Improving Inclusion: Supporting Black Women - Niki Allen

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com

At the Black Women Lead Virtual Town Hall event hosted by the All In Together organization, I had an opportunity to bring attention to how companies are failing to include Black women. Then, I gave guidance on the types of intentional steps companies must take to make Black women feel included and valued, but also to help them grow.

Watch the video or read my comments below.

“The first step is to acknowledge that this is going on. A lot of times we want to turn a blind eye or say that they weren’t the right fit, but we really have to unpack why people are leaving. Specifically why do Black women tend to leave at a higher rate more than any other demographic? We have to acknowledge that, and once we do, there are five really important things that are extremely important that you can do today to disrupt this system.

“First, as a manager, you have to ensure that you get that individual exposure to the broader leadership team. Many times I’ve seen Black women brought on teams and they are sort of buried in their peer group: they do all of the work behind the scenes and someone else gets the privilege of either presenting it to the senior leadership team or it gets disseminated in a way that she’s essentially erased from the good work that was done. You have to make sure they get exposure and get that visibility.

“The second thing is to help identify stretch assignments to help them grow and help them build credibility across the enterprise. There are several times that I will take someone in my group, specifically Black women, and give them a big stretch assignment that 9 out of 10 times I know that they will fail. But, that is ok, because they will learn the most when they are given that opportunity and they will grow the most. So help them identify those stretch opportunities, do not leave it up to them on their own.

“The third thing is to make sure that their voices are heard. One of the best practices I use in every meeting is that at the end of a discussion, I go around the room to make sure everybody has weighed in. I do this because there are some people who aren’t as extroverted and then there are others who consume the room with a monologue, so we have to make sure there is balance. As a manager, you have to be tuned into that and make sure you include every single person on your team and ensure their voice is heard.

“The fourth thing is that you must spend time with them to learn about their career aspirations. You have to make sure you understand what they want to do both short-term and long-term. Talk through with them because you won’t find that out if the only time you have a conversation with them is in a staff meeting or a mid-year performance review. Get to know them as individuals, they are more than just employees, they are people!

“The fifth thing you must do, and honestly this is the most important, you have to give people meaningful feedback. If every performance evaluation or interaction you have had with your manager is them telling you that you have done a fantastic job and walked away and you ought to question yourself. That is not okay, you have to demand real feedback: what am I doing well that I need to continue doing because it is going to benefit me and what do I need to consider doing differently? We are all works in progress, if we rest our laurels on where we’re at today, we will never grow.”

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