I’m A "Diversity Candidate”: Here’s How I Advocate For Myself
Brittany Williams is a Marketing Associate at PowerToFly where she works tirelessly to place underrepresented women in positions across America’s top companies.
Growing up, my parents would often give us affirmations to repeat. The call-and-response nature helped provide the foundation for our self esteem, and I quickly learned to fold them into my identity. One mantra went “I am cute and smart,” which sounds kind of silly now, but it was incredibly important to me then. In a society where black girls frequently aren’t told they are beautiful or intelligent, I’m grateful my parents were deliberate about making sure we understood our value. This doesn’t mean I didn't struggle with my self-esteem, particularly with how I looked; all girls do. But, when all else failed, I knew that I could fall back on reminding myself of my intelligence. I was usually one of a few black students in my classes, working twice as hard to get half as much respect as my white peers, but I believed in my intelligence and that propelled me forward.
It wasn’t until college, where I stood-out as a diversity candidate, that I simultaneously realized how much I had to prove the mantra my parents had told me to repeat throughout my childhood. Coming from a small-ish, sheltered town in Florida, often times your reputation precedes you. But both college and every step thereafter are different. No one knew or could vouch for me. Keeping my head down and working hard just weren’t enough. I had to adapt -- learn new ways to advocate for myself. And this is now the reality of who I am, both as a woman and a black person.
As a diversity “candidate”, I walk the precarious line of being desperately sought after while simultaneously combating the systemic obstacles of my identity. My actions are read differently from the actions of my non-black peers, and because of this I must take extra steps to ensure my own success in all aspects of my life, especially my career. Here are just a few ways I advocate for myself in my professional life.
When I received my first job offer out of college, it wasn’t quite what I had hoped. Knowing that women shy away from negotiations out of fear they’ll be penalized, I was slightly discouraged, but I knew this was my chance to go to bat for myself. Armed with some stats from sites like Glassdoor and Payscale, I got on the phone with HR and negotiated a nearly 10% raise.
Know your worth and demand that you are compensated accordingly. If you’re feeling stuck, check out our tips for salary negotiations.
Lean In And Try Or Else Opportunities Will Pass You
A few weeks ago I went to an event for women in the marketing field. One of the pieces of advice really stuck with me: “Lean in and try or else opportunities will pass you by.” It completely changed my perspective and has encouraged me to speak up and ask for more responsibility.
Because we are women, the same behaviors that are read as assertive on our male counterparts are often read as aggressive on us. This can be incredibly frustrating, but we can’t let it hold us back from reaching our goals. When an opportunity to take initiative or pursue a creative interest presents itself, ask yourself, “What do I have to lose?” If the answer is “nothing,” create the space to expand your skillset and broaden your knowledge base.
Find a mentor
This is probably the most difficult way to advocate for yourself. If you’re like me, you might find it hard to reach out to people and ask for help. But, feeling this way means you need to act more than ever. I’m lucky to have found people who can teach me things both in and out of my field, but it required that I step outside of my comfort zone and ask for help.
Mentors provide invaluable resources as you navigate your career, so seek out people who are doing things in your industry that you both admire and respect. It’s important to be specific here. Instead of saying “ I want to be just like you,” specify what it is that you want. Say things like, “Right now I am doing [x], but one day I want to be doing [x], can you help me figure out a path there?” Specificity is key and can ensure that both you and your mentor are getting the most out of your relationship.
Surround yourself with people who can vouch for you.
This tip comes in handy when conventional metrics by which we measure success can’t really speak to our accomplishments. I learned this lesson quickly in college. I surrounded myself with with a community of people who could attest to my passions and interests -- a community of people who could encourage me to keep pushing.
As you navigate your career things are bound to go wrong. People get the wrong impression of you, or you might receive a bad performance review, but it’s important to have people in your corner who not only know the truth, but who can also advocate for your work ethic and passions. Nurture these relationships as you continue to grow, you’ll be better for it.
As a “Diversity Candidate,” it’s hard to advocate and put yourself out there. I get it. But, finding the courage to stand up for yourself, will only benefit you. As you grow and continue to learn throughout your career, these skills will provide a crucial foundation for all of your future success.
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>
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