Business, Career, Economic Equality, Economic Inequality, Entrepreneurship, Equal Pay, Gender, Gender Equality, Gender Inequality, Goals, Levo League, Money, Race, Racial Equality, Racial Inequality, Socioeconomic Status, Voice, Women Empowerment, Writing

Diversity Without Power Is Still Not Enough

I recently penned an article for Jet magazine in response to a photo posted by the Huffington Post. Below is the article in its entirety as well as the link: Diversity Without Power Is Still Not Enough by M. Michelle Derosier for Jet magazine.

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If you’re a professional and a person of color in America, chances are you’ve been part of at least one meeting, a team or a department where yours was one of (if not) the only [insert race or culture] face in the crowd.

Yet, the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education reports, “In the U.S., the white portion of the working-age population (generally ages 25 to 64) is declining, while the minority portion is increasing.”

While we’d like to think that our personal experience is the exception and not the rule, the picture below tweeted recently by Liz Heron, Executive Editor at the Huffington Post, seems to spit in the face of this statistic.

HuffPost Editors Meeting Twitter Photo M Michelle Derosier

To answer Ms. Heron’s question, we notice much about this editors meeting. While we give kudos to the solid representation of women, we’re disturbed by the poor representation of people of color.

Even more disconcerting is the fact that in this room sits many who decide which stories are worth sharing and whose voices will tell them. In an organization that draws in more than 200 million unique visitors a month; she who controls whose story is told, shapes reader perception. For those who are saying that this group of women aren’t execs or CEOs and don’t move the financial needle of the company, remember that power can be just as much about who controls the narrative as about who controls the purse strings.

And that is at the heart of my issue with this photo. It’s such a vivid reminder that those climbing fastest or currently highest on the power pyramid – the key decision makers – rarely look anything like the changing American landscape. In 2014, nonwhites accounted for 38 percent of the U.S. population, but those who hold the power to shape multimillion dollar companies are barely a blip on the radar.

An article posted, ironically, on the Huffing Post found just over 4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs in 2014 were minorities, a classification including African-Americans, Asians, and Latin-Americans.

To underscore the significance of the power of those in control of the finances as an example, according to Fortune magazine: “In total, the Fortune 500 companies account for $12.5 trillion in revenues, $945 billion in profits, $17 trillion in market value and employ 26.8 million people worldwide.”

Whether 100, 250, or 500 – whatever the Fortune ranking of companies of total revenues for their respective fiscal year – minority representation in key leadership roles is practically nonexistent.

With so few minorities governing the path of these companies, our collective power to see real change that will elevate the social economic status of the masses and not just the few, is significantly diminished.

While we should celebrate–loudly–the people of color who make it into the door; we should never be satisfied with diversity in just the cubicles. We need equal representation at the decision tables. We can start with one voice, then push for two, and continue for three. However, may we never stop until companies such as the Huffington Post are tweeting photos that represent a racially and culturally diverse group of decision makers.

 

 

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If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you!

When was the last time you attempted something that hurled you from your comfort zone? How about something that shoved you out of your safe and comfortable bubble? Or maybe something that gave you a slight nudge out of your big-fish-small-pond reality?

If it took you longer to answer these questions than it does for Kanye to have a meltdown, it’s probably time for a new challenge.

Here are 3 Growth-Encouraging Challenges for your consideration.

1. Learn a new skill. I kicked off 2015 and continued into 2016 not with a resolution, but with the goal of undertaking a project that would squeeze every last drop of brain power not sucked dry by the education system. Learning to code is most certainly living up to this goal. HTML, CSS, JavaScript, JQuery. I’m just getting started, but it already feels like I’ve gone a couple of rounds with a Lifetime TV Child Genius.

Maybe your challenge is not a new programming language. Maybe it’s a traditional language. Bonjour! Buenos dias! Guten Tag! Perhaps it’s learning to cook. Mayhap it’s learning to budget. Or maybe to knit. Or to become a more powerful public speaker. Whatever the skill, find something that you’re not traditionally “good at” and learn it. Because time is a precious resource and we can’t always afford to learn for the sake of learning, invest the effort, time, and possibly money in a skill that aligns with one or more of your long-term goals.

mmderosier edit this code

2. Take a trip. In 2011 a group of friends and I went on a whirlwind five-city tour that culminated in Cairo, Egypt. To refresh your memory, 2011 in Egypt was a year of civil unrest that toppled the 30-year reign of President Mubarak. I can’t say it was the most stress-free time to visit the country. We went through a metal detector before we could enter our hotel. When I jokingly asked what it was we were being screened for, the officer succinctly answered, “bombs”. Insert big, fearful eyes.

