While we’re seeing an increase of African Americans in leadership positions, the data still highlights strikingly low representation when it comes to Black people in “C-Suite” executive roles.
There is a clear need for companies to prioritize workplace inclusion, as well as better pathways to corporate leadership for employees of color. That said, Black professionals currently in leadership, or climbing the ladder towards executive-level positions, also deserve targeted support. Common obstacles include, but aren’t limited to, racial microaggressions, pressure to lead diversity initiatives, bias in hiring and promotions, and more. These challenges add difficulty to what can already be a stressful position or work environment.
The good news: there is an entire online community of Black leaders and entrepreneurs working to support one another and offer tools for success – in and outside of the office.
Below are a list of tips and resources for Black professionals and leaders seeking career advancement and increased confidence in 2022:
Navigating Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome is defined as “the persistent inability to perceive success as deserved and as a direct result of your skills”. For Black leaders, particularly women, this feeling can come quite naturally. A 2020 Washington Post analysis shows that only 8% of C-Suite Executives in the 50 most valuable public companies were black. Compound this with the effects of systemic, implicit, and explicit racial bias – occupying leadership positions can be isolating for Black leaders.
It’s crucial to challenge this perception with reminders that you do belong and are, in fact, qualified to occupy your current role and more.
Some tips for coping with Imposter Syndrome:
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- Find A Mentor. This doesn’t have to be a daunting process. Keep an eye and ear out for people who are in similar positions or occupy roles you desire to obtain. The best news: in 2022 mentors can be virtual. Don’t be afraid to direct message a leader you resonate with– even if they are in a totally different industry. Best case scenario: you end up making a connection that helps you navigate your current role. Worst case scenario: they say no or defer you to other resources that can be helpful.
- Identify your skills and accomplishments. Take some time to write down all you do well, your favorite compliments, and the accomplishments you are most proud of. Post these in a place where you can be regularly reminded of all your potential and why you deserve to occupy the space you are in.
- Talk Through Your Experience. Don’t hesitate to share your experience with close friends and family. There is a good chance they can relate and will validate that your feelings, albeit difficult, are normal. Finally, don’t be afraid to take advantage of therapy or mental health resources to address the deep-rooted reasons you may be experiencing self-doubt.
Maintain Boundaries and Assertiveness
Having been historically associated with negative character traits like “anger” and “aggression”, it’s common for Black leaders to feel pressured to be overly accommodating and friendly. While code-switching is real and often necessary due to racial bias, it’s equally important for Black professionals and leaders to maintain healthy boundaries in the workplace.
In and outside of negotiations, it’s important to set boundaries early. Whether you are facing bullying/intimidation, or simply feel like you are being treated unfairly– take the time to address any behavior that you feel is inappropriate. If you are concerned about backlash or bias, loop in a third party (preferably HR) and take time to practice addressing your concerns – remembering to stick to facts.
For additional help navigating difficult conversations, click here.
Prepare for Salary Negotiations and Self-Advocacy
On average, Black men make 87 cents for every dollar earned by their White male counterparts. 2020 median earnings show that Black women earn 67 cents for every dollar earned by their White male counterparts. Salary negotiation is crucial for all professionals, but even more important for African Americans. Every ceiling is a new floor – so starting strong is necessary for your long-term salary goals.
While it seems intimidating, a simple mindset shift can make salary negotiations seem perfectly normal and even comfortable.
Social media creates an illusion that every professional possesses the utmost confidence in themselves and their professional ability. The truth is, we all face barriers to confidence. Common barriers include the fear of failure, the fear of losing respect, threats to our identity and more. For Black leaders, increased pressure, and expectations, as well as microaggressions in the workplace can also contribute to a lack of confidence. The key to overcoming these barriers: practice.
- Divorce yourself from outcome-based achievement and focus on process improvement
- Implement new mental habits and perspectives – embrace failure as a learning opportunity necessary for ultimate success
- Use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to overcome fear
- Practice self-compassion and forgiveness
“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” – Audre Lorde