Updated: Apr 29, 2022
I decided not to bury the lede here: I’ve learned over the last 15 years of my career, that adding me to your team will not solve your diversity problem. At best, perhaps it is a start. Without the culture, values and organizational will - the results may actually be disappointing for the both of us.
As many who've worked with me may know first-hand (and those who may follow me on LinkedIn or on Instagram may gather from my content) I’m a fairly outspoken advocate of diversity and inclusion generally and amplification of Black talent specifically in the context of work and commerce. I am a marketer by profession - so this work is not my job but rather my self-imposed responsibility as I occupy professional spaces with so few people that look like me. I feel I have a duty, as unfair as that may be. I also have to create a space in my career - no matter how small - where the fullness of who I am matters. All of my talent and expertise exists in the body of a Black woman - these things can’t and shouldn’t be divorced from each other. So it’s partly selfish work, I need to create my own refuge - so I can continue to do the work I enjoy.
So, I have this mission at every brand that employs me as an adjunct to my actual job. It’s emotionally burdensome work. This week, after reading so many brand statements affirming "Solidarity With Black Lives" that didn’t reflect the lived experiences of Black employees, from brands with long-standing diversity problems - I realize I have made little impact. Perhaps I have shifted the perspectives of a few individuals - and as I moved up the ranks - perhaps those individuals held more power. But, I haven’t accomplished any significant shifts that get to the core of these issues around diversity, inclusion, belonging and equity at work.
I’ve instead shined a light (risking myself professionally) on issues for which there was no organizational will to solve. Issues folks were aware of on a surface level but had the privilege to both ignore and normalize. Issues for which colleagues and managers and exec teams could and would defend. Where does this leave me? I depend on these people for my livelihood. Can I afford to be in the business of making them uncomfortable? Can I afford to tell them they’ve harmed me with their words and actions? That I know my talent is undervalued, that I’m not compensated fairly or treated fairly? I speak out internally about broad issues, I try and hold them accountable — and make them look good on the outside (I’m a marketing person, after all.)
In this moment - when I read these perfunctory statements from brands, some I personally know don’t live up to the values they’re projecting - I can’t help but wonder if I’ve done any good.
I must return to the conclusion I started with: hiring me will not solve your diversity problem. It’s not a one-woman job. It requires organizational will to humbly address what you’re doing isn’t working and turn over every stone to find out why. It requires the work of many.
We’re at an inflection point as a country - many of us don’t want to return to “normal” - we want real change.
Hiring me will not solve your diversity problem, but rather conspiring with me, empowering me, valuing me and those like me - maybe that's a start.