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Why We Should Celebrate WOC Leaders All Year

Why We Should Celebrate WOC Leaders All Year

June 2020 was a pivotal moment in reclaiming social justice for persons of color (POC). But following such a grand social justice movement has had many reevaluate their perception of race within the workplace.

People of color should be celebrated all year long — not just in the month allocated to them a year. This sentiment applies especially to women of color who work in business. After all, these women generally have to work twice as hard to get noticed due to male domination and racism placed within our everyday system.

When we only celebrate these women at certain times of the year, we are still marginalizing them. How can we continue to support POC and understand their concerns?

[Related: Four Ways Your Organization Can Step Up its Diversity and Inclusion]

Be impactful with your wallet.

2020 was, of course, a tumultuous year in many regards globally — but of course, some of these social changes were necessary. The #BlackLivesMatter movement and protests helped increase awareness of what many Americans couldn’t see. The racial wealth gap and the need for criminal justice reform were two of countless issues that surfaced. Teri Williams, President, and COO of OneUnited Bank, America’s largest Black bank, used her platform to support the movement.

OneUnited Bank participated in #BlackOutDay2020, which attracted global media attention by only purchasing from Black-owned businesses. The awareness didn’t just stop there. Search engines have continued to make it easier to identify Black-owned businesses to help the Black community and their allies.

There has also been a change within larger corporations, such as Netflix, depositing and investing their dollars within Black-owned banks and supporting the #BankBlack movement, which provides additional funds and capital for us to lend to Black communities.

Learn the biggest pain points.

While the movement has brought attention to the national population, there are still large pain points society tends to be blinded by when supporting women of color. A key issue comes to light when addressing systemic and cultural injustices within organizations and society: There is ignorance and a large gap in knowledge about people of color, especially women, that cannot be properly addressed.

“This lack of knowledge often results in the design, development, and affirmation of systems that further rather than abate injustices,” said Dr. Kerry Mitchell Brown, Equity Strategist, and Cultural Architect. “This reality contributes to the lack of progress necessary for the racial reckoning required for the real and sustained change that is long overdue.”

As a society, we have to work with POC to rewrite the narrative of the story of POC. Instead of focusing on challenges, we should start by focusing on the assets. Williams believes that an “anti-racist” movement in America will tell the truth about the racial wealth gap, enact changes in public policy, and provide resources to help uplift POC communities.

Elise Armitage, an Asian-American lifestyle blogger, has been a victim to pay gaps. She has had open dialogues with other women influencers of color and found a common thread: that they were being passed up for campaigns because, in her words:

The person from the brand or agency selecting bloggers has an unconscious bias towards selecting Caucasian bloggers.

[Related: Responsible Leadership is More Important than Ever]

Continue to celebrate POC peers.

We can continue to celebrate the accomplishments that WOC are achieving every day. Even though not where it should be, this nation has seen an uptick in POC women as elected officials, executives, and community leaders. Our very own Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, exemplifies this.

“This allows the fullness of Black women and other women of color to be accepted as legitimate characteristics of leadership and respected for how we (POC) hone our brilliance, beauty, compassion, resilience, pain, exhaustion, and anger, make distinctions, focus on solutions, and show aspects of who we are and becoming,” said Dr. Brown. “[We all] need to see Black women as multi-dimensional individuals rather than projections of white people’s needs.” This is a pivotal first step in celebrating our POC colleagues.

How we can continue to help.

Corporations must continue creating diversity in their workplaces. There needs to be a representation of all for employees to normalize this coworking and to coexist.

Summits and conferences should be held nationally to give platforms to Black Americans. OneUnited Bank is doing this by creating their OneTransaction Virtual Financial Conference annually (June 19). This conference speaks of transactions to help close the racial wealth gap, showing Black Americans how they can invest and save, why it’s beneficial, and how to create profitable businesses.

Armitage has had to prevail against the stereotypical image (Caucasian/blonde/very young) in her blogging career and previous employment at Google. “As influencers, it's important to amplify the voices of all women,” she said. “If you're a Caucasian blogger and you didn't take a stand and speak out against the violent attacks happening against Asian-Americans, ask yourself why?”

She urges colleagues to brainstorm creative ways to contribute to diversity and inclusion, especially when it comes to the lifestyle industry. She was able to see an opportunity to collaborate with other WOC within her industry and work with brands to showcase a more diverse group of women that represent different ethnic backgrounds, sizes, and perspectives.

We need to continue to listen to our POC colleagues and not suggest we have all the answers. This is the first step of creating a world where POC women feel celebrated every day and not limited to certain calendar months.

[Related: Inclusive Leadership: Training is Only Part of the Solution]

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Olivia Liveng (nee Balsinger) is an experienced storytelling coach, brand strategist, entertainment producer, and CEO of Liveng Public Relations, an agency amplifying hospitality, tourism, and female voices. She's also an award-winning travel journalist, with bylines in Fodors, Forbes, New York Post, Business Insider, and LA Style. Find her on Instagram at @livliveng.

Carly Orris is a freelance writer and publicist based in New York. Her writing focuses on female empowerment, travel, entertainment, and lifestyle. Find her on Instagram at @carlyorris.


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