6 Ways Women Of Color Can Overcome Imposter Syndrome
Finding your confidence as a person of color in homogenous workplaces can be difficult, but it isn't impossible, says this HR expert.
Open any popular business magazine and you'll find at least one article lamenting the lack of diversity in the workplace. The statistics are hard to take in and quite sad: Research compiled by American Progress and Catalystsuggests that women of color occupy only 5% of managerial and professional positions in the workforce.
On the other hand, you will also find promising statistics such as Black students attending college at an incredible rate. So where will all of these promising carefree Black graduates find employment? Most likely in business settings where they will be one of few people of color in that organization.
When thrust in a homogenous workplace with little care and concern for diversity issues, some find their optimism and energetic souls fade into self-doubt. As someone who has recruited and managed HR departments for 18 years, I have seen this happen once too many. Oftentimes it is hard for me to recognize the outgoing, eager candidate that I just hired a few short months ago.
After years of watching this phenomenon, the list of challenges for people of color in homogenous workplaces read like symptoms that deserve recognition on WebMD:
- Feeling that your presence is merely tolerated, and if you left the next day, no would notice or care.
- Feeling that no one really listens to what you have to say. Usually appears after first contact with a white colleague who expresses the same idea you shared moments earlier, but with a different flair. Worsens when they're given the encouraging nod from a team lead or manager you didn't receive.
- A sense that others don't appreciate your contributions, as if the work you delivered could have been done by anyone, while others can do less intensive work and receive tremendous praise and kudos.
- Feeling overlooked for projects, which can lead to anxiety about your abilities and exasperation.
- Constant distrust of colleagues and managers. You're never really sure where you stand with them, so you're always working harder to be seen. You live in constant fear of making a mistake that will blackball you forever.
- Plagued with imposter syndrome, feeling like a fraud, and wondering if you really belong there.
All of the above can take a tremendous hit to your self-confidence and hurt your career aspirations in the long run. But all is not lost. I've seen amazing people of color burst ceilings and refuse to be boxed out. You can build your confidence, too. Remember confidence can be learned and acquired. Here are a few things to help you bolster your confidence and help minimize some of the challenges described above:
SPEAK EARLY AND OFTEN IN MEETINGS
Have you ever had a great idea, but were too afraid to share it in a group setting? Then that confident guy in marketing speaks up and says exactly what you were thinking and everyone bows down to his two minutes of greatness? There's a lesson there: Speak up early and say your idea confidently so you won't have to kick yourself for not speaking up sooner.
OVERESTIMATE YOUR ABILITIES
We tend to underestimate our abilities because we think our skills are no big deal. Some of us didn't grow up in households where our talents were constantly praised, so we grow up thinking our awesome sauce is not much to report on. You have to act like your skills are unique and like you are the only one that can bring them to the company to be recognized.
SELL YOURSELF OFTEN
Volunteer for assignments outside of your team. If your team isn't giving you love, see if you can apply your skills to other projects. Do well on those projects and watch other team members begin to sell your skills to others on your behalf.
GO AGAINST THE GRAIN
Don't try to fly under the radar and don't let your office's environment erode your confidence. Be bold and comfortable in your skin — only then will others be comfortable with you. An added bonus is that you will stop wrestling with thoughts of inadequacy.
READ BOOKS ON THE CULTURE CREATED BY YOUR ANCESTORS
I cannot stress enough the power and sense of self-worth that comes from learning about your history. It allows you to harness confidence that may have alluded you for years if you weren't encouraged to reflect on your history and be proud.
Knowing who you are allows you stand against those who try to tell you what you are not! Hold on to your truth.
OWN YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS
When working on a project and presenting, use I statements: "I created the… I worked with the client to…" Yes, you did that! It is true that "there's no I in team" but the deck isn't exactly all equal, right? So use the word "I" in healthy doses.
I'm sure you will find some of these recommendations scary to pull off. But you can. Confidence takes courage and while these tips may seem difficult, courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to go forward in spite of the fear.
mater mea celebrates Black women at the intersection of career and family. For more articles on motherhood and work from Black women's perspectives, visit matermea.com.
Growing Your Career in Technical Support: 4 Tips for Getting Hired at Elastic from Support Director Heidi Sager
Heidi Sager loves math, but she also loves working with people.
She always has, which is why she enjoyed her part-time job working at the IT department of the University of Colorado while she was studying electrical engineering. (She'd started in computer science, but explains that it "wasn't for her" and switched her major.) She helped students and professors with word processors, basic programming, and software checkout, and took a full-time job after graduation as a UNIX system administrator.
Working at Relativity—the global tech company that equips legal and compliance professionals with a powerful data-organizing and discovery platform—looked different in 2020. The highly collaborative environment of their Chicago headquarters transitioned to a virtual setting, and just like companies around the country, Relativity adapted their goals and major projects to a completely remote environment.
