anyone else, now it is time to bring your belief and goals to work, and success is just around the corner.