Career stuck? 10 steps women of color can take to move up
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Posted by: Barbara Francella
By Ancella Bickley Livers
columnists are getting on my very last nerve. I would pull my hair out if it weren’t
too short for me to grab.
I was waiting to get my hair cut, I read yet another list telling me what women
of color need to have or do to progress in corporate America.
surprisingly, having a sponsor topped the charts. You know sponsors: the people
who advocate for you when you’re not in the room. Clearly, sponsors are a
critical need, but columnists and sundry reports also say that women of color
don’t have great networks or access to challenging job opportunities. Those
observations are true as well — and important. So what, you may be asking, is
is the lists we keep seeing are necessary, but not sufficient. There are other behaviors,
mindsets and experiences we often don’t discuss, but which are important for
our corporate progress. So, I’ve come up with my own list. I call it the
"Managing Ourselves, Our Lives and Our Work So They Don’t Come Together in One
Big Mess List.” I realize the name’s a little long; I’m working on that, too.
Anyway, here’s what I think is missing:
- Believe in ourselves. Society sends women of color
endless messages saying we are less than just about everyone else. And those
messages, subtle yet effective, can seep into our self-esteem and cause serious
damage. We have got to mute those messages and truly, deeply believe in
ourselves, particularly if we want others to believe in us.
- Advocate for ourselves. Speaking up for ourselves and
being professional are not contradictory. It’s important that we believe we are
worthy enough to advocate for ourselves. If we don’t speak up for ourselves,
others are less likely to speak up for us.
- Be willing to trust. If we see everyone as
untrustworthy, we create a world in which we can’t succeed. If you have
difficulty trusting others, ask yourself if your feelings are grounded in fact
or in your own mindset. If it’s the latter, then reflect on whether your attitude
is helping or hindering you.
- Manage multiple cultures. Juggling our personal community and
culture with our work community and culture can be stressful. Get with someone
else who else is doing the same balancing act and see if you can support each
other. Determine if there are places or people who can cross into both. Don’t
view inhabiting multiple worlds as a problem, but rather as a gift that offers
a rich set of experiences.
- Fearlessly looking at ourselves. Don’t be afraid to look at
yourself critically. Our group and individual strength lies in true self-knowledge.
Accept yourself and work on those
aspects that need improving. None of us is perfect, and that’s okay, but we’re
pretty darn good, and that’s a fact.
- Shed old baggage. See if there are long-held belief that
are holding you back. For example, work to release yourself from messages that
say you’re not as good as others, that you don’t deserve success or that you shouldn’t
strive for more. Don’t carry burdens given to you by others.
- Manage family commitments. Our family commitments may be
different from those of our white colleagues. Perhaps we’re the most educated
person in our families or the one who speaks the best English. We may be the
one who helps other family members interact with doctors and lawyers. If so,
learn the unwritten rules about work about family commitments and take steps to
ensure that poorly timed telephone calls from family and periodic absences to
aid them don’t undermine your reputation. When possible, with your family to organize
medical and other visits so you can schedule around them.
- Reach out. Women of color often informally
associate mostly within our own groups. Reach out. Make friendships outside of
your own group. Invite some of these new friends to your home. You may be
surprised at how rich your life becomes and how broader relationships help you at
work and socially.
- Judge your leadership style by different
approach to leadership may not be the same as that which is commonly portrayed
in the leadership literature. That’s okay. Lead in the way that is most authentic
and effective for you. Believe in yourself and go with your strengths.
- Define success for ourselves. Determine what success means for
yourself and don’t get caught up in others’ definitions of who you should be.
senior faculty for the Center for Creative
Ancella Bickley Livers works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies
and nonprofit organizations to design and deliver leadership solutions. She has
interacted with thousands of managers and executives over the past 18 years,
fine-tuning her expertise on diversity issues, particularly those focusing on
African Americans and women.
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