The research is in – workplaces that are more diverse and inclusive are more successful. But how can we measure this? Just because your organization isn’t facing a lawsuit doesn’t mean your office is as inclusive as it could be. I get emails regularly from employees wondering how to improve intentional acts and unconscious bias that pops up in their workplace. In this new series, called “Workplace Realities” I highlight some of those stories.
I interviewed Kisha Harvey a Marketing and Brand Specialist who has worked in several corporate settings. Her experiences showcase how important inclusive workplace practices can be.
Heddy: How do you identify?
Kisha: Black college educated female.
Heddy: What has been your career path thus far?
Kisha: I started my corporate career in a large department store’s buying program with 25 other recent grads in 1999. I was promoted once and left after a year and a half to move to a specialty retailer for the next two and a half years. While there I found myself wanting a more analytical role, rather than one in merchandising.
The company encouraged me to take a promotion in reporting, I felt, because I didn’t “fit the look” of who was currently in merchandising. Being overlooked had me searching for new positions and leaving shortly after.
I joined a different specialty retailer and was promoted to a manager after nine months. I excelled there but left after three years to attend graduate school full time.
After graduation, I joined a consumer packaged goods (CPG) company in a general management rotational program. I left that organization to relocate to Florida and was asked to rejoin the company a year later. It was nice to be so well thought of. I was promoted again, four years later to a director and relocated to Cincinnati to work on the second largest retail account in the country.
Heddy: Tell us about a time when your identity or background gave you a professional edge.
Kisha: At the CPG I was always asked to participate on the recruiting team for the National Black MBA career fair along with another minority focused career fair for MBA graduates. I know I was chosen because of my race to show other candidates of color the diversity at the office. During these trips I was able to have access to directors and VPs from across the company. That’s the only time I felt like my identity gave me a professional edge.
Heddy: Have you ever felt negatively impacted professionally because of your identity or background? If so, what happened?
Kisha: My first assignment at the CPG company was in a sales office in Tampa, Florida. I knew this assignment would last a year. There were about twenty people on the team, most of whom were white, conservative Republican males in their late 40s and 50s. When I joined the team I was the youngest and the only black person in the office. The men would go to headquarters for meetings and while I was in marketing they wouldn’t let me attend to present my slides. Instead, the men insisted on presenting them.
I felt if I was a male, they would be grooming me to learn the retailer by attending meetings. Also, I didn’t play golf, so that was another point of difference. They didn’t know how to maximize my input. I voiced my concerns to mentors in the company. I was told to grind it out because I would only be in the position for a year. Later, a male employee rotated through this positions after me told me he was invited to present in these meetings – I think the company lost valuable resources by ignoring my input while I was in the position.
Thanks to Kisha for sharing her story! Are you sure your managers are maximizing input and including all the important voices in the room? If your entire team isn’t trained to deal with these issues you are probably losing out on important opportunities.
Have a story to share? Send me a note and you could be featured in our next Workplace Realities post!