I heard an piece on a radio station about heroes and how they can be anyone. They do not have to be famous. My parents are my heroes. The lessons learned from them are very different. My father taught me that the challenges we face should not bring anger, for anger solves nothing. Perseverance is the goal. My mother’s lessons were that of confidence and bravery in the face of obstacles. Those and most importantly, don’t let others define you. Only you should define yourself.
Last week America saw “news” that Facebook had used an expression, “not a cultural fit,” as a reason for not hiring black recruits. I put news in quotes because, although it is news to white America, in the STEM sector, those of us that are brown and black have heard it over and over. We have heard it from large and small companies. When told this, we are stuck. What goes through our head cannot be said aloud, for we were raised to be polite. We are coached by recruiters to not offend.
The question I ask now is whether America is prepared to allow us to speak up. Corporations are claiming to want to increase diversity. They have created offices for inclusiveness, equity, and equality, but do they understand that it goes deeper than just hiring underrepresented groups? The comment “cultural fit” and others used to exclude have come from human resources, hiring managers and CEOs, in my experience. I do not think I am unique. And so, I ask, how are employees being trained to address a culture that has existed from its inception with employees, managers and executives that actually believe the color of your skin, your religion, your gender identity, etc. dictates how you will do your job. Reading that sentence may sound ridiculous, but the reality is many have believed this.
As for those of us that experience these blatant yet subtle dismissals of our identity and experience, have we reached a point where we can speak our minds and ask, “cultural fit? Do you think we are going to bring in voodoo dolls or something?” Personally, I do not know exactly what the expectation is from that. When told, (and yes this has happened) “I don’t think the guys would take reporting to you very well.” Can I say, “so your organization allows for chauvinistic/racist employees to dictate how it is run?” Can we expect that, instead of dismissing our resumes showing short sprints, gaps, etc. as our being a problem, that there will be a better understanding of the challenges faced by People of Color (POC) that is different from our counterparts, and thus we will be given an opportunity to have the conversation. Can we expect that we can have the conversation and be honest about our experiences?
There is a transformation that needs to happen within organizations that will be difficult to make. Erasing old mindsets cannot be dictated. Facebook has pledged to support social justice, inclusion, equity, and equality. At the same time, they got caught using a common practice. WHAT IS THE COMMON PRACTICE BEING REFERRED TO HERE??? How prepared are other organizations to soul search about what they have done and what they need to do to address disparities? Every experience, good or bad, takes us to where we are this day. Balance Innovation Center is the result of each stone I have stepped on. I thank the wonderful managers and co-workers I have had for giving me the confidence and support to get to where I am today. AND those that have been less than stellar for giving me the desire and vision to make being a woman and a POC in STEM attainable. The vision is to provide an environment that is inclusive and welcoming with the only challenge being innovation. Experience has put us here for others to stand on our shoulders. We are not driven by anger. We are driven by the passion we have for the careers we have chosen. We want others to be able to experience that passion without the hurdles a