Why We Need to Tell Our Stories As Women of Color At Work 2

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Why We Need to Tell Our Stories As Women of Color At Work What would you want someone like me to know about women of color at work?

When Gregg Stebben, host of Forbes Books Radio, asked me this question as part of my interview during #BlogHer17, something clicked. Here I was, as a working woman of color and entrepreneur, with a mission to start and continue a conversation around providing women with the opportunity to have work and lives they love. Yet, it was apparent that a significant part of the narrative of women of color at work is unknown (or falsely known) to many. Here I was, faced with the confirmation that as women of color at work, we need to tell our stories in order to fuel this conversation.

You know when you know something, and think that everyone else does too? When you believe that the reality of your experience, struggle and identity is obvious to others. Yet, most often, it is not. Most often, the “unconscious bias” in others is fueled in large part by ignorance. There are of course other very much negative factors affecting the way we’re perceived, but by not telling our stories, we’re indirectly reinforcing them.

Our stories are made to be shared. Not just amongst those who are in the midst of them, but among those who may not suspect the intricate tapestry of our lives and work. Its not until we shed light on the reality of what we face that we can hope to bridge the understanding divide.

Why We Need to Tell Our Stories As Women of Color At Work-2 I remember on one occasion, a cultural initiative was launched in my then-department to share our origins with the rest of the employees. There was this large world map on the back of a cubicle wall, and every employee was asked to volunteer to pin her/his place of origin. As expected, most pins ended up on the European continent, with a large majority of them resting on Ireland, Italy and England. Then a couple of solitary pins, mine included, floating over Africa…

Conversations started buzzing about each and everyone’s ancestry, and how they found out about their origins, as well as their family traditions and recipes. As the only (or one of the very few) Black women in the room, it felt intimidating to share my own story. Thoughts of being judged based on the inaccurate, yet popular prejudices about Africa, started swirling in my mind. As much as I wanted to share my own stories about rice and fish, traditional holidays, and my favorite family traditions, I remained silent. Instead of continuing the conversation, I waited for a hypothetical invite to partake in the cultural sharing, which never came.

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This is an example of one of the many ways in which we sometimes fail to share our stories. Not just for the sake of sharing, or entertainment, but to shed light on facts and figures most often hidden from general view and understanding. To be a part of the ongoing conversation, whether we’re invited or not…

Very often, as women of color, we owe it to ourselves, our fellow women of color, and our communities to make ourselves part of the conversation. There may not be invitations or much encouragement to do so at first. Yet it is our responsibility to spread the knowledge and information without which we may not be understood, acknowledged or recognized.

I’m an immigrant, and my experience is part of the tapestry of the American and world history. It defines my contributions to work and life in general in invaluable ways that can only be recognized and acknowledged when I dare to own my story. In the same way, whether you’re an immigrant, or a first-generation college graduate, or a single mom striving to climb the corporate ladder or create your own business, the invaluable experience you bring to the table is needed. Yet it must be known to be used and make an impact…

Will it even make a difference to tell my story?”

“Will it not actually hurt my chances at advancement and success to reveal that I’m an immigrant, or a first-time graduate in my family?”

“Does it even make a difference? I can just come in, do my work, get my paycheck and just blend in.”

“It’s safer to wear a mask at work, and pretend all is well and dandy. Who wants to attract unwarranted attention?

Many are the questions raised to the forefront when it comes to sharing your story as a woman of color at work. We still feel the need to hide a large part of who we are, where we come from, and what we really are about, when the rest of the world uses those very factors as competitive advantages.

I’m learning that there are no real work personas. We take all of us with us everywhere we go. That includes our beliefs, mindsets, origins, and unique life experiences. While we may at times think these may hinder us, or slow our progress, we forget that without authenticity there is no power. At work or anywhere else…

This is not about exposing your dirty (or clean) laundry in the middle of the office floor. Neither is it about revealing private facets of your life or experience you’d rather keep to yourself. Nor is it about resurrecting the past…

It’s about participating in the global conversation around women in and out of work. It’s about showing that there are educated women doctors, engineers, lawyers, finance gurus, entrepreneurs who happen to be first-generation graduates; or were unwed mothers at 18; or come from a family of immigrants with beautiful and original traditions; or have faced discrimination and rose above it; or are creating new paths for other women.

It shouldn’t take a hashtag in response to extreme breaking news for us to share our stories and pictures as brilliant women doctors (or any other profession). We shouldn’t wait for permission, or the perfect opportunity, or for reality to become unbearable, to speak up and share our stories. To show a young girl in high school how a teen mom survived to become a trailblazing entrepreneur. To sit with a young college girl and share our testimonies of starting out in the trenches of Big Corporate and rising through the ranks. To teach, inspire and educate from our unique life experience, beliefs and mindsets. To give other women the freedom to do the same…

There’s a conversation going on around women at work, and as women of color, we must sit at the table. With or without invitation. With or without fear. With or without the perfect opportunity…


How do you share your story as a woman of color at work? If  you haven’t, what prevents you from doing so?

To Your Success,
The Corporate Sis.





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2 thoughts on “Why We Need to Tell Our Stories As Women of Color At Work

  • Dr. Renay Jeune

    Excellent commentary! Oftentimes, I think the hesistancy in sharing our stories stems from concerns around critical judgements and misperceptions. However, you address great points regarding the value of sharing in helping to grow our future leaders!

  • TheCorporate Sister Post author

    Hi! Thanks so much for your comment! I have to say, I didn’t realize how much I was failing to tell my own story until it was brought up to me. You’re correct, there’s such a fear in being misjudged and mis perceived that we tend to shrink. By doing this we inadvertently let others tell our stories, in a way that is not accurate. It’s time to take back those stories! Thanks again😉