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Essential Career Strategies for Women of Color in the Workplace

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As so many of us are painfully aware, women of color remain the most underrepresented group in the corporate pipeline. We are hired at lower rates. We are promoted at lower rates. We are retained at lower rates. We are paid at lower rates.

I made a commitment to help underrepresented professionals accelerate their careers. As a Black woman in corporate America and the founder of a career coaching company, I know that building your career is the most valuable and the most personal investment you’ ll ever make. Asa coach, my advice to underrepresented women who are looking to advance their careers is three-fold:

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1. Aggregate Your Accomplishments

Keep track of your accomplishments, even if they are small wins. Don’t wait until your performance review rolls around to do this. Track your wins at the end of every month and document them. This is crucial because it’s easy to forget our accomplishments, even if we don’t intend to. If you haven’t reviewed your accomplishments in a while, I’d like you to pause and answer this question:

What are the 12 most important things that you achieved in the last year?

Write that list, keep it, and keep adding to it.

2. Be Visible

Visibility at work matters because underrepresented professionals are often overlooked.

According toa recent study by Working Mother Media, multicultural women are 25% more likely to aspire to senior roles than white women. However, our aspirations can fall by the wayside fast.

Working Mother Media’s research found only 46% of multicultural women had attended a meeting with senior executives withina two-year period, compared to 63% of white men.

Reflect on what you want to be known for within your company and align your actions based on your intentions. In addition to your manager, make a list of the decision-makers and networks that could be pivotal to your advancement. Who are the people at your company that can open doors for you or advocate for you? Are there groups, programs, or committees at your company that you could join to broaden your internal networks?

If you are clear on your intentions, you will be open to opportunities as and when they appear. Actions speak louder than words. Do what you can to consistently demonstrate your ability and expertise.

3. Align With Advocates

If you want to advance, cultivating relationships with people in leadership roles is crucial.

Gaining advocates at work will help accelerate opportunities and connections. If you don’t know where to start, dedicate time to think, reflect and plan your career goals. Create a list of people who could be an advocate for you. Then, identify opportunities to start to share your accomplishments and demonstrate your leadership skills to individuals you have earmarked on your wish list.

You should consider this a longer-term investment. Relationships don’t happen overnight; they take time to develop. Be intentional witha commitment to cultivating your networks, slowly but surely, and continuing to find avenues to shine. As you navigate this, remember that it’s important to always be an advocate for yourself. Maintain your accomplishments list and be ready to talk about your skills and achievements with confidence.

As women of color navigating the workplace, we see and feel barriers to advancing that are invisible to others. During my career, there were periods of time when I was the only Black woman in a meeting, the only Black woman on my team, and the only Black woman in the building. As a coach, my work centers on helping others overcome challenges in the workplace.

Knowing your worth underpins everything.

Your worth will be tested by the systemic inequities that women of color face every single day.

That is why knowing your worth matters more than ever before. Aggregate your accomplishments, identify opportunities to align with advocates and commit to making sure your skills and expertise remain as visible as possible.

Octavia Goredema is the founder of Twenty Ten Agency, a career coaching company and the author of PREP, PUSH, PIVOT: Essential Career Strategies for Underrepresented Women.


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