I’m not suggesting that you pack up and head to the nearest country facing political instability, but just go beyond Montreal or Cancun. Not that there’s anything wrong with either place. What I’m saying instead is to find your Egypt – someplace that readjusts your world view and leaves you with a new understanding of the things you take for granted. If Montreal is your Egypt, great, go! But if Montreal is your “they know me and I know them” default location, throw a dart on a map and land somewhere else.

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3. Share yourself with others. When I clicked submit and officially entered the 2013 So You Think You Can Write Harlequin contest, my heart dropped to my stomach. I had yanked the door wide open for others to see my heart. To criticize. To judge. I took my writing – something that’s always been very personal to me and closely guarded – and shared it with an audience. But I needed that experience to give me the courage to work towards becoming a published author. Something that hasn’t happened yet, but now there’s no turning back from.

What are you fearful of sharing? Are you the soul-touching singer refusing to share your voice with an audience? Or the brilliant painter passing on the opportunity to display his work? Whatever the reason for your hesitation, why not make today the day to overcome it?

mmderosier reader feedback

mmderosier Reina and Eli

Remember that if doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.

So, what challenge will change you this year? What challenges have changed you in the past? How can you apply lessons from the past to grow this year?

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What Do You *Really* Need From Your Career?

What do you really need from your career? mmderosier.wordpress.com

Not the cursory responses that most people spit out when asked: money, health benefits, 401k. To be clear, I am not turning my nose up at these perks. On the contrary, they’re great, and should be appreciated. But when I think about the statistics below from a 2014 Gallop report, I can’t help but wonder what thought (if any) goes into deciding what one needs from a career.

  • The average American work week is now 47 hours
  • 21% of full-time U.S. employees work 50 to 59 in a typical week
  • Only 13 percent of workers actually enjoy going to work

Is money the highest need? It could be. But if it is, why are so many spending such a huge chunk of their lives miserable? Is it that the money is not enough? Or is the money enough but there’s nothing else about the work that brings satisfaction?

I can’t answer these questions for everyone else, but I had to answer them for me. And what I found was that my career needs generally fall into these five categories, in order of importance:

1. Glorify God. This means work that won’t ask me to compromise my morals. As Mark 8:36 says, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

2. Impact a greater mission. Especially when my work equips others to better support those lacking opportunities. Opportunity to eat. Opportunity to be safe. Opportunity to be educated. Opportunity to seek a better future.

3. My voice is valued. Working in an environment where my input and contributions are clearly appreciated and not just tolerated.

4. Flexibility. The archaic mindset that good work can only happen when employees punch a clock in, sit in a cubicle for 8 hours, and punch a clock out, doesn’t encourage creativity and innovation. And that kind of environment is not where I will be happy for long.

5. Money. Yes, it does matter. It doesn’t rule my decision, but it is a determining factor when considering an offer. I read a great quote recently that says, “When you learn how much you’re worth, you’ll stop giving people discounts.” I learned my worth long ago and make no apologies for expecting to be compensated according to the value that I bring to the team.

To return to my original question: What do you *really* need from your career?

Maybe it’s better work-life balance. Maybe it’s a clear path towards growth. Maybe it’s a continued creative outlet. Whatever it is, take the time to think it through if you haven’t already. And once you’ve done so, let those needs be the guiding principles for seeking and choosing your career opportunities. Most of us have to work, that’s the reality of today’s economy. But we don’t have to approach it with dread. The closer we are to a job that fulfills our top career needs, the less likely we are to spend our days upset and daydreaming about quitting.

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The Randy Jackson Syndrome: 3 Tips to Determine If It’s Time for a Career Change

The fifteenth and final season of American Idol drawing to a close this year reminded me of an important career lesson that came with the departure of one of its original judges. With the announcement that he was leaving American Idol after 13 seasons, last November marked the realization of my unspoken fear: That Randy Jackson would be brave enough to make a career change before I did.

After almost a decade with my current organization, I began to see myself through the same lens of pity I viewed Randy. Randy, who was part of the original regime that included Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, and Ryan Seacrest, saw Simon and Paula leave to pursue bigger and better dreams. While those pursuits failed to meet expectations, at least they tried. Randy, on the other hand, remained the loyal “dawg” and became less relevant with each new better-paid and better-celebrated judge wooed to the table. He became the lonely grandfather relegated to a nursing home – full of wisdom but without an audience interested in listening.

