By Cirndie Joseph, NYU Stern School of Business, Class of 2022
As a woman of color, finding a place to work that includes people like me to the fullest extent is a real concern. Although America prides itself in being a melting pot and the land of the free, the U.S. just passed the Crown Act that ‘allows’ Black people to wear our natural hair and protective styles to work. That puts a lot into perspective because before 2019 Black employees were not allowed to practice the same rights to comfort and self expression as any other demographic. The fact that we even need permission and protection to do something so normal as to wear our hair the way it grows out of our head just goes to show how deeply non inclusive corporate culture can be.
Acknowledging this lack of inclusion is so important because one’s surroundings are directly linked with their performance. If someone is a naturally structured person, but the company culture is very spontaneous, that person does not have the right tools and the right environment to perform their best. Their competence is stifled by their surroundings. In the same manner, when a person of color works at a predominantly white corporation, they may experience imposter syndrome and the quality of their work may suffer as a direct result of their discomfort. Ideally, we want to perform the best that we can in our careers both for our sake and our employer’s sake. So how can we make sure to avoid imposter syndrome in the workplace?
My biggest advice is to go on LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and the company’s sites to browse through its employees. If there’s a pattern where most of the employees are a single racial demographic or even a single sex, then that’s a huge red flag that you or someone outside of that norm is not welcome there. If you are a person of color, examine the listed employees of color closely. If most of them wear their hair or present themselves according to white beauty standards, that most likely means that it’s more than a style choice. That’s a hint that something is wrong with the company culture that’s making the employees feel uncomfortable being their authentic selves.
Lastly, use LinkedIn to its fullest potential by messaging all kinds of the company’s employees to ask about their personal experience working there and whether they feel comfortable and included. Hopefully this advice finds you well, and hopefully you find a place to work that feels like home.