Diversity Reboot 2021: The One Hundred Day Kickoff<p><strong>When</strong>: February 1-5, 2021</p><p><strong>Where</strong>: Virtual</p><p><strong>Price to register:</strong> Free!</p><p><strong>Where to register: </strong><a href="https://summit.powertofly.com/" target="_blank">Here</a></p><p>We had to include our own Diversity Reboot on our list of the best diversity and inclusion events to attend in 2021 because we know firsthand how the quality of 100+ expert speakers, the enthusiasm of 10,000 participants, and the cutting-edge tech that enables meaningful virtual networking and job fairs combine to create a truly epic five-day experience. This year, the theme 100 Day Kickoff harnesses the energy of the new government's first 100 days in office to help jump-start personal and professional plans to build more diverse and inclusive workplaces. </p><p>Following the February summit, we'll have a monthly series of smaller virtual summits on topics spanning everything from returnships to LGBTQ+ advocacy, so be sure to stay tuned for updates!<br></p>
The Future of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 2021<p><strong>When</strong>: February 3-4, 2021</p><p><strong>Where</strong>: Virtual</p><p><strong>Price to register:</strong> Free</p><p><strong>Where to register:</strong> <a href="https://www.hr.com/en/webcasts_events/virtual_events/upcoming_virtual_events/the-future-of-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-2021_kcxf8glq.html#detail" target="_blank">Here</a></p><p>This virtual conference put on by HR.com focuses on how social movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter have pushed DEI at work beyond legal compliance and into a major factor of any company or brand's culture, employee engagement, and performance. Topics include how to uncover and resolve pay gaps across your team and hire top-level diverse talent.</p>
Workplace Revolution: From Talk to Collective Action<p><strong>When</strong>: March 8-12, 2021</p><p><strong>Where</strong>: Virtual</p><p><strong>Price to register: </strong>$820</p><p><strong>Where to register:</strong> <a href="https://cvent.me/ZQ4BbE" target="_blank">Here</a></p><p>The Forum on Workplace Inclusion's 33rd annual conference includes 12 session tracks, from DEI Strategy to Social Responsibility, along with 59 workshops and daily networking sessions. This year's theme focuses on one question: "What will it take to start a workplace revolution that moves us from talk to action?"</p>
Diversity: How Employers Can Match Words With Deeds<p><strong>When</strong><strong>: </strong>May 19, 2021</p><p><strong>Where:</strong> Virtual</p><p><strong>Price to register</strong><strong>: </strong>Early bird registration is $49 and general admission is $149</p><p><strong>Where to register:</strong> <a href="https://hopin.com/events/may-virtual-conference-diversity-how-employers-can-match-words-with-deeds" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Here</a></p><p>From Day One is hosting monthly conferences in 2021 focused on different ways for companies to foster strong relationships with their customers, communities, and employees. May's half-day virtual event is focused specifically on how companies can make diversity promises that don't fall flat and features workshops, panels, and a fireside chat.</p>
Hire with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion<p><strong>When:</strong> August 18, 2021</p><p><strong>Where: </strong>Virtual</p><p><strong>Price to register: </strong>$195</p><p><strong>Where to register:</strong> <a href="https://www.hci.org/conferences/2021-virtual-conference-hire-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-august-18-2021" target="_blank">Here</a></p><p>This conference put on by the Human Capital Institute is one of 12 virtual conferences that HCI has planned for 2021. This one focuses on fair and inclusive talent acquisition, including how to attract diverse talent, implement inclusive hiring practices, and addressing bias in employee selection. Other conferences will focus on optimizing talent strategy, engaging employees, and developing your workforce.</p>
Virtual Grace Hopper Celebration 2021<p><strong>When:</strong> September 26-29, 2021</p><p><strong>Where:</strong> Virtual, broadcast from Chicago, Illinois</p><p><strong>Price to register:</strong> Was $799 for regular access to the virtual conference in 2020; 2021 pricing hasn't yet been announced</p><p><strong>Where to register:</strong> <a href="https://ghc.anitab.org/attend/registration/" target="_blank">Here</a>, though 2021 registration wasn't live at the time of writing</p><p>Grace Hopper might be the best-known conference for women in tech. Through keynote presentations, networking sessions, job fairs, and community-building activities, vGHC reached over 30,000 women for their 2020 conference and are expecting even more in 2021! While not a conference focused exclusively on diversity and inclusion, many speakers plan to focus their talks on creating environments for women to thrive in the male-dominated tech field.</p>
Inclusion 2021<p><strong>When:</strong> October 25-27, 2021</p><p><strong>Where:</strong> Virtual and in person in Austin, Texas as of now</p><p><strong>Price to register:</strong> Hasn't yet been announced</p><p><strong>Where to register: </strong><a href="https://conferences.shrm.org/inclusion" target="_blank">Here</a>, though 2021 registration wasn't live at the time of writing</p><p>The Society for Human Resource Management's biggest conference of the year saw 1,200 DEI leaders participate last year; SHRM hopes to see even more come to learn, be inspired, and to walk away with a playbook of implementable strategies to create truly inclusive workplace cultures.</p>
AfroTech 2021<p><strong></strong><strong>When:</strong> November 8-13, 2021</p><p><strong>Where:</strong> Virtual</p><p><strong>Price to register:</strong> Early bird pricing is $149 for individuals and $249 for corporate attendees; regular pricing hasn't yet been announced</p><p><strong>Where to register:</strong> <a href="https://experience.afrotech.com/" target="_blank">Here</a></p><p>AfroTech is a conference hosted by Blavity, a tech media platform for Black millennials. It focuses on emerging tech trends, connecting Black talent with top tech recruiters, and providing networking and educational opportunities, with an overall goal of building a strong Black tech community. Over 10,000 people participated in 2020. While the conference isn't focused specifically on DEI, its main audience of Black tech talent is an important one to understand and to engage at work and beyond, and several speakers plan to focus on issues of race and inclusion at work. </p>
A Conversation with Vouch's Lead Designer Carrie Phillips