Maggie Stamets is a writer for BUILT BY GIRLS, which prepares the next generation of female and non-binary leaders to step into their power and break into their careers. WAVE is the backbone of BUILT BY GIRLS: it’s a 1:1 matching program that connects high school and college students with top tech professionals across the country. For more information and to sign up check out builtbygirls.com.
To be the “only” in a group or on a team can often make an employee feel lonely and isolated, or that the company or organization isn’t for people like them.
Studies show that when people see themselves represented in a role, they are more likely to aspire to it. This idea is called the “role model effect." By seeing someone relatable in an aspirational position, it makes that position seem attainable. But to get more Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) representation in leadership roles, there must be a concerted effort to recognize and promote BIPOC talent within the company.
Of course making the call to promote or hire is usually up to HR or a manager, but there are ways that employees at every level can help elevate and lift up BIPOC ideas and voices within the company. Here's what you can do:
Shout out great work
Shout out the work of your BIPOC coworkers.
Often their work is passed over or co-opted by their teams. Make an effort to recognize exemplary work by your BIPOC teammates and give them their due credit. This can be a Slack message or you can send a team-wide email, whatever seems appropriate to your workplace.
Be an advocate
Another tip is to advocate for there to be equal representation in meetings and conferences with important people in the office.
When you’re invited to speak or attend a conference, scrutinize the guest list. If you don’t see many BIPOC people who should be there based on their role, advocate for their inclusion.
Amplify each other
Follow the example set by women in the Obama administration.
They found that men would often repeat their ideas in meetings and get the credit for them. So the women started amplifying those ideas by saying “I agree with Carol’s idea to do X” and then another would say “Yes we should go with Carol’s suggestion.” It was important to always include the name attached to the idea.
Try doing this with your BIPOC coworkers or even classmates. Amplify their idea and give them credit. By intentionally amplifying the voices and work of your teammates, you will increase their chance of being recognized for the hard work they do, which might otherwise be overlooked because of the implicit biases others have.
Remember that as an employee you have power within the organization to effect change in the way you treat your teammates, but you can also hold your company accountable. Keep a close eye on how your company is implementing plans for diversity and inclusion.
It can be hard to recognize your privilege and acknowledge the ways that systems of oppressions have held others down to your benefit. But being in this discomfort is really important.
The only way we will move forward is if the people with privilege work to dismantle the ways in which they benefit from that privilege. Change is very possible, but it starts with individuals.
Read more information and tips in our Advice section