As we close out Black History Month, we want to talk about the implications of not seeing ourselves in the workplace. Co founder, Karen Okonkwo sheds light on this from her personal experience.
What is wrong with this picture below?
Before I share with you what is wrong with this image I must add a few disclaimers.
1) This image is mine so I have the right to display it. I have blurred out the faces of those in the photo as not to distract from who they are as people.
2) I like every single person in this image.
3) I suggest you keep reading through everything we are about to say and use this as a teachable moment or a script you can discuss amongst your friends, colleagues and family.
First problem: Majority males.
Implications of this: As the ONLY woman amongst a group of majority men in a work setting, it is unflattering. This sort of dominance forces women, especially strong women, to feel like they need to overcompensate to keep up with the male dominance. This is where you get terms like “she is a bitch” “she is a tough cookie”, when in reality a lot of women behave that way because they’re trying to not be taken advantage of or they are trying to be taken seriously.
Next problem: Majority white
Implications of this: Cultural dominance. Group think. Tokenization.
There are cultural differences between people of various ethnic/racial backgrounds. These are facts. I am not implying that all white people are the same or any other race. But, there are cultural norms characteristic of every race. With that said, to be the only black persons amongst all white people puts heavy weight on the majorities cultural nuances which can make it VERY uncomfortable for the only black person in the group. We are forced to laugh and assimilate. For those of us who don’t want to put in that fake energy, we recluse - removing ourselves which makes us isolated. The majority, confused, translate that into elitism or even worse the majority don’t notice this isolation because they are so accustom to their cultural dominance.
The implication of having a majority of one race in a corporate or group structure is groupthink. Everyone thinks the same and therefore can reject ideas from the one lone race in the group.
The last implication of the majority race complex is tokenization. You’re the ONLY black person (or other race) and that is called out and glorified and in a way fetishized. Your hair is touched, ignorant comments coated as compliments are conveyed, you’re consulted for all the “urban things” (slang, latest dance moves, etc). You’re put in the middle of every picture....
If you own a company, stop thinking that hiring women is properly tackling diversity. Diversity isn’t just a male and female thing. You just look like you’re checking a box so your business doesn’t get called out. Hiring all WHITE WOMEN, is not wholly tackling the diversity issue. You’re just being lazy. The issue is equity of all genders and races/ethnic backgrounds.
I’m not impressed by your all-white female coalition no more than I am impressed by majority anything. It’s about diversity, equity and inclusion. Period.