Are you familiar with the adage that people of color must work twice as hard to get half as far? If you’re a BIPOC in leadership at your company, maybe you’ve experienced this yourself, and you’re ready to take a more active role in helping other BIPOC succeed at your company.
First, take the time to reflect on how hard you’ve worked to get to where you are. Then, once you’ve settled in your role and you’re ready to make a difference within your company, use some of the following tips to get started. Make choices that assist other BIPOC on their career journeys, help support socially conscious brands, and get prepared for challenging race related conversations.
Here are eight specific ideas for using your leadership role to help encourage diversity at your company and act as a mentor for others.
What BIPOC leaders can do to help other BIPOC in their place of work
Speak up against anything discriminatory
When it comes to race, there are so many unknowns and miscommunications cross-culturally. When small injustices and discrimination occur, they can often be blamed on lack of knowledge. This is where a BIPOC in leadership could really lend their voice.
Here’s one example: maybe a new policy just got implemented, and you notice right away that it impacts people of color more directly or significantly than others. Consider bringing that to everyone’s attention, because they might not have even considered that effect and most often, discrimination was not the intention.
Ensure your team is well-trained on providing services to people from all ethnic backgrounds
For many service professions, there is a real difference in the way you would provide treatment to a client of color. A hairstylist, for example, needs significant training and experience when styling textured hair versus straight hair. Or for an aesthetician, knowing which sunscreen won’t leave a cloudy residue on darker skin and the best products for pigment correction is key. Help make sure your team and company is well informed and adequately prepared for serving customers of every background.
Bring on products and services that will benefit other BIPOC
In my role as a MedSpa Manager at SpaDerma Lincoln Park, this means working to bring in skincare products that will benefit and are safe for use on Fitzpatrick 6 skin. The Fitzpatrick Scale is a numerical classification of skin color and is one of the most recognized and universal tools used in dermatology. Anyone who is Black and identifies as such because of their heritage and lineage, is a Fitzpatrick 6 or Fitzpatrick 5 depending on the color of their skin.
I’m well aware there are many treatments and products that are not safe for use on darker skin, including Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments and many hair removal lasers. However, others on my team might not have that same knowledge, or might not realize that people with darker skin can still receive some low strength laser treatments where the energy is absorbed deeper.
Having variety in product offerings and available services is so vital and creates an inclusive and welcoming environment. In a leadership role, you can take a driving role in bringing this to life.
Partner with minority-owned businesses
If you’re able to build partnerships outside of your company, make it a point to first research and consider minority-owned businesses and companies. Use your creativity to find effective ways to collaborate with other organizations. Ensure that all collaborations are mutually beneficial and that the integrity of the product or service is maintained.
Mentor other BIPOC
Whether you’re participating in an official mentorship program or if you’ve taken the time to provide professional development counseling to one of your team members, it’s always good to give back. Share your experience as a BIPOC in leadership, your ideas, and mistakes you’ve made. Once you’ve earned your role, reach out to others and help assist in their career journey.
Be seen and take up space
While it seems like an easy task, you might find it’s more challenging to accomplish than you’d think. Your presence within the company adds to the company’s diversity, and your unique perspective is an asset. If there are opportunities for you to lend yourself to branding efforts or make suggestions, you can emphasize the need for diversity.
What that looks like for me is working to ensure there’s BIPOC at photoshoots and in marketing. I’m generally happy to assist myself and when given the opportunity, I asked a close Black friend to participate in the shoot as well.
Things to help you succeed as a BIPOC in leadership
Know your limits and feel comfortable saying “no”
Saying “no” can feel uncomfortable, even more so when you’re in a position of leadership. It’s common to feel like you’re indebted to the company that’s given you a career opportunity.
If that’s the case, you may find yourself taking on more and saying yes to more so you don’t let anyone down and you demonstrate how well you can perform. However, that over-dedication to your career probably isn’t sustainable for long periods of time—and if you love your job and want to succeed in the long haul, you’ve got to know when to say “no.”
Release your guilt or imposter syndrome
You worked hard to get to where you are! Imposter syndrome affects many people, not just BIPOC. Feeling like you don’t belong in your role or at your company can make you self conscious and cause you to start doubting yourself. Release that energy and those thoughts so you can remain your most confident self and focus on doing your best.