Self-Assessment Quiz ─ TRUE or FALSE:
- I can come straight from the club to work as long as my work is on point.
- It doesn’t matter that I look different. I’m always respected for my ideas, and that’s what’s important.
- If Bozoma Saint John (Chief Brand Office, Uber) can show up and show out work style wise, so can I.
At some point—about five years ago maybe—the phrase “bring your authentic self to work” became the working world’s hottest new catch phrase. Companies began encouraging associates to be (more) lax with their work styles and dress codes. But for women of color, the question has persisted: Does this really mean me, too?
I had one young woman who worked in the advertising industry seek me out as a mentor. She was having a hard time adapting to her agency’s culture. She wasn’t getting promoted like her white female counterparts were and couldn’t figure out why. I invited her to come meet with me in my office. She arrived promptly, and I listened to her for 20 minutes as she explained to me how her managers tended to not hear her in meetings when she made suggestions or recommendations. She talked about how her colleagues went to lunch with each other but never invited her; although she did mention that on the few occasions she’d been invited to go to happy hour, she’d politely demurred.
When I asked her if she’d had the day off, which I assumed she had, and she said no, that she’d come directly from her office, I almost choked on the glass of water I was drinking. Suddenly the problem was crystal clear to me. She was dressed casually, but no more so than how her white counterparts dressed, I’m sure. But with one HUGE exception: she wore a silk scarf tied around her head. Like I tie up my hair at night when I go to bed? Yep, that’s how she presented herself at her office.
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Cheryl Grace is the sassy aunt, best friend, and mentor you’ve always needed in your life. The successful jet-setting, global corporate executive founded the aspirational lifestyle brand Powerful Penny LLC. Her products, workshops and speeches probe, inspire and empower to ensure those who really want to can get to their next level of best. Her blogs on careers, prosperity, relationships, family, looking and living fabulously, and living a five-star life can be found at www.powerfulpenny.com.