Shifting power to assert belonging
A practical way to empower people in underrepresented groups to navigate belonging in their careers
For much of the past year, I’ve explored opportunities for technology to correct problems in the broader diversity and inclusion space. I’m inspired by the promise of inclusion as well as the people working tirelessly to research, fix, or talk about the problem.
What I’ve found to be critically absent from the diversity and inclusion conversation is a practical way to empower people in underrepresented groups to navigate belonging in their careers.
While belonging at work — the idea that you can be your true authentic self in the workplace — is a powerful concept, its realization is highly relative and contextual. A company might think that it’s created a culture of belonging, but you might think otherwise; you might think a company is a place where anyone can belong, but your peers might not. That belonging sits at the intersection of you, your peers, and the company (or leadership) isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it opens the door for differing opinions about something that feels inherently personal. These alternative viewpoints can be a great way to further the promise of belonging, but they can also suspend its realization in the context of an uneven distribution of power.
When you’re in an underrepresented group, your perspective on your own belonging at work (at least in the context of group association) is by definition a minority opinion. This quickly becomes problematic when you see things one way and a predominantly white male leadership team sees them another. A recent study from the Boston Consulting Group in which people from underrepresented groups were asked to rank the perceived effectiveness of different diversity programs highlights this reality. Where people of color highly ranked formal executive sponsorships, white males did not. Where LGBTQ employees highly ranked gender-neutral restrooms, straight white males did not.
This study is intriguing to me, but primarily because I’ve seen and heard the way that this plays out in everyday life. I hear new…