This post is imperative and so necessary for young professionals, especially women of color. Negotiation is an art but the outcome should be based on data, aka the science. Before I dive into the boss-i-ness of it all, let’s take a look at the current state of Corporate America and the relationship it has with women of color.
A 2017 report by the LeanIn.org and McKinsey Company shows that since 2015, corporate America has made almost no progress in improving the representation of women. Women are underrepresented at every level, and women of color are the most underrepresented group of all. Only about 1 in 5 C-suite leaders is a woman, and only 1 in 25 is a woman of color.
Studies also show that women earn a bachelor’s degree at higher rates than men (32% vs. 24%) yet there is a big gap between women and men in manager positions. Men hold 62% of manager positions, while women hold only 38%. For every 100 men promoted into management positions, only 79 women are promoted; within that: 81 are Latin/Hispanic, 80 are Asian and 60 are Black.
While Corporate America is trending behind in representation, Women of Color are at the forefront of consumer trends and have the buying power to back it up. At various points, Nielsen has taken a deeper look into women of color to demonstrate their effect on culture and consumerism in the U.S.
- Black women are 14% of all women, 52% of the Black population, owning and operating more than $1.5M in businesses and spending power will reach $1.5 trillion by 2021
- By 2060, Hispanic women are expected to be 30% of the U.S. female population and have a current buying power of $1.2 trillion
- 49% of Asian American women 25+ have a Bachelors degree, compared to 31% of their non-Hispanic white counterparts and are the majority owners of over 750k businesses
As a Black woman in the corporate space, I needed to take a deeper dive into the representation of Black women in the space. The same LeanIn.org study shows, Black women only have a 3% representation in corporate C-Suites. Numbers aren’t much higher in other executive spaces such as Senior Vice President (4%) and Vice President (6%) roles. But while the percentages are small, the number of Black women executives in the United States has doubled since 2014. The Washington Post also covered a report by the American Association of University Women, finding that 1.5% of executives were Black women yet Black women represent 7.6% of corporate America.
The facts are clear: women of color represent one of the fastest-growing groups generating wealth and consumer power in the United States. I believe our executive power in the corporate space should mirror what the world looks like. To get to that point, women of color (we) must self-advocate, find our tribe (this includes allies) and ask for what we want, living in the truth that we deserve what we ask for.
I wrote about my experience at the Black Enterprise’s Women of Power summit. Not only was I grateful to my leaders for including me in the experience but I was equally grateful for the tips that were shared to help women, like me, who want to remain in the corporate space, thrive. Today, I am sharing a few more tips, that are proven to deliver the results you are looking for: aka that raise, that new opportunity, that training, that new experience etc. There are studies that show, when people feel connected to the values of an organization and are empowered to chart their own paths within that same organization, magic is made.
Know your Purpose
- Ask yourself, what are your passions? What is the one thing you find joy in doing, no matter the circumstance (i.e., time, place, feeling)?
- Identify that thing(s), write them down and pressure test. Evaluate how you feel when doing it. Is your energy high, how is your body and mind aligning? Examine all those things and if it meets your criteria, that’s your thing and you need to do it!
Cultivate your crew:
- Create a personal board of directors (i.e., people who support you and keep it real about your strengths, opportunity areas and can help navigate the microaggressions that happen in the corporate space). These are people that may or may not be in your field of interest but the key is them knowing who you are authentically. In that, they’ll be able to make recommendations on your behalf.
- Get feedback from your peers, managers and direct reports so you can be aware of your presence and how you show up holistically. Feedback is a gift and allows you to make shifts and tweaks to ensure that you are representing your core values at all times.
Communicate your value:
- Articulate what you bring to the table and how it will impact the business you are in. Finding the opportunity to showcase your skills drawing to business goals will always speak volumes.
- Speak in definitive and use internal and external recommendations. If you worked on a project outside of your traditional scope, as the project lead to share a recommendation with your manager. Also, LinkedIn is your friend and your connections = social equity. Authentically leverage your power!
- Understand the marketplace and research salary information for your field of interest. Reach out to people you know who are currently in the role you desire to be in, and ask about their compensation.
Be clear on your non-negotiables:
- Be clear about your personal needs: do you need a flexible work arrangement to manage familial, school or side hustle needs?
- Set and solidify your non-negotiables once you identify them. Get the agreement between yourself & your manager on paper and hold firm on your boundaries (your manager can be one of your accountability partners).
This is a learned process, so practice, practice, practice until it becomes real to you. Now go forth, get your coins and be great!
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