YOU 3.0: A Guide to Overcoming Roadblocks for Professional Women of Color is based on my blog posts of the past 2 years. It speaks to the peculiar and complex maze professional women of color navigate. Peculiar because of the historical stereotypes and preconceived notions about women of color that have now been translated into corporate templates and have found their way into the office. Complex because the bias we encounter is double edged twice over. We experience bias at work and at home, although the latter we would not dare to admit out loud.
With the highest level of education attainment ever and holding more positions in corporate America as a result, we still have not been able to crack the code to mitigate the roadblocks – seen and unseen – placed in our path.
Whether you have reached the top of the ladder, like Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox Corporation, or still finding and making your way, women of color continue to face challenges with being taken seriously.
While some are making strides, others have reduced their tolerance level to zero for being treated unfairly and not being rewarded and advanced on merit. As one young professional woman of color, Jenn M. Jackson, founder of The Worth Campaign defined it, “In essence, corporate America has become the “frenemy” of women of color: sometimes friend, sometimes enemy”.
This duality is resulting in women of color leaving corporate America in droves every year. The downside is that our families and communities are not being represented in the halls of the corporations developing and delivering products and services.
The 25 chapters in this book explore a range of potential roadblocks from inadequate support systems, stereotypes and mental and emotional energy to defining our expectations and taking care of your health and your spirit. Each chapter concludes with questions and exercises designed to help you work through the roadblocks you may be facing and begin to build a strategy and a plan of action.
What are some of the roadblocks?
To begin with, not having a support system. Encouraged to be self sufficient, our support systems are often inadequate; Having the right support can make all of the difference in your ability to navigate the corporate maze.
Stereotypes and not being taken seriously are huge roadblocks. In no way does this book suggest that you change who you are or how you look. But it is helpful to understand the origins of some of the attitudes and perspectives you encounter. The effects of stereotypes are more pervasive than you think. You will find “The Types that Bind Us” particularly interesting commentary on that note.
While ultimately you cannot control how someone thinks or what they believe, you can control how you show up. Therefore, it is critical to understand that your image is more than how you look. Your image also includes the mental and emotional energy you bring to everything you do. Understanding the energy you display can provide insight into how you are perceived. Hopefully the chapters around personal energy, style and preparation will provide some easy-to-hear, easy-to-implement suggestions to strengthen your image, if needed.
There are several exercises around prioritizing goals, setting and activating the intentions for your goals and looking at what is working and not working. If you have an expectation of fairness, you run the risk that your expectations will go unrealized if you have not defined them to key stakeholders who can deliver on what you are seeking. Without defining your expectations, you are hoping that fairness will prevail. Unfortunately, hope is not a strategy.
And finally, giving up is not exactly in our DNA. In fact, it is one of the reasons that stress plagues women of color more than any other group. We have yet to figure out how to manage it without feeling guilty, which adds more stress. Our level and quality of self-care leaves a lot to be desired. Take the excellent advice from Dr. Michelle Gourdine on the importance of “taking care of our spirit”. She provides 4 meaningful steps that each of us can take immediately.
YOU 3.0: A Guide to Overcoming Roadblocks for Professional Women of Color is not a cure all, nor does it pretend to have all of the answers. But rather, offers some suggestions as to how you might arrive at a different perspective, a more viable approach, or just have a plain good old Aha! moment.
YOU 3.0 is you in your prime. The YOU 3.0 approach is a set of tools that helps you recognize, acknowledge and better understand who you are and how others see you.
It was a pleasure assembling this book for you. It is my hope that you will find it inspiring, thought provoking but most of all, useful. Feel free to drop me a note with your thoughts and questions. My contact information is included on the last pages of the book.
I wish you continued success in or out of the maze.
Deborah Gray-Young, CPC, ELI-MP
Certified Personal and Executive Coach
Follow me on Twitter @coachdgrayyoung