How do women confront race-related workplace challenges? On Thursday evening, October 29, Union Settlement hosted “Race Challenges in the Workplace,” a fireside chat broadcast live by the Manhattan Neighborhood Network television channel (Spectrum Channel 1993 in New York City). NYU McSilver Institute’s Chief Operating Officer Rose Pierre-Louis joined a panel of experts in a discussion moderated by Lissa Southerland, Chief Operating Officer of Union Settlement.
Women of color have taken a disproportionate hit of the economic job losses in the U.S. resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the World Economic Forum. They must not be left behind as workplaces adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, and what the world looks like afterward, said Southerland. “The choices corporations make today will have a lasting impact on women of color in the years to come.”
Pierre-Louis shared her insights for Black women and other women of color about navigating the workplace and overcoming barriers to success. She stressed the importance of gathering a “kitchen cabinet” of mentors and supportive colleagues “who are only thinking about you and your success,” to help advance your career. She also gave advice for avoiding “imposter syndrome” — in which you feel like you don’t deserve your success — and taking advantage of opportunities. “I’ve consciously worked on not making myself smaller to make my superiors seem bigger. As women of color we are taught to fit in.”
Yet, despite the challenges of doing so, women of color must bring their full, authentic selves to the workplace, the panelists agreed. “We’re not responsible for others’ level of comfort when we show up in a room,” said Andrea De Loney, Diversity and Inclusion Strategist for Northwell Health. “Show up being your full self. Be confident, be bold and be heard.”
Yesenia Mata, Executive Director of La Colmena, said that as a young Latina who grew up on the South Side of Chicago, she felt pressure from white colleagues in the workplace to fit in. “When I started getting comfortable with who I was, I started becoming more powerful.”
The panelists also said it is important to seek out mentors, and to mentor others. “If you don’t know where you’re going, ask someone who has been there,” said Rebecca Mattis-Pinard, Chief Officer for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Marymount Manhattan College.
See the rest of the conversation in the video above.