Last week, our intern and I attended The Future is Female: Women’s Diversity, & Inclusion Forum hosted by Booz Allen Hamilton and Seattle’s LeanIn chapter. The panel had three articulate, accomplished women of color – Dr. Bidisha Biswas, Professor of Political Science at Western Washington University, K. R. Prabha – Senior Director of Healthcare Strategy at Huron and Monica Mendoza, Executive Director at Jolkona.
We were interested in learning how these women navigated the workplace and what challenges and opportunities a diverse set of experiences bring to the business world. The forum gave my colleague and I a chance to discuss our experiences and synthesize the top four learnings we came away with:
Create a support system
Each panelist agreed, they could not have reached their career goals without the support of friends, family, mentors, coworkers and a kind barista or two. As women of color we understand that we may not see ourselves reflected in Hollywood or on TV as powerful career women but we can create a circle that sees our value and appreciates what we bring to the table.
Ask, then ask again
It’s easy to keep your hand down and avoid asking the hard questions. It’s easy to be ‘grateful’ for what you receive rather than to push a little and ask for more. Don’t be afraid to ask – ask for people’s time, ask for people’s advice, ask for a coffee date, ask to learn more about something specific, ask for a bigger raise. You’ll be surprised by how willing people are to hear you out and give you more, if you only have the courage and self-confidence to ask!
Have a plan
Does your current schedule/work load align well to your priorities? If not, take the time to clearly define your work/life priorities and tailor a plan that works for you. Then go back to #2.
Find the right match
Workplace culture is incredibly important. I am a mother of three and I commute two hours each way to work. At Nyhus, one of our key values is “Act Like An Owner,” which asks us to take initiative and responsibility for the impact our actions have on our clients and our team. By having a plan that worked for my priorities and asking for it, I was empowered with a schedule that allowed me to thrive at work and at home. If your current company doesn’t share your values, find one that celebrates all of you.