Unconscious bias, recruitment and promotion hurdles, and impostor syndrome, are some of the factors that often prevent women, especially women of color, from achieving success at work, according to a recent panel at a Thomson Reuters-hosted “Equality at Work for Women of Color” event.
Panelists Karen Gray, Executive Vice President of Human Resources at A+E Networks Group; Betty Ng, Founder and CEO of Inspiring Diversity LLC; and Mirna Santiago, President and CEO of Girls Rule the Law, Inc. shared their perspectives on how to increase representation of women of color in the workplace. Yahaira Jacquez, Reporter and Producer at Thomson Reuters, moderated the session; and Rawia Ashraf, Product Lead for Tech Innovation at Thomson Reuters, offered opening remarks.
During the panel, Gray, Ng, and Santiago provided insight on how women of color can help promote their own ambitions. They also gave invaluable recommendations on what organizations can do to help attract and retain women of color, including:
Start building the talent pipeline early with young people of color
Santiago recognized the need to start inspiring the next generation of law students early in their education. Her company, Girls Rule the Law, provides girls in middle and high school with mentors in the legal, judiciary, and legislative fields.
Together, these girls participate in debates, mock trials, and other activities aimed at inspiring them to pursue a career in the legal field. Santiago hopes that these girls will eventually grow up and fill the gap, solving the issue of under-representation of women, especially women of color, in the legal world.
Focus on recruitment and self-reflect with tough questions
The recruitment process is an effective way to promote diversity and inclusion at work. Organizations should push their recruiters to consider a more diverse group of candidates, particularly at entry level roles, Gray suggested. On most college campuses, there are student associations dedicated to young people of color, and this is an excellent way to build a pipeline of diverse candidates.
This tactic is equally important for experienced hires. Gray explained that organizations should be able to answer questions like, “How many people have you brought in? What groups are underrepresented? Who is getting promoted? Is [there only] one group of people known as high potential talent?” Many people do not have a diverse group of friends, and they tend to recruit from the same group which leads to an under-representation of women at color at the workplace, she added.
Appoint women of color to leadership and influential committees
Organizations may demonstrate their commitment to retaining women of color by ensuring those women are present and visible within the senior ranks for the organization. Indeed, organizations should place women of color on committees and appoint them as leaders to demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion at the workplace, panelists stressed.
Embed diversity and inclusion in the organization’s daily culture
Ng recognized that while organizations promote special celebrations for various communities of color, such as Black History Month or Asian Pacific Heritage month, she emphasized that the retention of women of color requires changing the company’s daily culture.
Companies should invest in diversity and inclusion programs and initiatives, she explained, adding that she works with companies and schools to create an inclusive culture through her company, Inspiring Diversity. She co-authored “Po-Ling Power: Propelling Yourself and Others to Success” with her mother and “Meet the Persevering Penguins and Pals” with her children. She hopes that her books will teach both adults and children the principles of diversity with inclusion, which eventually will foster a more diverse and equal workforce and society.
Value the “superpower” that is a woman of color
Ng also recommended “think[ing] of being a woman of color as a superpower.” She and the other panelists agreed that women of color should “check their self-doubt at the door.”
Organizations should recognize that women of color may experience self-doubt despite their success, and although many employees may suffer from impostor syndrome, women of color may have different factors contributing to this phenomenon. For example, Ng explained that she felt she was going against her upbringing when she started to speak up at work.
It is important for organizations to be attuned to these sentiments and realize how these attitudes may prevent women of color from reaching higher ranks in their careers.