Like him, I had watched several colleagues bravely set off to chase their dreams. Start a consulting firm in Liberia? Check. Return to school to pursue an art degree? Why not! Become a guidance counselor at a boarding school in Rwanda? Indeed. Where they boldly took a leap of faith to grow their careers, I stayed cocooned in what was comfortable. Out of fear? I thought so at first. Whether of failure or of success, I wasn’t sure.

But fear didn’t paint the whole picture or tell the complete story. I discovered three other reasons that turned out to be surprisingly positive. Factors I would encourage you to consider as you decide if or when to make a career change.

1. Are you actually ready to go? Because I had spent far too much time reading expert advice and listening to well-meaning friends, I almost missed out on that truth. When I would ask myself if I should leave, my voice was rarely the loudest to answer. Everything and everyone kept telling me that I should go, but when I listened intently to my own voice I heard myself say not yet. And comfort and fear had nothing to do with my reasons. Here’s an exercise that can prove useful for you. Ask yourself: Should I leave? Assuming you answer yes, spend time writing out the whys and then close your eyes and speak those reasons out loud one by one. For example, I should leave because the work is no longer fulfilling. I should leave because I no longer bring value to my team. I should leave because there are no challenges for growth. You get the point. After speaking each reason, stop and quietly recall whose voice you heard. If yours was not the first and/or the loudest, it’s doubtful that you’re truly ready to go.

2. How much more do you have left to contribute? During my last performance review I questioned my Executive Director about what value she sees that I can still bring to the organization. A question I’d been pondering but one that couldn’t be answered in a vacuum. I was mainly concerned that what I had left to contribute might not be what the company needed. That conversation helped me to realize I was on the right track. That the legacy I wanted to leave would be instrumental in the growth and sustainability of the company. I’m blessed to have a boss who is approachable with a wide-open-door policy. If your boss’ door is padlocked shut, don’t fret; there’s still hope. Find a trusted co-worker who can provide objective feedback on your work, the goals you are seeking to achieve, and how they align with the company’s overall mission. You can also find your company’s strategic plan or annual report and pore over the material with special attention to how your role helps or hinders its goals. For example, if the majority of your work is focused on increasing your company’s presence in an international market yet its strategic goal for the next 3-5 years is the domestic market; there is a misalignment. However, if the work that you’re doing now, or more importantly, the work that you wish to do in the future, is in sync with your company’s vision, there’s reason to stay. You can still make a significant impact.

3. How much more do you have left to learn? I started with my organization in an entry-level position at age 24 and progressed to my current title after several promotions. Five years into this position I made it a point to regularly check in with myself about what I was learning and how I was growing. Because of the size of my organization I knew there wouldn’t be room for another promotion, but there was opportunity to gain transferable skills beyond my title. When considering whether to make a move, look past the limitations of your current position. Are there projects within the organization that are outside the traditional scope of your job title that you can spearhead? What skills do you bring to the table to lead said project and what skills will you gain from it? Consider what that can look like, draft a brief proposal, and reach out to your boss for an honest discussion. Bolted door or not, eventually you have to learn to knock – and keep knocking until it’s opened.

I admit to having panicked momentarily when I learned about Randy. But after calming down and taking these steps, I eventually decided that the best decision for me was to remain 2-3 more years to accomplish some very strategic organizational and personal career goals.

The takeaway here is not that you should stay or you should go. The takeaway is to listen to advice from trusted sources and then take time to quiet the voices that aren’t yours. Once you’ve done that, measure the advice against what your voice is saying is best.

Maybe Randy followed these same steps. And where his led him to leave, mine led me to stay. Either way, we each had to make the decision that was best for our specific situation. And so do you.



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After College Office Hours

In my first post I referenced Levo League. For those who don’t know, Levo League is a helpful community with “tools to develop your talent, build connections with peers, mentors, and jobs, and stay inspired day in and day out as you grow and develop.” For me, the gem of Levo is Office Hours. These are live half-hour video chats with professionals representing a wide spectrum of careers. The videos are then archived for continued access.

I spent part of today’s lunch hour with Edith Cooper, EVP and Global Head of Human Capital Management at Goldman Sachs. The interview was full of helpful takeaways, but one thought in particular most resonated with me. (12:50 into the video) Someone asked her where she sees young women struggling the most when it comes to climbing the corporate ladder. Her response was not surprising, but sad. She talked about encountering young women at GS with resumes so impressive that she was in awe. These were very capable and intelligent young women hired for their their ability to be leaders in their fields, yet when she observed those same women in work situations where their leadership should have been evident, they appeared to lack confidence.

As someone who has spent years struggling with owning the power of her voice, I know exactly what she means.

Click Levo Office Hours with Edith Cooper to listen and then come back and discuss.

 



office hours with Edith Cooper

 

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