The fastest growing group of entrepreneurs today are black women, yet why are they stuck in mid-level roles? Blame the game of corporate politics – full of unwritten rules, no rulebook, but present and felt in most companies, especially for women of color.
In September, I spoke with Chantel George, CEO and Founder of Sistas in Sales (SIS), a global community that empowers women of color to navigate their sales careers through shared knowledge. She shared that there’s a lack of collective information for women of color to advocate for themselves, significantly barring them from accelerating their careers.
So no, you didn’t get that promotion because you weren’t good enough. Most likely, you were just uninformed about how you could have been more proactive.
For a woman of color in tech, unfortunately, there are not a lot of people you can run to for advice. Regardless of gender, the tech industry is already extremely underrepresented. Employees who identify as black or African American at:
How less will those numbers be for women?
Who can mentor them and genuinely understand what they go through? How can they know what’s next for them? How can they function amidst the social unrest? These are what Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are for – safe spaces in the company where they can find a community.
However, it’s easy for management to give them a conference room and call it a day. Initiatives can easily become performative but not effective when they don’t receive enough support from management.
Real impact starts when ERGs are taken seriously, like what Chantel experienced at LinkedIn’s Black Inclusion Group (BIG). Members were compensated for their ERG efforts, there was global involvement, and they were very active in advocacy events.
The game is landing the job even before the job description is posted, Chantel shared. It’s knowing who the players are and knowing how to talk to them, being in the room where it happens, and understanding that the way up isn’t a smooth climb - but a maneuver.
The truth is: You can work twice as hard, but you won’t get very far without playing by these unwritten rules. So break them. While it’s a reality we have to face, this doesn’t mean women of color are stuck at the losing end.
- Be vocal
Let people know your wins of the week, opinions, and feelings about the state of the world. A lot don’t post on LinkedIn and other platforms because they fear the possible repercussions at work.
It’s totally understandable, but in the future, we hope you can see how significant the payoffs will be – connecting with like-minded people and companies and being celebrated for your hard work by people outside your organization. When you’re not there anymore, who will know, asked Chantel.
- Be curious - always
Be on a constant lookout for knowledge. From fine-tuning your communication style to being on the right job board, there are so many things you need to know - but there’s no one-stop shop for all of these. Learn from different women in panels, videos, and articles - piece all the tidbits of information - to strategize.
- Find a community
The game works because there are a lot who don’t know it exists in the first place - help change that. When you find a friend who’s going through the same situation, share salaries, obstacles, and wins. Chances are that you’re not alone in experiencing these because corporate politics runs deep in whatever industry.
Finding just one person is already a relief; what more if you find a community? Join organizations like SIS, Women Sales Pros, Sales For The Culture, and more. It’s truly liberating when you’re not afraid to share your hardships anymore.
- Everything is negotiable. From stock vesting periods to budget for office parking spaces, not everything is fixed. There will always be ways to change things in your favor.
- People like to work with people they like. Sometimes, it’s not even about your skills - it’s a personality match. Allow yourself to be casual and let your true self shine through because this is what makes you likable. It’s too tiring to constantly put up a facade.
This week, Andrea Henderson, a veteran in the talent acquisition space, joins me to share the power of networking and how she identified and leveraged opportunities available through her connections. We also discussed the lesser-known details about talent acquisition, such as recruitment processes, measuring candidate experience, recruiter incentives, and much more.
Tune in to this episode and gain insight into the best practices for building meaningful relationships with sponsors, networks, and potential employers to maximize your career potential!
Andrea Henderson is a Director of Partner Solutions & Executive Search at Humanity Health, where she is responsible for executive and board of director searches in the healthcare and life sciences industries. She is the Chair of the Membership Committee for the Atlanta chapter of the Private Directors Association and is certified in Private Company Board Governance. Andrea has over 20 years of experience as an international Human Resources/Talent Professional and is an expert at developing strategies around identifying and cultivating diverse talent for executive-level and board-of-director roles.
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