"I am the only woman of color on my team. During discussions I am sometimes asked to 'speak for all women' or all women of color. How can I address this without devaluing my insights and contributions to the team?"
This situation happens more often for people of color because the dominant group — White men — sometimes unconsciously use stereotypes. This is directly impacted by their upbringing, exposure to other cultures and a low level of self-awareness for the benefits afforded to White males.
The most important thing you can do is build strategic relationships to help people get to know you as an individual and as a person. Then, when you are placed in situations where the expectation is set for you to represent "all” people, I recommend you gracefully remind the group that you are unique. Emphasize that just because your skin color is the same as someone else’s does not put you in a position to speak for them or represent their thoughts.
Diversity is about the uniqueness of each individual. Remind them assumptions are dangerous. We must avoid applying "the paintbrush” to any particular group. Not all women of color are the same. Not all White men are the same.
Just make sure you are a woman of excellence. Every time you speak, have something of value to offer. Soon, they will get the message.
Trudy Bourgeois is happy to answer your career questions. Please email them to NEW Communications Manager Barbara Grondin Francella.