This topic is complicated and the following is simply a tiny drip in a vast body of water and is by no means complete. There is no short answer or quick fix. Only time spent in honest dialogue with one another to continue our growth as leaders.
Nearly 5 years ago I was sitting in a diversity training workshop where the facilitator, a white woman whose name I can not longer remember, proclaimed that it is the white woman in middle management that people of color dislike. Jaws of white women dropped. Heads of people of color nodded in agreement.
She went on to say that, we, as white women, are not allowed to ask people of color about this, if it is true? why? what can we do? Rather, we must sit with one another to unpack our privilege, unlearn racism, and do be better in the middle.
I have had a number of interactions recently that have caused me to reflect back on that training 5 years ago. My fellow white women, we must do better! While we still have a way to go to catch up to our male counterparts who hold senior level positions, our numbers are growing in middle management. Our voice can grow stronger as we gain more and more access to decision making tables. With this growth comes our responsibility to do as the diversity facilitator said; sit with one another to unpack our privilege, unlearn racism, and do better in the middle.
As I continue my journey of learning to improve my leadership, I have come across the following tips and associated resources that might help others on their journey as well:
- Unpack Mainstream Feminism and understand why it is racist.
- Understand the complexities of the wage gap and how it differs for women of color.
- Learn the history of the Pro-Choice Movement and its impact on women of color.
- Do your own self work to unlearn racism – do not ask a person of color to teach you.
- Understand how encouraging people of color to report incidents to police can be traumatizing.
- Examine the history of feminism.
- Critically examine the reality of systemic racism and the role it place in the workplace.
These are not in any since of the word a complete list of actions or resources. However, these should get you going down the path to self discovery and ultimately to strong leadership.
We have a responsibility to educate ourselves so that we can do better for all. People of color, and women, struggle in the work place. By taking the time, owning the discomfort of self discovery and learning, maybe we can help make the workplace a bit better for women and other underrepresented groups. We must use our voice at the tables we have access to as middle managers. We must also continue to educate ourselves and think critically about what it really means to lead in an increasingly diverse workplace.
Let’s continue to learn and grow together!